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November 30, 2022

How to Revive Your Company’s Talent Development Efforts to Keep Your Employees

The shift from in-person to virtual workplaces has weakened employees’ sense of belonging, which has fractured their connection with the workforce.

Why do employees quit their jobs?

As the Great Resignation rages on, smart companies are asking this question. Smarter companies are asking how they can retain the talent they have hired, grown, and invested in — and how to do this for the long haul.

More than 4.5 million people quit their jobs in one month alone, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As many as 40% of employees are at least somewhat likely to quit their jobs within the next three to six months, according to research from McKinsey & Company. The biggest reasons: employees don’t feel valued by their organizations or their managers. Additional research reveals that 42% of employees cited “lack of professional growth” as a main reason for wanting to quit their jobs. Leaders can curb “great resignations” within their own companies by investing in talent development. The transition to the modern (hybrid) workplace has broken traditional L&D (learning and development) models, and deemed many parts of it wholly insufficient in supporting your people’s growth. Companies are now using digital and virtual methods to teach skills such as managing people and leading teams — skills that require practice to fully master. Also, learners are demanding hyper-personalization, the ability to learn on their time, and access to learning that is as seamless as adding something to an Amazon shopping cart. Before we dive too deep into that, let’s review what’s changed and how you can take action now.

Employees value professional growth now more than ever.

Today’s employees are prioritizing professional growth and advancement. One recent survey reveals that almost 50% of employees cite “career growth” and “professional development” as important factors for remaining at a company. Which skills do they need to hone? What training do they need to learn these skills? How can they practice, demonstrate, and master these skills?

When a company invests in an employee’s professional growth, it is demonstrating how much the organization values that person. If an employee doesn’t believe they are going to grow in and beyond their current role, they will go work somewhere else.

Thus, your company has a choice: build talent or buy talent. When you hire experienced talent, you are paying a premium for that experience rather than investing in developing potential. And L+D byline v.1making a new hire comes with risk — you don’t really know what you’re getting.  Will they live up to their resume?  Will they fit within the culture? However, when you build talent, you’re making an investment in the people you already have — an investment that should pay off for the employee and the overall business.

Money doesn’t prevent your employees from leaving.

It is often assumed that compensation is the most effective incentive to drive employee retention, so many companies address rising attrition by throwing money at it. This is not an effective strategy for two reasons. First, spot bonuses and salary increases skew your salary structure and are not sustainable from a profitability perspective. Second, bonuses are quick fixes that may temporarily boost loyalty and can easily be matched (or exceeded) by another firm. A better alternative: invest in an employee’s professional development over time. Differentially investing in career development can often feel like a bigger, longer-term “perk” that is hard for a competing company to match. Employers should always be searching for ways to deliver benefits or services that are non-salary related — services that help people feel that their overall “net value” as an employee is somehow better than it was yesterday.

Moreover, “where” you invest might be just as important as “how.” Traditionally, businesses have focused on developing talent “at the top of the house” while neglecting mid-level managers, frontline employees, and entry-level hires. However, these employees in the bottom and middle of the pyramid are now sought-after recruitment targets. These workers could deliver immediate value if hired by another company — and this new company could then further grow that talent. If your budget for talent is constrained, consider how and where you spend it.

Pre-pandemic L&D programs no longer work.

The days of classroom training sessions and leadership off-sites are mostly gone. However, offline content and live-virtual training often don’t deliver real behavior change. Today’s managers need to learn a new skill and this new skill should result in new behaviors. After training, I should be more productive with my time and I should be better able to manage conflict within my team. Growing your skills as a manager requires practice; someone can’t watch a video and then become a better leader. Without the office environment and the physical connections with other human beings, practicing a newly learned skill is difficult.

Also, executive leadership training sessions (virtually or in-person) aren’t cost-effective nor are they personalized to the user. These cohort-based learning sessions are also difficult to schedule. Usually, companies would prescribe leadership development sessions for employees based on the facilitator’s schedule, and 30 employees would attend a session led by a facilitator. Of these 30 people, perhaps 10 of them don’t want to be there. Factor in that of the five skills being covered in the session, only two of them may be relevant to the majority of the attendees. When you apply this model to the Zoom realm, the effectiveness takes a nosedive.

Proactive, interactive, personalized coaching that focuses on the employee as a human being is essential.

Humans are not robots, and no two employees have the same training needs at the same time. What’s needed in today’s learning and development landscape is an on-demand, ad hoc coaching solution. This offering would be proactive and preventative and encompass an employee’s total well-being. Instead of a company assigning a person to attend a certain training session, the employee is empowered to choose the skills that matter to them (in the context of your business). If I need to bolster my time management skills, I can do that 1:1 with a specialized coach — when it works for me. If I don’t feel comfortable speaking up in meetings, I can find a time to connect with a coach to discuss this. These coaching sessions (which should be free to employees) can extend beyond what is normally considered L&D to encompass other areas that benefit the person as a human being — meditation, mental health, relaxation, etc.

Today’s employees have weathered two years of endless online conference calls and work-from-home distractions. The shift from in-person to virtual workplace has weakened employees’ sense of belonging, which has fractured their connection with their work tribe. As a business leader, you can meet people where they are by effectively investing in them — both as valued employees and as total human beings. This holistic approach to learning and development will strengthen your employees’ skill sets as well as their loyalty to the organization. The result? A “great retention” as opposed to a “great resignation.”

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