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How Does Learning & Development Contribute to Employee Engagement

No matter what industry you operate in, there’s one universal truth: Top talent won’t stick around if there is no opportunity for growth. 

Data shows that 45 percent of employees left their old jobs over concerns about a lack of advancement opportunities. On top of that, some 56 percent of organizations struggle to keep high-potential and top-performing employees. There’s a clear pattern emerging in the industry.

People are eager to grow their careers, but organizations struggle to find ways to help people grow. To maintain a competitive advantage, you want to be the place people can excel. The place that gives people the chance to grow, upskill, and become the best professionals they can be. 

This article will walk you through the business impacts of learning and development on an organization and how L&D contribute to employee engagement.  

The business impact of L&D

Learning and development has long been hailed as the secret to employee success. By continually helping employees enhance their skills, making them feel confident and comfortable in their current roles, and increasing growth opportunities, you provide an outstanding employee experience that convinces them to join and stay. 

The desire for learning spans across generations. Research shows that 59 percent of Millennial employees say opportunities to learn and grow are extremely important when applying for a job. LinkedIn’s recent Workplace Learning Report also revealed that Gen Z is learning more than ever and focuses on career growth, with 76 percent of them believing that learning is the key to a successful career. 

Sharon Taylor, Director of L&D at Emergenetics International, has seen a shift since the pandemic and elaborates, “Since the pandemic, more employees reevaluate what they are doing and why. When organizations provide learning and development opportunities to help staff learn new skills, explore career alternatives, and cross-train, businesses can improve their odds of retaining their people and attracting talented employees.” 

Learning and development is a two-way street. An organization invests in their employees, and in return, they:

  • Gain and retain top talent
  • Improve job satisfaction and morale
  • Improve productivity
  • Exceed goals

Barry Elliott, who runs the talent optimization firm, End2End Wins, has particular expertise in training and development. Through his experiences, he’s learned that organizations that invest in L&D send a clear and resounding message to talent. “[It shows] the organization cares about the employees’ well-being, career development, and personal growth,” he says.

As a management consultant, Elliot helps organizations develop talent retention strategies. He explains that one of the first questions he asks an executive team is ‘how much money per FTE (full-time employee) are you investing in L&D for your top talent?’.

“The answer to that question typically correlates directly to the organization’s turnover rate. Companies that invest in L&D consistently do a better job in retaining talent. That is even more so with the Great Resignation,” he adds. 

How to attract and retain top talent through L&D

Again, the biggest threat to your organization is one thing: not investing in employee growth. So, how do you recruit and retain outstanding talent using L&D? Check out these five ways to help you succeed. 

  1. Build a culture of learning
  2. Develop managers into leaders
  3. Create personalized learning programs
  4. Encourage social learning opportunities
  5. Make growth opportunities clear

1. Build a culture of learning

A key part of recruiting and retaining great talent is building a culture of learning, where employees continuously seek and apply new skills and knowledge to improve performance. 

Attracting and retaining talent is more about culture than training. People will seek out organizations with excellent reputations in their field, and they’ll look for innovation and see if they align with your organization’s values. Your culture needs to support those values.  

Some ways to establish a learning culture include:

  • Make learning a core value of your organization. Don’t treat learning as a dull, scheduled program. Make learning opportunities exciting events and experiences employees can engage with. Try the 70/20/10 Framework to structure your L&D system and help managers lead with impact. 
  • Create a safe space. Reinforce to employees that it’s OK to make mistakes and fail. Motivate them to try new things and celebrate successes as they embark on the road to mastery. 
  • Make learning accessible. Let employees develop skills and find answers on their own time. Studies show that the brain is more effective at retaining information during shorter study sessions than cramming everything in at once. Create on-demand microlearning resources where employees can learn and grow.  
  • Reward growth and improvement. Use enticing incentives to motivate employees and encourage them to keep learning. Rewards include gifts and bonuses, public recognition, memberships, and retreats. For example, you can call out teammates that apply a new skill in a #props Slack channel.

Read more: 6 Ways to Support Employee Career Growth

Mia DeMartini, Learning & Development Manager at the Lifetime Value Company, believes that building a learning culture that supports and celebrates individuals’ strengths and interests is key to attracting and retaining talent. “At The Lifetime Value Company, we have created a system that allows our employees to be the drivers of their careers. Coaching and career development begin during the onboarding process, through what we call our First 100 Days,” she says. 

