March 17, 2022
Investing in systems that allow employees to actually use new skills, setting up a network for consistent check-ins and planning compensation bands and managerial levels helps, members of Protocol's Braintrust say.
Good afternoon! With today's edition, we asked the experts to think about what comes after a company introduces a reskilling or upskilling program and let us in on the best strategies for retaining talent once those programs are completed. Questions or comments? Send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Partner at Sapphire Ventures
Reskilling is only the first step — to ensure that employees stick around afterward, companies need to present opportunities for clear paths for long-term career advancement. There is a big difference between a job and a career — employees seek career paths that provide opportunities for consistent growth and development and not just jobs or roles that have higher levels of responsibility and greater pay.
To provide employees with career paths takes significant effort and planning from an organizational planning perspective. Companies need to plan for and map out managerial levels, compensation bands and provide continuous training and/or reskilling programs. In addition, companies might consider building out internal mobility programs that allow high-performing employees to change roles when opportunities arise.
Lastly, the power of culture and strong company values cannot be understated. Employees stay when they feel like they are part of a cohesive organization with values that are aligned with their own.
Chief People Officer at UiPath
When executed properly, upskilling and reskilling programs can be an essential tool for both attracting and retaining top talent. However, it’s not enough for companies to just offer employees the chance to learn new skills; what’s stopping those employees from then using those skills to get new jobs?
The most successful programs provide employees with the opportunity to immediately apply their new skills within their current roles. Organizations should invest in the solutions their employees have been trained on — like automation and AI — so they can put their new skills to work for the business. It’s also critical that leaders within the company provide a clear vision of how the skills employees choose to develop will translate into professional growth, incentivizing them to stay and move up the corporate ladder. Offering access to tools that make daily tasks easier and creating clear career paths for those who have been upskilled will make workers feel valued, empowered and motivated to stay within their roles.
CEO at General Assembly
Employees are more inclined to stay at companies that meaningfully invest in their career development — either as an on-ramp to employment or as a tool to move talent whose skills and capabilities may no longer serve critical business needs but who have institutional knowledge that can be applied elsewhere in the company. We’ve seen through some of the corporate apprenticeship programs that we have been involved with – many of which are specifically focused on increasing the ranks of women and people of color on technical teams – that employees who benefit from that deep investment in skills capabilities are more productive and have longer tenures within the business. As employers continue to struggle to fill open tech roles, creating these alternative pathways is not just a great engagement and retention strategy; for many businesses it’s becoming an imperative.
Partner at PwC
Reskilling — and upskilling — aren’t singular events. Learning programs shouldn’t stop. The goal should be programs that foster lifelong learning. That takes ongoing investment, but that’s what it takes to help drive sustainable change, boost engagement and improve retention.
There are real dangers of implementing an upskilling program with a target end date. After completion, employees can be left with the feeling that something was taken away. In a tight labor market, the last thing you want is a sense of loss. Additionally, digital acceleration necessitates continuous learning just to keep pace with emerging technologies and their impact on new ways of working.
Ongoing investment in learning programs is imperative to building a culture of continuous innovation. And that can be enticing to top talent. People want to be a part of organizations that are adapting and evolving to be more fit and more conscious versions of themselves. Learning new skills, experimenting and contributing to organizational goals can be one of the benefits of belonging to your organization. These intangibles are acquisition and retention levers that go beyond salary compensation. They’re about opportunities to stay relevant and take command of — and accelerate — career development.
Use upskilling to foster a culture of continuous learning in which your people cultivate the skills needed to build their own solutions. We call this citizen-led innovation — it’s a methodology that earns people’s emotional commitment, which helps make change personal, scalable and sustainable.
Chief Operating Officer at the University of Phoenix
Implementing reskilling, and upskilling, training programs can significantly reduce employee turnover and improve retention long term, but programs need to be appropriately designed and followed up on every step of the way, with consistent opportunities for training and growth that extend beyond the program's conclusion. It’s equally important to have an efficient way to demonstrate skills learned and proficiency achieved, and this visualization needs to be as autonomously operated as possible. It should be shared broadly, and actively marketed, which will foster participation and the avoidance of mandates.
Employers need to ensure that opportunities for skilling don’t end when the programs do. Our research shows that 68% of employees would be more likely to stay with their current employer if they had more opportunities for upskilling and reskilling, which tells us that employees aren’t seeing these opportunities for development as one-offs. Employees should have the autonomy and opportunity to be constantly reskilled in the workplace, and the option to choose from more broad professional development opportunities and more specialized skills training courses. Offering continuous, always-on opportunities for reskilling and upskilling allows employees to stay engaged in their current role, and grow with the business, which provides opportunities for them to see clear paths for advancement and growth within the organization — and reasons to stay.
It's also crucial to give employees an opportunity to apply their new skills on the job and make skilling a regular part of an employee’s professional development journey; the onus is on employers to facilitate those opportunities.
CEO at Pluralsight
The best way to keep employees engaged and give them incentive to stick around is to create skills development programs that are never finished. Focus on creating a culture that embraces and encourages continuously creating opportunities for employees to learn, develop and grow.
This is especially important for tech workers. The beauty of technology is that it is always evolving. The pace of innovation for technology is so fast that if tech workers don’t dedicate time to continuously develop skills, they can quickly fall behind. Many of today’s most essential technologies — including cloud, AI and machine learning, big data and cybersecurity — either didn’t exist or looked very different than they do now just five years ago.
Winning companies must keep creating opportunities for tech workers to develop. This goes a long way to keep them engaged. Consider what Pluralsight customer BT has experienced with its tech skills development program. BT reports that 92% of its tech workers found that using Pluralsight Skills to continuously upskill had a positive impact on the quality of their work. Additionally, 75% of tech workers participating in the program responded favorably to opportunities to learn and develop.
There are a lot of different ways to accomplish this, as companies can offer any mix of instructor-led academies, video courses or hands-on labs to help tech workers stay on top of the latest skills. The bottom line is that providing opportunities to continuously upskill will keep your tech workers engaged and loyal.
Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in Tech at Intuit
See who's who in the Protocol Braintrust and browse every previous edition by category here (Updated March 17, 2022).
The key to ensuring that employees stick around after a reskilling program finishes is actually straightforward: Make staying easy, accessible and exciting for the employee, and ensure they feel valued in every step of the process. First, ensure your reskilling program is a long-term strategic initiative and not a side project. When companies think of reskilling as part of their long-term vision, teams and hiring managers can consider where employees can take these new skills in the company as they finish the program. This ensures shared value — for the employees who land full-time roles upon program completion, and for the company who acquires top, engaged talent.
Intuit Again, our 16-week returnship program, is designed to be a pathway into a full-time career that enables participants to easily transition into a full-time role with their new skills in tow. We also provide reskilled employees with managers, team leaders and peers who can further invest in these employees by offering them feedback, coaching and a greater sense of belonging. It is also important to proactively partner these employees with mentors from employee resource groups to help with career development so they can believe in and visualize their own long-term future with the company. Creating a supportive environment with clear opportunities for growth will communicate how much you value the employee, and encourage employees to stick around long after the reskilling program has ended.
Kevin McAllister ( @k__mcallister) is a Research Editor at Protocol, leading the development of Braintrust. Prior to joining the team, he was a rankings data reporter at The Wall Street Journal, where he oversaw structured data projects for the Journal's strategy team.
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