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How Employers Fail To Upskill And Retain Key Talent


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The current labor market presents challenges for employers looking to attract and retain talented employees. Despite recent highly publicized layoffs, especially in the tech sector, the unemployment rate has remained relatively low. This makes replacing talent challenging. Losing talent is also expensive, making retention critical for the success of every employer. This article highlights essential ways employers fail to upskill and retain talent and provides guidance for how they can improve retention efforts.


The Consequences of Failing to Retain Talent

High rates of employee turnover can damage morale, decrease productivity and harm customer relationships. It can also result in skills shortages. According to management consulting firm

McKinsey & Company, most (87%) employers currently have skills gaps or expect to have them within the next few years. Replacing talented workers can be time-consuming and expensive, which can negatively impact an employer’s bottom line.


How Employers Fail to Upskill and Retain Talent

Unfortunately, retention remains a struggle for many organizations. A recent study by LinkedIn

found that 61% of American employees were considering leaving their jobs in 2023. This number was even higher among younger generations of workers, with 72% of Generation Z workers and 66% of Millennials considering leaving their jobs in 2023. Employers can reduce employee turnover and boost job loyalty and satisfaction by understanding and addressing common factors that drive employees to quit. Common reasons employees leave their jobs include the following:

  • Lack of employee engagement—Employers often fall into the trap of believing that paying their employees well is the only factor that impacts an employee’s decision to stay at their current organization. While financial compensation is important, research shows that engagement also plays a crucial role in retention. According to analytics and advisory company Gallup, employees who are engaged and have enhanced well-being are 59% less likely to look for a job at a different organization within the next 12 months. Despite the importance of engagement, Gallup found that just one-third of employees are engaged at their jobs, causing decreased job satisfaction, performance and retention.

  • Absence of growth and learning opportunities—Upskilling and reskilling employees can increase employee engagement and decrease skills gaps. It’s also crucial for retaining employees, especially younger generations of workers who often prioritize career development over higher-paying positions. Growth opportunities are similarly important. In fact, the lack of growth opportunities is one of the biggest reasons employees leave their jobs. According to the online recruitment site Zippia, 76% of employees are looking for opportunities to expand their careers, and 45% would stay at their organizations longer if their employer invested in their learning and development. Despite this, over half (59%) of surveyed employees reported no formal workplace training.

  • Lack of managerial support—According to Gallup, managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement across business units. Managers significantly impact employee engagement, retention, job satisfaction and productivity. When managers prioritize productivity over people or lack vital interpersonal skills, such as communication and authenticity, they can contribute to high turnover rates.

  • Poor company culture—A 2022 survey by the employment website FlexJobs found that toxic company culture was the number one reason people quit their jobs. These impressions are often made as early as onboarding, where a negative experience can set the tone for an employee’s overall experience at an organization. Lack of a healthy work-life balance was also high on the list of reasons employees quit, identified by 49% of surveyed workers. When employees feel overworked and underappreciated, they’re more likely to look for jobs outside of their organization; this is especially true of employees in mentally unhealthy workplaces or toxic environments.

Strategies for Upskilling and Retaining Talent

Employees want to work for organizations that prioritize them as people and invest in their development. Employers should consider the following strategies for upskilling and retaining talent:

  • Focus on skills-based hiring and hiring the right employee the first time.

  • Create a positive, efficient onboarding process.

  • Hire managers with strong interpersonal skills (e.g., connection, honesty, respect and communication).

  • Recognize employees for their accomplishments.

  • Encourage employee participation in important business decisions.

  • Ask for employee feedback (e.g., surveys, in-person meetings).

  • Create career ladders for transparency about career progression.

  • Provide dedicated time for employee upskilling (e.g., block out time on employees’ calendars or provide optional training during lunch breaks).

  • Encourage mentorship relationships.

  • Offer customized training programs and tools.

  • Prioritize internal mobility over outside hires.

  • Treat employees as people (e.g., promote flexibility, autonomy and work-life balance).

  • Provide generous benefits and paid time off.

  • Focus on creating a positive company culture that promotes mental health and employee well-being.

Conclusion

Employers who address common reasons employees quit their jobs may experience reduced rates of turnover. This can reduce hiring costs, boost employee morale and provide a competitive advantage over similar organizations that fail to retain talented workers successfully.


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