“This is a period of learning and relationship building, but also an opportunity for new employees to explore the numerous opportunities for development at LTV and see what resonates with them. The First 100 Days culminates in a meeting with each employee and their direct manager to discuss their desired career path and how LTV can facilitate their growth and development to achieve their goals.” Focusing on development in the beginning and providing a clear path for growth is a major factor in LTV’s high retention rates and employee satisfaction.

2. Develop managers into leaders

Command-and-control practices [a management approach that’s based on strict authority and formal controls] are becoming obsolete. Instead, teach managers how to become coaches. Help them develop a coaching style that asks questions rather than gives answers, supports employees, and facilitates employee development. Managers are the secret to upskilling and reskilling employees. That’s why nearly half (49 percent) of L&D professionals are working with people managers to improve learner engagement and skill-building. 

But managers also need guidance on becoming business leaders. Only 40 percent of learners report that their managers challenged them to learn new skills, despite over half feeling that their managers support their career goals. As an organization focused on learning and development, you want to find tactics that help managers shoulder the responsibility of being a mentor.

Some ways to help include: 

  1. Regular one-on-one check-ins. Encourage managers to have regular check-ins with direct reports versus waiting for a performance review. These meetings allow them to work collaboratively with direct reports, offering insight, guidance, and advice to solve problems and help people stay on track with their goals. 
recruiting talent
  1. Inspire peer-to-peer coaching sessions. Turn regular staff meetings into collaborative problem-solving sessions with teams. This brings people together and challenges them to think outside the box to solve various challenges. It also gives managers the chance to coach multiple people at once, which maximizes time and productivity.
  2. Encourage daily learning and development activities. Managers can support employees by encouraging them to use office time to learn. Recommend carving out small chunks of time during the day to engage in learning content. Or, find other ways to bring L&D into the daily work lives of your teams. 
  3. Create learning experiences. Lead by example and create a course for managers to become coaches. Provide formal training that helps them develop necessary soft and hard skills, whether it’s a masterclass or internal certification program. 

Managers greatly impact your organization’s ability to attract and retain talent. They are your vehicle to pass along skills and knowledge to others. Help them become better coaches and mentors, and you’ll soon see the effects of better team performance across your organization.  

3. Create personalized learning programs

There’s a good chance you’ll find employees eager to learn. However, one trap organizations fall into is promoting training programs over learning experiences. Training is transactional and focused on the business. Learning is forward-looking and designed for employees based on their skills and needs. 

Over one-third (35 percent) of employees have used learning development programs to help find new opportunities in their organizations. 

Marla Cormier, President, and founder of U.S. based training company, Emerging Leader Training, believes that the key to attracting and retaining top talent is using Individual Learning Plans (ILP). “Shown at recruiting events, discussed on the careers page, and given to each new hire in orientation defines the training new employees will complete within their first year on the job,” she says. 

These pieces of training are specific to the position and department, and she suggests they should include online, live, and on-the-job learning as required. In her experience, ILPs “become part of the one-on-one meetings between an employee and their immediate supervisor so that it stays top of mind. Progress and learning can be discussed and recorded,” she explains.

“Opportunities for learning and development demonstrate a commitment to an employee’s growth. In their current role, it helps them build the skills necessary to be great in their job today. It also provides the skills and experience needed for career advancement for opportunities in the future. This investment isn’t just a nice-to-have; for high performers, it’s a requirement.” 


— Marla Cormier, President and founder of Emerging Leader Training

Cormier recommends that organizations update ILPs yearly to address current business and performance needs while upskilling employees interested in pursuing new positions. She adds, “while traditional training is part of the ILP, joining committees, job shadowing, finding a mentor, and working on new projects or tasks are all important elements in a well-rounded learning plan.” 

Elliot, agrees, “L&D investments are most effective when the scope and content are targeted to the individual. The training should be part of a broader, overall employee developmental plan. That plan should be developed collaboratively between the manager and employee.”

