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  • Writer's pictureChanell Alexander

Hacking the Great Resignation: The advantages of upskilling for today’s employers

Updated: Mar 16, 2022

In 2021, an average four million Americans quit their jobs each month. That is roughly the equivalent of the entire population of Rome, Italy, or Los Angeles, California, leaving the labor force every 30 days.

Like other aspects of our current world, these numbers are unprecedented.

This phenomenon has been dubbed “The Great Resignation,” and the chances are high that you or someone you know has quit their job or is thinking of turning in a resignation letter soon.

Al Jazeera reported that 40% of global employees are considering resigning in the upcoming months.

Even multi-Jeopardy champion Amy Schneider has become a part of The Great Resignation.

The Great Resignation’s impact reaches further than its effect on the global economy. If you’re an employer, you’re likely to lose your key talent. Employee? Well, you may have to take on more tasks if your teammate resigns in the middle of that large project.

Employers seem to be trying everything to get workers to stay around, from offering substantial signing bonuses to iPhones — courtesy of McDonald’s.

But there may be another option some employers may be overlooking…

Upskilling matters to today’s employees

Upskilling—the process of engaging in continued learning that enhances a professional's skill set—is very important to employees. A 2021 Gallup survey of 15,000 professionals for The American Upskilling Study underscored this point.

Sixty-one percent of respondents said upskilling was an important reason to stay at their jobs. Alternatively, just under half (48%) said they would switch jobs to upskill.

It's no secret that upskilling can become a benefit or perk that companies offer, leading to more internal promotions and higher earnings.

However, upskilling isn't just a nice-to-have feature; it’s gradually becoming a necessity.

According to the World Economic Forum's The Future of Jobs report, half of workers will need to reskill by 2025 in order to meet evolving technological demands.

The Advantages of Investing in Upskilling of Your Teams

Making learning and development a priority not only can shield your company from The Great Resignation’s mass turnover; it can also bring significant benefits to your team and company as a whole.

📈 See an Uptick in Employee Engagement

Disengaged employees are costly. Not only do they typically result in a drop in productivity, but according to Gallup, a disengaged employee can cost their organization 34% of every $10,000 of their salary each year.

Let’s do the math:

If you have an employee making $60,000, their disengagement can cost you $20,400. If you’ve got 10 of these individuals at a similar salary range, then you’ve got $204,000 in disengagement costs.

Yikes. Thankfully, upskilling can help turn these numbers around by making it easier for employees to have upward mobility in an organization.

Ultimately, it can prepare them for new roles, and according to a recent study by LinkedIn, employees with jobs they can grow into stay twice as long as those without.

From LinkedIn’s 2021 Workplace Learning Report

☺️ Improve Job Satisfaction

Satisfaction. The Rolling Stones sang about it, and it generally seems pretty hard to obtain. But on the work front, upskilling can help. Research shows that those with upskilling opportunities feel more satisfied with their jobs. According to The American Upskilling Study, a staggering 71% of respondents said job training and development increased their job satisfaction.

There are many reasons why this could be the case. For Phillip Ramsey, a talent solutions consultant at General Mills, the opportunity for upward mobility has been satisfying.

Throughout his two years at General Mills, Ramsey has participated in the company’s leadership development program, which enables him to work in various departments to get the needed experience for leadership-based positions. The program has also helped him to feel secure in his career progression.

“It takes you out of having to make the decision of where to go next with your career, because you know you are going to get these certain types of experiences.“

He found that it can take the stress off of people — particularly early-career professionals or those trying to pivot — and enable them to answer the question of “What is a great experience for me to have that’s going to pay off long-term?”

🏆 Build a Strong Internal Pipeline for Leadership Positions

Regardless of the size or success of your company, at some point, your key employees are going to move on. It's a conundrum that even the likes of Elon Musk, Whitney Wolfe Herd, Daymond John, Safra Catz and Richard Branson have likely had to manage. However, upskilling can be the remedy for this issue.

Kipp Ramsey is human resources manager at Hi-Rez Studios, a metro Atlanta-based game developer, and has seen how offering learning and development programs have benefitted employees and the company.

Hi-Rez Studios offers a $1,500 annual stipend for employees as part of its leadership development program. Ramsey has seen the program evolve since 2018 to become mutually beneficial.

"This is incredibly beneficial not only to the employee, but the company as well as we continue to level up our leadership team, existing and future," says Ramsey.

The program has enabled them to cultivate their internal talent pipeline.

"We focused a lot on our younger managers that hadn't had a ton of managerial skills development; they were just somewhat thrust into a managerial role. So, this was a great way to help grow them as leaders."

Ultimately, creating a path for upward mobility in your organization can prevent employees from walking out the door.

Leadership and HR expert and international keynote speaker Brigette Hyacinth recently shared five employee retention insights she discovered while interviewing an exiting employee.

The importance of upward mobility made the cut:

“Career progression is one of the biggest factors to retention. Every job plateaus. Create a career path for each employee to ensure they stay motivated.”

How to Efficiently Upskill Your Team

Upskilling doesn’t have to be overwhelming or incredibly expensive. However, the challenge lies in finding a way to do it efficiently, especially if you’re starting at square one.

Where do you begin, and how can you determine where to prioritize your upskilling programs?

