Why you should invest in skills to protect your business from the Great Resignation

Article by Yustina Saleh, Ph.D., VP, Research and Value, Visier

The pandemic has had an all-encompassing effect and has impacted almost every aspect of our lives – be it our life at home, social life as well as our professional lives and career.

I regularly talk to employees of companies of all types and one of the most frequently cited challenges is a feeling of stagnation – workers don’t feel they have been able to push their careers forward as they may have done without the disruption of the last two years.

When the job market eventually reopened, workers voted with their feet and sought new opportunities elsewhere in record numbers. According to research commissioned by Visier last year, a desire to learn new skills and a lack of training opportunities were among the top reasons cited by job leavers for changing roles.

The same research found that almost three-quarters of employees (73%) would most likely change roles for another with similar pay but greater opportunities to learn new skills through work and training.  This is particularly true for younger employees, with 83% of Gen-Zers willing to seek upskilling opportunities elsewhere.

It stands to reason, therefore, that skills should be top of the agenda for any staff retention strategy. So, what do businesses need to do to prevent a mass exodus of valued employees? And what options do workers have to maximise the training opportunities currently available to them without looking elsewhere?

Building career pathways

One of the biggest challenges facing businesses is that they often do not have a holistic picture of the skills profiles of their current employees and consequently where there are large skills gaps. Nor do they have visibility into the skills that the organisation or their teams might need.

The challenge is that more often than usual, training is delivered in an ad hoc manner, without any real strategy underpinning it. This is bad for employees, who feel their careers are not being invested in, bad for leadership teams, who will find it hard to quantify the impact of money and time spent, and also bad for the manager who doesn’t have the technology or tools to capitalise on the talents of their employees.

So, how do – or should – Learning and Development teams tackle this?

  1. Move beyond de-harmonised titles – A great starting point is for organisations to adopt skills-based role archetypes that help them to really understand the core competencies of individuals and teams. What skills are needed for the success of the business? What skills should each job type be equipped with?
  2. Work to better understand the skills landscape of your workforce – Once your business understands the skills-based role archetypes of individuals and teams, you then need to paint a clear picture of the current supply and demand of skills within the individual teams and the wider business. This makes it possible to clearly define the skills that are needed for the future success of the business and to trace the pathways of the individuals who currently have those skills. Once that traceable pathway is formed, you can then create a wider pipeline of talent through a coherent career pathway strategy
  3. Consider how talent moves between roles and careers – Remember though, when thinking about the skills of your teams, this should not just be within the realms of your own business, but within the boundaries of the wider industry. Understanding the context of the industry within the current labour market is the only way to truly upskill and reskill employees
  4. Support employees in building personalised career pathways – Once you have built a comprehensive career pathway model that goes beyond just the HR level to account for all of the above, you can then take into account employee preferences as well as organisational needs to close current skills gaps in a data-driven way. This means that at an individual level, employees will have a clear view of their progression opportunities beyond their current role. But, it also means that at an organisational level, you will have a clear picture of your current talent and skills landscape and be able to map this against business strategy.

Improving access to learning

Once you have a Learning and Development pathway clearly defined and you have clearly identified skills gaps – both for the organisation and within the wider labour market – it’s then possible to start matching employees to the correct training programmes. Currently, in many organisations, the onus is still put on the employee themselves to seek out information on what courses or programmes they can enroll in. Instead, these pathways should be used to provide employees and their managers with analytics on the skills the employee is expected to learn, and simulate their pathways with these added skills.

Take into account that when the average working day has multiple competitors for attention, it’s easy to see how seeking out learning opportunities can fall down the priority list. It’s no longer enough to assume that employees will take it on themselves to research their options without clear incentive or guidance. This is why learning should be one of the metrics that employee and manager are evaluated upon. This will allow them to see the ROI of learning and development programmes and incentivise greater progress.

The good news is, once this process is in place, it will be easier for employees to understand which skills will be most beneficial to their current role and their longer-term career prospects.

Businesses should work harder to ensure team members actively engage with development opportunities and offer a personalised programme to each employee. Again, data and insights are central to this process and measuring the effectiveness of training. Detailed analysis can reveal the most effective initiatives and help develop engaging and rewarding development plans.

Making the most of human potential

Employees are not just a company’s greatest asset, but also its most renewable and malleable. People’s endless capacity to learn, adapt and improve is the lifeblood of any successful organisation, so having the right process in place to enable that is essential if retaining personnel is a priority.

People want to feel valued and there is no better way to do that than investing in their future. Data and analytics are your secret weapons for making the most of human potential unleashing the power of all things work and talent.

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