October 08, 2021

Learning and development leaders: This is your moment.

The Great Resignation is real, and it’s already happening. Turnover is holding steady in record-high territory. 70% of employees are likely to job hunt in 2021, according to the 2021 Achievers Engagement and Retention Report. Chances are, retention is the top concern on people’s minds at all levels at your company.

The learning and development function is not traditionally thought of as a major driver of retention, but there’s plenty of data to indicate that employees are most likely to stay when they feel their companies are investing in their development. This puts L&D leaders in the position to play a major new role in the futures of their organizations.

Development matters — a lot.

Over the past 10 years, “job-hopping” has become a popular strategy for accelerating one’s career trajectory. In more stable times, the opportunity to grow and take on new responsibilities is a major driver of attrition.

Reinforcing this notion, 2018 LinkedIn Workforce research reports that 94% of employees would stay at their company longer if it invested in their career.

As it turns out, the earth-shattering events of 2020 and 2021, in which a global pandemic forced an overnight change to remote work and upended many people’s professional and personal lives, haven’t lessened the demand for growth and development. In Summer 2020, Bravely saw a 700% spike in sessions related to stress and burnout, but sessions about growing in one’s career never decreased. Even in the sessions primarily focused on stress, people continued to express a focus on their professional development. That’s all to say: even when everything else changes, our intrinsic desires for our careers don’t.

The bottom line is: if someone can’t get their growth and development needs met at your company, they’re going to seek it elsewhere.

The strategy: individualized support

The idea of a one-size-fits-all employee experience is a thing of the past. Creating an environment in which everyone feels engaged means acknowledging that everyone has their own:

  1. Access needs: The accommodations they require in order to have the same opportunity to thrive
  2. Definitions of success: What they want to get out of their lives at work
  3. Preferred working styles: How they prefer to communicate, collaborate, manage, and be managed
  4. Set of personal circumstances: What they’re figuratively carrying to work with them, affecting how they show up each day

The individual support you provide to employees is the most important driver of their sense of belonging, psychological safety, connection to their work and each other, sense of purpose, and resilience.

Retention-forward learning and development is:

  1. Available when it’s most relevant. Knowledge retention gets a significant boost from concrete real-world applicability.
  2. Reinforced by available support resources. Learning and development should be inextricable from the larger ecosystem of employee support.
  3. Human-first, unstructured, and self-directed. When employees are given the freedom to opt into the learning opportunities most suited to their goals, they’re more committed to it and engaged with it — and feel more valued by their employer.

Assessing your L&D in the Great Resignation

L&D leaders seeking to meaningfully drive retention through their work can approach it in terms of three stages, each of which builds off the last. These stages are:

  1. Access: What opportunities for learning are you providing? First, look at the diversity of your L&D offerings, including the variety of learning styles represented.
  2. Empowerment: How are you equipping people to seek the tools they need? The most robust L&D programming can’t effective if people don’t feel empowered to use it. Consider the channels by which employees access learning, how it’s being put in front of people in the moments they need it most, and efforts to mitigate any barriers to partaking in learning.
  3. Culture: Is the proactive pursuit of learning normalized and rewarded? Finally, the company culture needs to reinforce the value of growth and development. Leaders can model self-directed development by speaking openly about their own growth goals and how they’re pursuing them. Investing in one’s own development should be incentivized at all levels of the company.

Coaching drives strong L&D outcomes.

  • Actionability: 91% of employees report they are more likely and more prepared to take a next step after just one session.
  • Positivity: 94% of employees report they feel more positive about their present work circumstances after each session.
  • Skills: 88% of employees report learning something in their session they can apply to their work.

Top “power skill” areas explored in Bravely sessions include proactivity, confidence, clear communication, focus, empathy, and leadership.

Individualized learning and development is the future of employee retention. Seize the opportunity to solve your company’s #1 problem.

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