The pandemic shifted the workplace and heightened awareness around issues that had been on the back burner. As organizations fight to retain talent, it’s time to address a core problem impacting those efforts: the employee engagement crisis. According to Gallup, only one in three U.S. employees are engaged at work. Additionally, these employees also report the highest levels of daily stress globally.
These statistics aren’t surprising considering the increased social, economic, and racial tensions within the last few years, and the correlation between a lack of engagement and high stress levels isn’t a new phenomenon. Workplace stress turns into fatigue, leading to disengagement and voluntary turnover.
Before the “Great Resignation,” employee turnover cost U.S. organizations a trillion dollars per year. While turnover may seem unavoidable in a post-pandemic workplace, it doesn’t have to be a given. Organizations can implement new strategies to attract talent and engage employees, and it all starts with an impactful and comprehensive employee development program.
Employee Development Programs Affect Engagement and Retention
Coming out of a stagnant work period during which promotions, raises, and professional growth were put on hold, employee engagement is key to retaining talent. Employees’ expectations and workplace standards for talent management have radically shifted.
Millennials, the largest generation in the U.S. workforce, aren’t just voicing what’s important to them—they’re taking action. In fact, 89% of millennials consider constant growth and learning in their jobs a nonnegotiable. Insufficient opportunities for growth and development rank as the most significant reason they leave their jobs.
Therefore, businesses are reevaluating workplace benefits outside of retirement plans and health care to avoid voluntary turnover. Ping-Pong tables and yoga classes were once considered “fun extras,” but now, employees want tangible proof their employers are committed to their career aspirations and well-being.
For management, this means creating, finding, and encouraging opportunities for employees to grow and thrive. Fifty-nine percent of learning and development (L&D) professionals have focused on building comprehensive employee development strategies to increase engagement and retention. As a result, upskilling and reskilling have become high priorities in talent management.
Extensive employee L&D programs, paired with meaningful forms of recognition, are how successful organizations show their commitment and investment in employees’ long-term growth.
4 Tips to Elevate L&D in Your Workplace
It’s clear organizations need strong L&D initiatives in place to engage and retain their employees, but rolling out a program can’t be just a one-and-done effort that doesn’t evolve with a company’s and its employee’s needs. Rather, organizations should focus on building an ongoing, comprehensive program that powers employee growth and fulfillment. So, where do you begin?
1. Support skill-building in your organization.
Even the most engaged employees can become discouraged and unsatisfied with their work if they do not see opportunities for growth and development. Enter: upskilling. Upskilling is a crucial part of an L&D program because it offers workers the opportunity to learn new skills and strengthen other skills they wouldn’t otherwise develop on the job.
Creating opportunities for employees to add to their skill sets sends an impactful message about how your organization prioritizes the investment in its people. By investing in L&D initiatives, businesses show they’re making a long-term commitment to employees. Combine that with clear and defined paths for career progression, and you’ll have employees who are committed and anticipate growing with you. Organizations can build organizational longevity by training their employees ahead of the demand for new skills.
On the other hand, employees gain growth opportunities and positively impact the business as they build and add to their professional skills. Across industries, research shows that employee engagement predicts organizational outcomes. In a study comparing organizations with high levels of employee engagement with organizations with low levels of engagement, Gallup found a 32% difference in productivity, a 43% difference in turnover, a 10% difference in customer loyalty, and an 81% difference in absenteeism. The benefits of having engaged employees cannot be overemphasized: Higher levels of employee engagement lead to higher job satisfaction, productivity, and customer satisfaction.
2. Create a culture that emphasizes employee recognition.
Whether an employee earned a new certification or excelled during a presentation, celebrating the person’s accomplishments is an effective way to advance employee engagement. Forty percent of American workers report they would put more effort into their work if their achievements were acknowledged and recognized more often. Celebrating progress toward an upskilling goal, redeploying someone across the company based on newly acquired skills, or acknowledging a positive impact to the company from recent learnings are all small but very powerful ways to demonstrate recognition.
Another powerful way to recognize employees is with digital credentials. Digital credentials allow employers to recognize their people and enable them to share their accomplishments however they find the most meaning. This could be on professional networking sites, on a business’s internal employee message board, or in an e-mail signature.
3. Promote from within.
A visible way to recognize and reward workers is to provide opportunities for internal mobility. Promoting from within actively shows employees that an organization is willing to invest in their growth and development, encouraging and motivating them to continue advancing.
Additionally, there’s also less risk involved in hiring internally because employees’ work style and work ethic are evident and already trusted by their employers. L&D thrives when employers provide opportunities for employees to advance their skills and careers.
4. Turn to skills-based hiring.
Restructuring your hiring and promotion process ensures employees take advantage of opportunities for upskilling and stay engaged. Due to automation, skills requirements continue to evolve, but skills-based hiring remains at the forefront of discussions about the future of the workplace.
Skills-based hiring does more than create workers with substantial skill sets; it also helps organizations access greater talent pools. Many career paths open up when employees understand the necessary skills to shift into new roles and have the opportunity to gain those skills with a digital credentials program.
It’s Time to Reevaluate Your L&D Program
Although they’re often disregarded by employers and their employees, seemingly unrelated skills from a previous role can transfer well to a new job or project with context and guidance. Skills-based hiring bridges the gap between roles. During this new era of talent management, L&D programs are vital to increasing employee engagement, as they ensure your organization can attract new talent and retain employees, fulfill employees’ present and future needs, and provide success in the competitive hiring market.
As Chief Experience Officer at Credly, Jarin Schmidt helps shape the future of documenting and promoting skills by leading the product and customer success teams. With a background in design, strategy, and product development, Schmidt is passionate about helping people tell their unique professional stories through emerging technology so they can discover the most rewarding opportunities.