For many companies, the 2023 labor market presents a paradox. Despite concerns about fears of a recession and highly publicized layoffs across the tech sector, hiring remains challenging in many industries, with a U.S. unemployment rate of just 3.4% in January 2023. The market is particularly tight for employees with in-demand skills like cybersecurity and automation.
Within this context, it’s more important than ever for employers to prioritize employee retention. One proven way to improve your company’s retention rates while also appealing to potential employees is to implement effective employee learning and skills development programs.
The State of Employee Retention in 2023
Though the peak of the so-called “Great Resignation” appears to have passed, employee quit rates remain historically high. According to the latest available data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4.1 million people voluntarily left their jobs in December 2022, the 21st consecutive month with a quit rate of over 4 million. The European Union is also experiencing a strong job market, with an unemployment rate of 6.1% in December 2022 – a historically low figure, according to the World Bank.
For many organizations, high rates of turnover and difficulties hiring new employees are exacerbating existing and emerging skills gaps. McKinsey & Company has found that 87% of companies either report a current skills gap or expect to experience one in the next few years.
That’s, in part, why many companies are now hiring based more on skills than degrees or formal qualifications. Using a similar skills-based approach to retention – for example, by considering employees for internal moves or promotions based on existing skill sets – benefits both the company and individual employees. Reskilling employees into new positions, where the organization provides training opportunities to shift them into new roles, is also an option for today’s employers.
In addition to skills shortages, high turnover has numerous far-reaching implications for organizations. Hiring is costly – and even more difficult with a looming recession – and failing to retain employees can negatively impact employee morale and even customer relationships. Companies that prioritize retention, in contrast, enjoy benefits including increased engagement, higher productivity, and more effective recruiting efforts.
Skills Development to Attract and Retain Employees
The rapid pace of change within business and tech has placed skills development front-of-mind for many employees as they decide where to build their careers. A PwC survey showed that 77% of employees are ready to develop new skills within their current roles or retrain for new roles to ensure they will remain employable. Similarly, Gallup found that the top reason employees leave their jobs is a lack of growth opportunities. The retention of Gen Z and millennial employees is a particular risk area for many organizations.
By carefully constructing and delivering upskilling and reskilling opportunities, companies can stem the turnover tide and build engagement and longevity within their workforces. The Emeritus 2022 Global Career Impact Survey found that nearly nine-tenths (89%) of past learners feel more engaged at work if they are learning new concepts and skills.
In general, engaged employees are more likely to stay with their current organization. And at Emeritus, our solutions can be customized to align with employee skills gaps, with private team training options available to improve relationship-building and collaboration.
Plus, strong professional development offerings are a powerful recruitment driver, since 65% of employees believe employer-provided upskilling opportunities are a very important consideration when evaluating job offers.
Upskilling Strategies for Engagement and Retention
To provide maximum benefits for employers and employees, you need to structure your company’s upskilling and reskilling offerings carefully. Follow these proven strategies.
1. Identify priority areas and skills gaps.
Before investing in upskilling programs, conduct an organization- or team-wide skills gap analysis to identify the skills that are in short supply—which may include technical skills like cybersecurity or soft skills like leadership and management.
Use your findings and your organization’s current business goals to identify the skills that will support organizational priorities and growth. Focus on those first.
2. Offer upskilling opportunities as a benefit
Since upskilling opportunities are a priority for most workers, access to a robust suite of programs and tools can be seen as a valuable employee benefit. Digital platforms available through our Emeritus Accelerate solution are designed to be flexible and relevant to employees across your organization. This makes them more accessible than the under-utilized tuition reimbursement programs of the past.
3. Make skills development part of the job.
Add upskilling goals into employee performance targets and regularly review them to ensure they are top of mind. Carve out dedicated time for upskilling so it feels like a beneficial opportunity for employees rather than an obligation to fit into an already overstretched workload.
4. Weigh the benefits of customized training programs.
Often, the most effective way to build employees’ skills is through training programs and customized solutions designed specifically for professionals. Programs – like those that Emeritus offers in partnership with renowned universities – offer learners expert insights and hands-on learning opportunities in an online format designed with the flexibility employees need.
5. Leverage internal and external experts.
If you wish to broaden the number of employees skilled in a certain area. It may make sense to design an internal training or mentorship program that takes advantage of your available resources. In other cases, bringing in an expert for targeted individual or group training can prove a practical approach.
6. Bring employees out of their comfort zones.
Sometimes, the best way to learn is by doing. Consider offering employees assignments outside their regular roles or functions to help them upskill or reskill into new areas. Ideally, these opportunities should be paired with more formal educational programs to create a multidimensional learning experience.
7. Follow up and track progress.
Set clear, measurable goals for upskilling initiatives and check back in at regular intervals to ensure that employees remain on target. It’s also essential to seek participant feedback to identify what is and isn’t working.
Retaining Employees in Hybrid and Remote Workplaces
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, hybrid and remote work has become the new normal. In July 2022, McKinsey & Company found that 58% of U.S. employees across industries can work from home at least one day a week, and 35% can work remotely five days a week.
While the remote workplace offers many advantages for work-life balance and productivity, organizational leaders need to think carefully about how to engage their workforce and retain employees in this new environment. Old strategies like onsite celebrations and office perks will no longer move the needle. Without in-person interactions, interpersonal relationships can be harder to forge and maintain.
The rise of collaborative technologies and communications tools has made remote work feasible, but organizations must still use them strategically to drive engagement. Emeritus leverages best-in-class technology to maximize interactivity and hands-on learning in our online programs. Offering professional development and upskilling opportunities in the virtual environment is one way to show employees they are valued and have a future with your organization.[ALSO READ: 14 Employee Retention Strategies for 2023]
To Drive Retention, Focus on Employee Well-Being
Despite the shift to remote and hybrid working, employee burnout continues to drive disengagement. According to Gallup’s latest State of the Global Workforce report, a mere 21% of employees are engaged at work. And just 33% say they are thriving in terms of their overall well-being.
After several years of pandemic-driven global disruption and amidst the ongoing fallout of economic and geopolitical turmoil, stress levels remain high around the world.
Investing in your employees’ futures through upskilling and reskilling opportunities is a powerful way to demonstrate that your organization cares about their future, both within and beyond your organization. Employees who feel their skills are scarce are less likely to feel satisfied with their jobs, and for those who are able to move into a role that is more aligned with their personal goals, the impact can be immeasurable.
In a recent Emeritus survey, 61%of respondents said they found new meaning and inspiration in their lives and careers upon completing an Emeritus program.
How Emeritus Can Help
At Emeritus, we specialize in helping organizations build upskilling and reskilling programs that engage employees while driving growth. Our cohort-based learning pathways are developed in partnership with leading universities around the world, combining the latest in learning technology with the expertise of the brightest minds in business.
One of our enterprise solutions, Emeritus Accelerate, provides accessible online training programs that your organization can offer as a benefit to employees. We also offer private cohorts for online programs tailored to your company’s needs as well as organization-wide upskilling to drive strategic transformation.
With a company-branded portal and a curated selection of programs from top universities, your employees can access upskilling programs aligned with their goals and your organization’s needs.
Interested in learning more about how Emeritus can help you build online employee training programs in 2023? Reach out to schedule a consultation.