Kudos to those companies that are recalibrating the hiring process to meet today’s working realities and the mindsets of the talent they’re clamoring to hire. They’re shortening the timeframe envisioned for a great hire, speeding up the hiring process, revisiting and clarifying their skills needs, and filling open positions with gig workers when they can. But this shift doesn’t stop at the ground floor. After you’ve made a hire, it’s time to make a firm investment in his or her career, by providing growth and learning opportunities.
An employer who doesn’t focus on learning is going to lose out — in performance, engagement and retention. According to LinkedIn’s 2018 Workforce Learning Report, a whopping 93% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their careers. Development is no longer an optional perk or reserved for only
certain positions. It’s expected by today’s talent. It signals that the employer values their people and are actively interested in their success — not just on the job, but over the long haul. With so many Cloud-based learning platforms and learning management systems out there, it’s also far more do-able with employers, including SMBs.
Here are four effective strategies for developing your talent — and keeping them learning and happy:
Develop Soft Skills
In terms of overall talent development, a recent LinkedIn survey of 2,000 business leaders found that more than half (57%) put soft skills over hard skills when it comes to what they need their employees to develop. The top four soft skills are leadership, communication, collaboration and time management. While these may be innate in many of your shining stars, they can always be improved upon. For those who seem lacking, it may simply be a matter of learning how to execute, not the concepts themselves.
There are plenty of courses for developing soft skills on learning platforms. And soft skills development is a clear instance in which employees perceive you are interested in their growth and overall success — not just how quickly they can accomplish a task in their present position.
There’s a reason employees groan when offered seminars to develop their skills. Such courses can eat up a load of time. Long-duration seminars may dump a lot of information on participants, but they can also drive a wedge between employer and employee needs. If they are attended within the workday, that eats into productivity. If the employer requires learning after work hours or during lunch (“Learn at Lunch” programs), the perception may be that employers don’t respect employees’ boundaries or their need for personal time.
LinkedIn’s report also found that the top reason employees feel held back from learning is that they don’t have the time to learn. The solution: offer learning opportunities in small, bite-sized time increments that can be manageably tucked into a workday. Youtube has changed the way we take in information — in digestible chunks that consider our busy lives and shorter attention spans. The average length of a Youtube video is around four minutes and 20 seconds. Take a cue.
Get Managers Involved
The LinkedIn learning report also spotlighted a monkey wrench for many companies invested in employee learning — managers. Fifty-six percent of employees would take a manager-suggested course, but getting managers involved in employee learning is a major challenge. It’s not that managers don’t want employees to learn. It’s that they’re usually already overloaded, and occupied with the daily and more pressing challenges of managing their teams and tackling the to-do list.
“What managers must understand is that developing their people and teams is a key responsibility, and it’s what helps to keep their teams engaged,” notes Emily Poague, vice-president of Marketing at LinkedIn Learning. Four suggestions: spotlight the managers who are successfully encouraging learning by circulating their success stories; collaborate with managers on the best times to incorporate learning into the day, have managers add a discussion on what skills employees want to learn into performance reviews, and then enlist managers to assign the applicable courses.
Integrate Learning Into Employee Experience
Consider the question, “Which would be more likely to make your next employer a great workplace?” It’s the first question in the “What Makes a Great Place to Work” quiz — and the first choice of answers is “Training that helps me grow my skills and knowledge.” In the grand scheme of talent management, it’s easy to overlook the employee point of view. But learning opportunities enable employees to maintain an upward trajectory despite staying in one position. They integrate growth opportunities into the employer experience without necessitating a bit for a different position.
They also help employees better integrate the demands of work and life, allowing that we want to learn far more than just the singular skills our present job descriptions require. Deloitte’s 2017 Human Capital Trends Report, which focused on the importance of employee experience, was a game-changer for many in HR — and providing growth opportunities was identified as one of the key factors in providing a great employee experience. That hasn’t changed in one year. If anything, it’s intensified.
This last point isn’t necessarily a tangible strategy, but more of an attitude adjustment: we need to stop thinking of our need to hire skilled, qualified, promising talent as a talent war. It’s not a war. We’re all in this economy and this market together. We’re a global, hyperconnected, continuously streaming, networked, noisy, hybrid workplace — digital and physical, remote and onsite, gig and traditional, diverse, aspiring to be better in countless ways, and we’re facing enormous and continuing changes in the near future. Better to see hiring, engagement and retention not as a way to win a war but a way to celebrate the remarkable world of work we have become. We need to let our people learn, whether it’s part of their present job or a future aspiration — and we need to empower them to do it.