Promoting a culture of continuous learning is high on the agenda of many global organisations. There’s an increasing emphasis on personal and professional development to enable employees to contribute purposefully and advance their careers—for improved engagement and retention. From a business perspective, investing in employees is fundamental to staff retention, scaling, and meeting business goals. In relation to new market development, product and service launches, success rates depend on having the right teams in place to execute the right strategies.

If a company’s staff turnover is high, a vicious cycle of recruiting and onboarding can have a negative impact on productivity, employee morale and revenue. A multi-dimensional L&D programme is essential to achieving the right level of workforce development and employee engagement—to drive the business forwards.


Employee Retention is a challenge and a key business goal for organisations

One of the biggest battles for companies today is employee retention. Smart employee engagement programmes link to the organisation’s business strategy, and retention is one of the key objectives for organisational leaders today.

Providing an engaging workplace experience where employees feel empowered, valued, and can visualize their career path⁠—supports employee retention.

Research conducted by CompTIA highlights that 58% of employees (62% of Millennials and GenX) say that professional development contributes to their job satisfaction.

Online learning platforms that provide employees the opportunity to learn at their own pace are customary in organisations today. However, by themselves, they offer no magic solution for employee retention. Heavy workloads coupled with a lack of time for continuous on-the-job learning, means employees don’t necessarily benefit as much as they could. There’s a fine balance to maintaining employee motivation when it comes to continuous learning.

Companies who focus on building a modern learning experience for a multi-generational workforce may fare better in employee engagement initiatives. For example, incorporating a range of learning techniques such as online learning, instructor-led learning, on-the-job learning, job shadowing, mentoring, coaching, with additional assets like videos and content libraries. To keep employees engaged and motivated, learning analysis with clearly defined outcomes, recommendations, and 360-degree feedback help fuel the learning cycle.

Developing and nurturing talent across the organisation, empowering employees with personal and professional growth opportunities along with a roadmap for career development are building blocks towards an engaged workforce. And, as crucial as onboarding is in preparing new employees for their role, so is having a culture of continuous learning and development, with hands-on management support.


Learnability and Growth Mindset

Learnability is a term originating from computers, software and machine learning. More recently, it’s been used in a wider context to describe people and the workplace. It’s becoming more frequent for HR and L&D Managers to describe learnability as a talent retention factor. Employees who demonstrate a strong desire to learn, and who are part of an organisation that strongly values learning don’t only upskill, they learn new skills. Learnability ties into the idea of the growth mindset. When we consider leadership and employees, the organisational culture has either a growth mindset i.e. a strong desire to learn new skills and develop in new areas, or a fixed mindset i.e. a belief that developing future skills would be irrelevant or too difficult. Organisations and employees who harbour a growth mindset are likely to embrace new challenges, not only in relation to their current capabilities but also within new areas where they hold limited knowledge, or no knowledge. The growth mindset and learning and development are interdependent, and if the employee and the organisation are at different ends of the spectrum i.e. growth mindset vs fixed mindset—it creates a cultural mismatch that will likely lead to staff turnover.


Hard Skills vs Soft Skills

According to Linked In’s 2018 Workplace Learning Report, survey participants identified training for soft skills as their #1 talent development priority. The demand for soft skills includes; communication skills, organisational ability, collaboration and problem-solving—compelled by the pace of social and technological change in the workplace.

So, while the need for technical competencies will continue to grow, there’s renewed focus on the benefits of soft skills to drive communication, collaboration and leadership initiatives.

Other helpful soft skills for businesses include; emotional intelligence (EQ), assertiveness, empathy and adaptability. With every type of business, soft skills are needed for internal and external communications. The rise of automation and robotics to perform data-related tasks highlights the difficulty in replicating human social skills—increasingly recognised as crucial.


Future Workforce Strategy

Technological, socio-economic and demographic developments are disrupting business models and industries, therefore, challenging leaders to plan their future workforces. Discussions around recruiting, training and talent management highlight the probability of future widespread skills shortages, and uncertainties relating to the type and level of skills needed for existing roles.

Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, augmented analytics and blockchain are some of the advances set to magnify skills shortages in future years. Through forward-planning and talent forecasting, industries and businesses can reduce skills shortages with innovative training programmes designed to re-skill and upskill existing staff. The competition to acquire newly qualified graduates with future skills will be rife. It’s critical for organisations to plan for the widespread disruption of increasing automation—by retraining their workforces to emerge stronger.

In their report named Future Workforce Strategy The World Economic Forum describe a  mismatch between the magnitude of the upcoming changes and the relatively timid actions being taken by companies to address these challenges so far.

By demonstrating and sharing future-proof strategies, promoting learning and development to build future skills, employees could feel involved, connected and part of something revolutionary.

In a workforce transitions report by McKinsey Global Institute, it is estimated by 2030, up to 375 million workers globally may need to switch occupational categories. The report highlights how increased investment in workforce training will become a priority. The future workforce will spend more time on activities that machines are less capable of—applying expertise and using their soft skills. So, there will be a shift in activities where jobs will require more advanced cognitive abilities including creativity and logical reasoning along with social and emotional skills, managing people and communicating with others.

Therefore, organisations who prepare for their future workforce by identifying the skills they’ll require, and how they propose to develop or acquire these skills, will have a competitive advantage over those who don’t.

Notably, outsourcing business units to solutions-providers who can manage the scope of HR Management from talent attraction to training, performance management to customer relations—will be an attractive option for many organisations faced with the burden of skills shortages.


Succession Planning

An area that ties into future workforce strategy is succession planning, which requires L&D investment to enable current employees to reskill for job transitions. At Covalen, we offer succession planning as a future-proof tool for managing risks associated with skills gaps and talent shortages. Our support teams offer a fresh perspective on motivating, developing and retaining employees, through crafting engaging workplace experiences that align with our clients’ business objectives. Having skilled, trained replacements ready to step into a role positively influences client revenues within the outsourced functions we manage. Additionally, it offers a career development path for existing employees looking to transition horizontally or vertically into new roles.

According to a survey by UBS, global unemployment rates reached their lowest in over 40 years. And because top performers are likely to be headhunted, employee engagement is vital for businesses.

Clearly, learning and development plays a significant role in the employee journey. Businesses would be wise to put talent development under the microscope—in terms of how they’ll acquire future skills, and how much preparation is needed to march confidently towards fulfilling their vision.

Read more about employee engagement and the future workforce in our eBook – Delivering Performance Magic in the Age of Experience.