To make the most of learning programs, consider the following elements:

  • Onboarding. A good onboarding process aligns employees with the company culture and puts them on a clear roadmap. 
  • Transformation. Let employees develop their learning plans and choose which skills to develop. After creating a plan, give employees personalized opportunities like mentorships and social learning experiences. Inspire them to meet personal and professional goals. 
  • Technology. Let employees learn at their own pace. A learning platform like WorkRamp provides unlimited access to high-quality content and facilitates social learning experiences. 
  • Measurement. Track learner progress metrics and make sure they are meeting milestones. This helps you understand employee performance and the effectiveness of your overall programs. 

Some companies are already taking the plunge into personalized learning experiences. In January 2020, insurance and financial services company Nationwide committed to developing its people through perks and personalized learning programs. The brand made a $160 million investment in upskilling and reskilling its workforce of over 28,000 associates in the US. The goal was to help people explore new learning opportunities and skills for the future and help them progress down personalized career paths. 

4. Encourage social learning experiences 

Another way to retain talent is by adding a social element to the learning journey. Social learning proposes that people can acquire new behaviors by observing and imitating peers. Psychologist Albert Bandura first developed the Social Learning Theory (SLT) in 1977. It draws attention to the fact that direct reinforcement alone could not help everyone learn. Learning can also occur in response to observation, imitation, and modeling.  

In the workplace, social learning helps foster a sense of belonging amongst teams, a necessary element given today’s environment. According to a recent Glint survey of 2,393 LinkedIn members, employees experienced less connection to leaders (31 percent of respondents), teammates (37%), and even their friends (40 percent). LinkedIn Learning also found that learners who used social features watched 30x more learning content on average than those who didn’t.

91% of L&D pros agree that teams that learn new skills together are more successful.

Community-based learning connects employees to other colleagues, peers, and experts that inspire them to learn. Managers can implement social learning activities in the following ways:

  • Encourage employees to take a course together and discuss learnings through chat apps like Slack or Microsoft teams. 
  • Create closed groups on WhatsApp or Facebook and use them for collaborative training activities. 
  • Ask employees to produce their training videos and post them on YouTube.
  • Motivate employees to join and engage in online groups.
  • Suggest employees ask questions from instructors, peers, and influencers. 

By incorporating more social learning activities and programs in your organization, employees will feel more connected to peers and spend more time learning. 

5. Make internal growth opportunities clear

Internal mobility has a clear ROI. Employees who move into new jobs internally are 3.5x more likely to be engaged than employees who stay in their current roles. Moreover, employees at companies with high internal mobility stay nearly 2x longer than those with low internal mobility. Engaged learners are often upskilling or reskilling to make a job change. 

Employees who don’t believe they can achieve their career goals with a current employer are 12x more likely to consider leaving. It’s your organization’s prerogative to highlight these opportunities to new and current employees. 

51% of L&D pros say that internal mobility is more of a priority now than before COVID-19. 

Three simple ways to highlight internal growth opportunities are:

  • Internal job boards. An internal job board is a platform where employees can see and apply for new job openings. These platforms centralize jobs and make them easy for employees to find. You can create a company bulletin board or use a service like Phenom or YM Careers to track transfers and promotion rates. 
  • Create career transformation content. Ask employees to explain how they used learning to excel at your organization. Highlight how they developed new skills or changed roles, whether a promotion or a lateral move. 
  • Create clear paths for internal promotions. Make sure your employees know that your organization values professional development. Build employee career paths early on and support them through learning, skill-sharing, and encouragement. 

“Internal mobility is one of the most powerful ways to attract and retain talent. By helping staff explore different interests or transition into new job roles and functions, you can enhance employee engagement and hold on to top talent.” — Sharon Taylor, Director of L&D at Emergenetics International

Encourage career development and improve employee retention today

The bottom line: every person in your organization has unrealized potential. Your organization needs to cultivate it by building a culture of learning, providing growth initiatives, and adopting a learning management platform. 

Take a look at your current L&D processes and find areas for improvement. Remember that employees won’t stay without a clear growth path to follow. A defined system that keeps employees motivated and inspired will improve retention and profitability for long-term business impact. 

Looking for a learning platform to help attract and retain talent? WorkRamp can help. Contact us to schedule a free, personalized demo.

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