Have a Learning and Development Strategy that Aligns Employee Motivations and Business Needs

Much like Kipp Ramsey described, your upskilling program should work in favor of both your company and employees. To make that happen, first you’ll want to determine your business needs and select those that align with your employees’ professional motivations.

For example, Phillip Ramsey’s employer, General Mills, outfits their leadership and development program with tracks that both help employees move forward and ensure that the organization is building leaders that serve its goals.

According to Ramsey, General Mills has finance, supply chain, marketing, human resources, and engineering tracks that round out their leadership development program for professionals looking to gain experience in the company.

Ensuring that your employee skill preferences and business needs align doesn’t have to be a challenging task; it could be as simple as sending a survey to discover what skills your employees are interested in, along with the roles they aspire to hold.

From LinkedIn’s 2021 Workplace Learning Report

Highlight the Benefits of Upskilling to Your Team

Learning for learning's sake is great, if not noble. But today’s employees aren't only interested in learning and development for the intrinsic value. Many are on a mission, looking to skill up to move up—whether in salary or position.

Gallup's American Upskilling Study revealed that 59% of the workers surveyed said career advancement was their primary reason for wanting to upskill. The second highest reason was higher pay, at 17%.

"It's supposed to help people move up,” said Phillip Ramsey, who indicated that his primary reason for participating in General Mill’s leadership development program was to do just that. "It's supposed to be a role that helps you get the experience you need to move to the next level."

When creating your learning and development strategies, or investing in upskilling and reskilling programs, make sure you’re promoting their tangible benefits to your employees so they have a clear picture of what they can get for their investment in the program.

Invest in an Upskill Partnership

Don’t have a training framework or your HR department is new to learning and development strategies? In that case, consider an upskill partnership.

A company that partners with organizations on upskilling initiatives can help you add the types of training and development that ensure your culture encourages lifelong learning.

An excellent example of an organization that helps companies do this is Guild Education. Matthew Daniel, principal of employer solutions at Guild, describes how they partner with companies to help employees engage with upskilling:

"At Guild, we partner with the largest employers in the country, including Walmart, Disney, Target, Chipotle, and Hilton to help foster a ‘Culture of Opportunity’ inside their companies by making education, skilling, and career pathways accessible to employees at all levels of the organization," Daniel said.

"We do this by combining our technology platform, coaching and advisory services, and a curated learning marketplace to guide working adult learners along personalized opportunity pathways to better connect their education with their career goals."

How has this been working for their clients? There have apparently been major benefits, primarily regarding retention.

"Eighty-six percent of employees engaged with the Guild education benefit are more likely to refer others to their employer; there is a 39 percent higher retention rate for learners Guild supports vs. employees not engaged with our platform."

If you're starting at square one in setting up an upskilling program, a partnership could put you on the path toward a rewarding program with a strong return on investment.

Implement a Training and Development Platform

Maybe upskilling is something that you’ve previously invested in, and you already have a robust learning and development strategy…but now, you need a way to facilitate learning. In that case, finding an exemplary training and development platform is likely the next best step.

The best option for your company depends on your needs. For example, if you need someone to handle the logistics, a company like Reforge, which offers cohort-based training programs, could be the answer.

Alternatively, suppose you want to handle training and onboarding in-house. In that case, a platform like Juno Journey, an employee development platform, might be the better option.

Orly Avital, Head of People at Juno Journey, helps businesses build a sense of connection among employees, helping them ward off the effects of The Great Resignation—especially for fully remote, partially distributed, or hybrid companies.

"We support all aspects of onboarding and enable people to feel connected to their organizations," Avital explained. "This includes pre-onboarding; even two weeks before someone starts with us, I'm sending something cool about us, a little bit about administrative items and what to expect…then when they come, they have their company and team onboarding, so all the knowledge that is needed is accessible and on-demand. They can read up at home and then arrive ready to kick off their job the best way on day one, without feeling that they must ask others for everything."

The work that they've done has yielded tangible results as Avital shared with us the importance of onboarding and its impact on employee retention. "We have real data that shows that if the first three months are good, most likely this person will stay with you for a longer time."

What challenges have you faced while offering upskilling?

Upskilling Is Essential…Period

You now know that upskilling is more than a bonus for employees or a win-win for teams and organizations. It’s essential for your company to thrive through The Great Resignation and beyond. As the World Economic Forum has stated, upskilling will be essential for the foreseeable future.

As remote work further becomes the norm, it'll be critical to have avenues for employees to expand their skills and share what they've learned with others, which strengthens connection and employee engagement.

"If we're working from home, we still want to be connected," Avital shared, "If companies won't understand it….they need to do so, and to create a good approach and space to share knowledge, information and to make connections with colleagues."

It’s also crucial to recognize that what employees expect out of their overall work experience has changed. People want a reason to commute across town or turn on the computer to start the workday. Failing to make working for your company a true asset to employees can remove your competitive advantage.

Upskilling can be the great differentiator. Not only can you come out of this with lower turnover, but also with well-trained employees ready to move your company forward — and potentially fulfill aspirations that matter to them within your company.

As Justin Welsh, founder of advisory firm JW Strategic Advisory, said in a recent post: people in today’s workforce “don’t want dream jobs. They want dream lives.” A sound upskilling strategy can put them on the path to have just that.



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