The end of summer signals back-to-school, but school days aren’t necessarily limited to children and young adults. Ongoing training is a top priority for organizations that want their workforce to keep pace as needed skill sets shift. Opportunities for professional development are also top-of-mind for today’s workforce, and Deloitte pegs “opportunity for growth” as one of the top five factors driving employee engagement.
So, as the hunt for talent becomes more competitive, and talent retention more difficult, organizations would be wise to offer ample support for professional growth, especially for younger workers. Deloitte cites a 2014 Quantum Workplace survey showing that professional development is the top driver for engagement for employees age 25 and younger, and it’s the “…number two priority for workers up to age 35.”
As for the power of professional development to retain talent, research from business advisory firm CEB shows a one-third decrease in turnover for organizations that “…improve the career growth environment.”
Employers have heard what their employees are saying. According to Training Magazine, total U.S. training expenditures jumped more than 14 percent in 2015, to $70.6 billion. Nearly one-third was spent on “outside products and services”—consultants and technologies. Another 37 percent reported increasing their training staff. Financial services giant Capital One offers employees assessments, training and career counseling through its Career Development Center. Approximately 12,000 career counseling sessions take place each year at the Center.
Based on our experience with a wide range of employers, we see that when professional development and training programs are supported by meaningful rewards, the impact on engagement and retention is amplified. Whether you already have a program in place, or you’re considering adding one, we’ve identified four actions you can take that will ensure its success.
1. Plan it out. Even the most modest training or development program needs to be carefully planned. Whether it’s a one-off program to retrain workers on new processes or equipment, or a long-term professional development program aimed at grooming talent for projected future needs, the devil is in the details. A well thought-out plan will set expectations and minimize those inevitable bumps.
2. Communicate the opportunities. Use every form of communication your organization has to promote your training and development programs. Eblasts, enterprise social, bulletin boards, video, and those all-important face-to-face meetings: get the message out there and keep it going. What your programs are, why your organization is doing it, how it fits into organizational goals, who will benefit, and what those benefits are.
3. Offer multiple paths for workforce development. Sometimes training is skills-specific and can be offered on-site by staff or, if needed, a training consultant. Other times, development takes the form of additional classroom education or commitment to a professional degree. Your workforce has aspirations that are as varied as they are. When you can match those aspirations with development opportunities you’re sure to engage employees.
Note: In the past, companies tended to support only those training and development opportunities that directly benefited the organization. That day is over. Employees are far more likely to stay with an organization that offers those opportunities and won’t jump ship just because they have new skills or a fresh degree.
4. Support training with meaningful and timely rewards. A meaningful reward is one that speaks to the recipient’s interests. For training and development achievements, a creative approach to the reward might be education themed. Finding rewards that resonate with the individual is easier with rewards programs that include a variety of gift card options and merchants.
Timeliness is also a strong motivator. Setting and rewarding milestones as employees move through training programs, rather than rewarding only at completion, is motivating and keeps engagement high.
Professional development and workforce training have moved from being “add on” perks to becoming essential to employee engagement and organizational success.
Are you looking for a way to reward and recognize employees for training and professional development? Contact a Marketing Innovators solutions expert today to learn how our solutions can deliver the most meaningful rewards simply and quickly.
Chicago Tribune: “Career Development is a Top Priority for Employers Seeking to Retain Talent,” Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, March 29, 2016.
Forbes.com: “8 Key Tactics for Developing Employees,” Steve Olenski, July 20, 2015.
Trainingmag.com: “2015 training Industry Report.” Accessed August 10, 2016.