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L&D: A Critical Component of Your Employee Retention Strategy

Nearly half (48 percent) of America’s working population is actively job searching or watching for new opportunities amid the Great Resignation. And many are taking action. Voluntary resignations have been steadily increasing, with rates reaching the highest level recorded in 22 years. 

Low pay and no opportunities for advancement are the top two reasons for employee turnover. However, 94 percent of people surveyed said they’d stay at a company longer if their employers invested in their careers. 

Unsurprisingly, 87 percent of HR leaders say learning and development (L&D) is a critical component of their employee retention strategy in 2022. Upskilling and reskilling through an effective L&D program enables your employees to advance in their careers and increase their compensation over time—helping you retain them. Upskilling and reskilling is the top priority for L&D professionals globally. Here are some best practices to ensure your program makes a significant impact on employee retention. 

How to effectively use L&D in your employee retention strategy

1. Offer asynchronous development opportunities

The world of work is changing and innovative organizations know that their L&D programs must adapt to fit their teams’ needs. For example, remote employees in different time zones or those who work flexible hours may not be able to attend live training sessions. And diverse teams may have people with different learning styles and cognitive abilities who need more or less time than their peers to absorb information.

Asynchronous development opportunities give employees the flexibility to learn on their own schedule at their own pace. Perhaps that’s why 73 percent of L&D professionals expect to spend less on instructor-led training, while 79 percent expect to spend more on online learning going forward. The flexibility of online learning programs make them more accessible to your team members so you have a better shot at developing and retaining them.

2. Start career development early

Begin professional development during your employee onboarding process so your team members can get an early start on their career growth. Your new employee training and onboarding program should include core competencies like product knowledge and messaging, tools training, and soft skills training. It’s also important to use this time to create a long-term employee development plan to encourage continuous learning.

New employees who say they have a clear plan for their professional development are 3.5x more likely to agree that their onboarding process was exceptional. And employees who say they had exceptional onboarding experiences are 2.6x more likely to be extremely satisfied with their workplace. This can bolster new employee engagement, job satisfaction, and retention. In fact, 70 percent of those with exceptional onboarding experiences say they have “the best possible job.” 

3. Develop your employees’ strengths

Most (60 percent) of employees say the ability to do what they do best in a role is very important to them. Focus on developing your team members’ strengths, rather than overcoming their weaknesses. Strengths-based learning can result in up to 23 percent higher employee engagement, an 18 percent increase in performance, and 73 percent lower employee attrition. 

Strengths-based learning can work best if you’re also able to reconfigure employee job responsibilities to focus on their strengths and interests. Changing a top performer’s responsibilities will improve the likelihood of retaining them by around 20 percent—even if their title and pay remain the same. 

4. Tie learning to career mobility

While learning in itself is enough to boost employee retention, pairing it with career mobility can make an even stronger impact. Career development conversations and encouraging employees to pursue internal opportunities more than doubles the likelihood that they’ll stay at your company. Further, 75 percent of employees who receive promotions will stay with the company for at least three years, as will 62 percent of workers who make lateral moves.

Employee development should be rewarded with raises and promotions over time. This helps team members understand that their commitment to learning will help them reach their career goals within your organization—rather than at another company.

5. Go full circle

A promotion or lateral move isn’t the finish line in an employee’s development journey—it’s the start of a new lap around the track. Successful performance management requires ongoing discussions around development opportunities and potential career moves so your team members can continue to learn and grow professionally. 

Develop an employee cross-boarding program to get promoted team members up to speed on their new roles, discuss future career goals and opportunities, and build new development plans.

Measuring the impact of L&D on your employee retention rate

High turnover is an expensive problem for employers, as it costs one-half to 2x an employee’s annual salary to replace them. An investment in learning and development may be justified in how it impacts employee retention alone. Here’s how you can measure its return as an employee retention strategy.

1. Employee retention rate

A great learning program should reduce your employee turnover rate, as well as the costs associated with backfilling vacant positions. Track your employee turnover and retention rates over time, paying particular attention to sudden increases or decreases to identify trends. For example, is turnover higher or lower following performance reviews? Did an increase in learning engagement lead to an increase in worker retention?

From there, look at the cost savings associated with lower turnover to get a feel for this return on your investment.

2. Reasons for turnover

Run an exit interview with each departing employee to learn why they’re leaving. Categorize and track reasons for employee turnover so you can see how they change over time. Ideally, you’ll see fewer instances of employee turnover related to compensation or lack of career development. You might even track reasons for turnover by department or manager to see which teams could benefit from additional coaching. 

3. Employee engagement and satisfaction 

Dissatisfied and disengaged employees are more likely to leave. Get ahead of turnover by regularly surveying your employees to measure engagement and satisfaction. This may be done through quarterly engagement surveys, weekly pulse surveys, or even annual stay interviews. Act on employee feedback so your team members know you take it seriously.

Leveling up your employee retention strategy with L&D

Learning and development is an effective employee retention strategy because it directly addresses the two most common reasons for turnover. When your employees know they have opportunities for career advancement and increased earnings at your organization, they may not feel the need to look for those things elsewhere.

Of course, compensation and career advancement aren’t the only reasons for employee turnover, and L&D won’t be an end-all-be-all solution. It’s important to think about employee retention strategies holistically, considering everything from company culture and employee recognition to work-life balance and preventing employee burnout. 

Some turnover is normal—and healthy—but a comprehensive and innovative employee retention strategy can help you retain more of your top talent.

Want to learn more about how learning and development can transform your business and help you retain talent? Download our eBook, Learning as a Growth Engine: How to Fuel Your HR Programs through Effective L&D.

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Jen Dewar

WorkRamp Contributor

Jen Dewar is a marketing consultant in HR technology, focusing on developing educational content for HR professionals and recruiters. She is passionate about diversity and inclusion, lifelong learning and development, and treating people like people throughout candidate and employee experiences. Outside of work, you can find Jen snowboarding in Tahoe, enjoying a glass of wine in Sonoma, or hanging out at home with her family.

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