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Why Do People Think Learning Requires Leaving?

According to a Microsoft survey, 55% of employees believe that ‘learning requires leaving’ and changing companies is the best way to develop skills. And there is a huge chunk of your workforce who are keen to learn and grow: 76% of employees say they’d stay at their company longer if they could benefit more from learning and development support.

In difficult economic times, holding on to talent – and upskilling them – is a smart approach. But keeping people satisfied at your company doesn’t always mean they will stay in the same role, team or even function or location. It’s time for businesses to realize that unlocking productivity (and boosting retention) in their workforce means allowing them to move around.

So how do you ensure your most curious employees stay with you, and stay engaged?

Get a handle on skills data

At Beamery, we believe the right way to assess candidates – and employees – is through the lens of skills, as well as potential. A skills-based approach to talent is more objective and fair, and if you have a good handle of your skills data, you’ll have a better understanding of who is able to help out on business critical projects and tasks – and where they might have room to grow, to become the employee you need for tomorrow.

Developing skills should be an ongoing process, where the right resources can be applied at the right time, to close skills gaps in your organization as they present themselves.

69% of Talent Index respondents said they had lost at least one opportunity to upskill or retrain in their current roles, and 17% of that group said it was due to the fact that “My employer doesn’t know what skills I already have so can’t make suggestions on my progress”. 16% said “No-one has provided guidance on what skills will be needed in my role in the future.” Getting a handle on skills data is a crucial first step.

It’s not easy: the skills people have change all the time, and the language used to describe them is not always consistent. A Universal Skills Platform is a useful starting point for understanding the skills held by people in your organization, in real time. Once you have an interoperable data platform that updates dynamically, you can apply explainable AI to match people with those development opportunities they crave… whether it’s a learning program, an internal gig or a brand new role within your business.

Put learning at the heart of the employee experience

When we talk about ‘learning and development’, we are often focused on promotions – being able to move up to the ‘next step’ on the career ladder.

It’s fair to say that we are in an age of career jungle gyms: people want to broaden their skills, have new experiences and work with different people, and may be encouraged to remain at your company if those opportunities to learn are available more frequently and in more formats. Companies, meanwhile, don’t always have ‘space’ for everyone to move into a more senior role when they are getting fidgety in their current one.

This is where organizations need to make internal mobility a key priority and help employees visualize potential career paths that they might not otherwise have considered. (This may not mean people are constantly moving roles: it could simply mean that the employee spends some time in another team or function, for that all-important ‘on-the-job’ training, so they can bring new insights back to their original role.)

Can you help them view their career as a jungle gym or climbing wall – a real playground of learning! – rather than a ladder?

Create a marketplace for skills

An internal talent marketplace is somewhere that people can grow their skills, build their careers and find purpose, while helping the organization thrive.

2 out of 3 employees in the Microsoft study said they would stay longer at their company if it were easier to change jobs internally (68% overall, 73% Gen Z, 73% Millennials, 65% Gen X). That rises to 3 in 4 for people managers (75%) and business decision makers (77%) – so there is a huge opportunity for retention if the growth of your people is treated as a priority.

Companies facing retention challenges can also benefit from a solid internal mobility strategy: they can fill open roles and staff short-term projects and gigs with internal talent, in an agile way, while keeping top performers engaged throughout the employee experience. At the same time, this means putting extra emphasis on your learning and development programs, to help employees gain the additional skills they need to step into those roles and projects.

Embrace an employee-led L&D strategy

A Talent Marketplace is about empowering employees: to take ownership of their own development and career journeys. We are seeing more and more companies put learning into the hands of their employees, and rather than serving up the same generic training programs to everyone, personalizing the recommendations – whether it’s formal learning courses, mentors, short gigs or bigger projects – to give employees more choice and control when it comes to developing new skills. The L&D function can co-create learning programs alongside employees in such a scenario, ensuring that initiatives are fit for purpose and likely to yield the right results.

Of course, no matter where the learning experience takes place (a Fireside Chat led by an employee, a formal leadership development program, or a course provided by your LMS), you’ll want to be able to track everything in one place, to register the new skills gained.

Shift your mindset

In order to hold on to top talent through learning opportunities, you need to think differently about management and incentives. Creating a positive learning culture requires collaboration between people managers and their people; without opening up space for people to learn, any development efforts will fail.

Of course, technology can help (although it has hindered in the past): businesses need a tool where managers can get insights into their team’s learning and can see the benefits – to the wider organization rather and to the team. (Such a tool also benefits managers, as they can potentially pull in fresh skills from elsewhere in the company.)

Moreover, a manager who expects they will fall short of their targets if they ‘lose’ a top player to another team, is not one who will support their efforts to learn and grow through on-the-job training in new teams. To get the most from a skills-based Talent Marketplace, managers need to be encouraged – and, indeed, trained – to help those reporting to them explore the options in front of them. Can you present a compelling case for looking at the bigger picture? That people will leave if they don’t feel they can learn?

If your organization wants to show that learning doesn’t require leaving, the incentives for people at all levels need to point in that direction.