Continual Learning: A Strong Strategy in a Tight Labor Market

August 14, 2019
Author: Tyran Saffold Jr

Forty percent of employees who don’t receive the necessary job training to become effective are likely to leave their positions within the first year.

Continual Learning

The Disconnect

If there are no opportunities to grow within an organization, then neither the employer nor employee will benefit from the relationship. The employee is stagnant in their skillset, thus, decreasing the growth of the business overall. That is an equation for failure and a company that does not offer learning and development opportunities for its employees will struggle with retention and company morale.

For every cause, there is an effect, and, in this case, the effect is “Millennials are quitters and job-hoppers”, however, the cause is one that most are not willing to investigate. There should be no coincidence that where Millennials are most satisfied with their learning opportunities and professional development programs, they are also likely to stay longer.

According to a survey by Deloitte, only 24 percent of Millennials are very satisfied with the opportunity for growth in their working lives — and 60 percent feel that their leadership skills are not being fully developed in their current positions. Additionally, when salary or other financial benefits were removed from the equation, opportunities to progress and become leaders ranked second when asked what factors are considered when choosing to work for an organization.

When companies show commitment to their employees’ growth, in turn, employees feel empowered to become better workers. It starts a chain of events that leads to highly engaged employees in a magnetic culture that attracts talent and increases productivity.

High Engagement Companies

What defines a high engagement company? Loosely, it encompasses a business that fosters growth in a dynamic and energetic company with high morale. Between 2017-18, more than 50 percent of companies increased their Learning and Development budgets, signaling the importance of prioritizing growth within an organization.

Companies with a high level of engagement report 21 percent higher productivity according to Gallup data. When comparing engagement levels for the top 25 percent of Gallup’s survey dataset to the bottom 25 percent, the more engaged groups showed the following improvements:

• 22 percent in profitability
• 21 percent in productivity
• 10 percent in customer ratings
• 41 percent in quality defects
• 48 percent in safety incidents
• 41 perecent in patient safety incidents
• 37 percent in absenteeism
• 28 percent in retention

In addition, turnover was 65 percent lower in highly engaged companies compared to 25 percent in companies with low engagement. Firms that struggle with engagement also report an average of 6.19 sick days taken annually per employee, compared to companies with high engagement, reporting an average of 2.69 sick days annually, per employee. Sick days affect daily production and workplace morale, all boiling down to the companies’ success and bottom line.

“Engaged employees are more attentive and vigilant. They look out for the needs of their coworkers and the overall enterprise, because they personally, ‘own’ the result of their work and that of the organization,” says Jim Harter Ph.D., chief scientist at Gallup research. “They listen to the opinions of people close to the action, and help people see the connection between their everyday work and the larger purpose or mission of the organization.”

Investments are made into people and businesses where both parties can benefit and in essence, that is what employee/employer relationships are. Employers invest in employees with an expectation of a high return. It is simply a business transaction and, if the right person is hired for the job, the only thing else left to do is foster their growth within your company.
If there is not a strong company commitment to growth, then your employees may consider taking their talents elsewhere and in a competitive labor market, that is one of the things that can cripple an employer.

Continual learning is a double-edged sword, slicing at both employee retention and business success—an investment that will pay off two-fold in the long run. In a tight labor market, it may help to take a page from Amazon by upskilling current employees through online classes and training resources. As companies figure out ways to boost employee retention and engagement, investing in their continual learning appears to be another business strategy to gain a competitive advantage in a strong economy.