This article was originally published in eLearning Industry on July 19, 2022. 


In the workplaces of the future, three of the top priorities will be skills development, employee retention, and employee well-being. These priorities interconnect. Employees whose organizations offer robust skills development strategies are more likely to be retained and to experience well-being. Workers are loyal to employers who make skills development a structured part of their talent management programs.

Skills development is an essential component of employee engagement, meaning the level at which employees feel involved and enthusiastic about their work and workplace. Based on over 50 years of employee engagement research, Gallup is a leader in proving that engaged employees produce better business outcomes than unengaged employees. These outcomes are:

  • Increased sales and profit;
  • Greater employee loyalty;
  • Better product quality;
  • Decreased employee absenteeism;
  • Fewer safety violations;
  • Lower turnover.

These results are the same across industries, company size, nationality, and state of the economy. However, Gallup concludes only 15% of employees worldwide and 35% in the United States are engaged. 


Read more: What is an intelligent learning platform for businesses?


Four skills development benefits that help attract and retain top talent

Let’s explore four ways that effective skills development strategies can improve employee engagement and benefit the organization: 

  1. Skills development is important for employee recruitment 

    Employees know skills development is an essential part of effective career development. The World Economic Forum says the world is facing a “reskilling emergency,” with over one billion people needing to reskill by 2030. Skills in demand are technology and interpersonal skills, such as sales, human resources, care, and education.

    Job seekers want employers who understand the global economy and offer opportunities to grow their skills. Staffing firm ManpowerGroup released a report about the 2022 labor landscape: 81% of workers said they expect training programs from their employers to help keep skills up to date, and savvy job seekers will ask about the quality of an employer’s learning and development initiatives before accepting a job offer. 


    Read more: The top 4 employee requirements that a skills development program has to address


  2. Skills development is needed to retain top talent

    PwC’s survey of 52,000 workers concluded, “If the ‘great resignation’ has taught employers anything, it’s to not take their workers for granted.” Smart companies will heed this warning because losing an employee is expensive. Workplace analyst Josh Bersin examined research studies and concluded the total cost of losing an employee could range from tens of thousands of dollars to 1.5-2 times their annual salary.

    Employees feel appreciated and valued when companies make learning a priority. HR consulting company Glint reported that the opportunity to learn and grow is the number one driver of a great work culture. Their data show that when employees feel cared about at work, they are three times more likely to say they are happy to work for their current company and also to recommend working for their company.

    One of the top three reasons employees quit a job is the perceived lack of career advancement available. Employees who feel that their skills are not being put to good use in their current job are ten times more likely to be looking for a new job than those who feel that their skills are being put to good use. If organizations want a good return on investment from employee development, retaining them must be a top priority.

  3. Skills development promotes a sense of purpose

    In a post-COVID study by McKinsey, nearly two-thirds of US-based employees said COVID-19 caused them to reflect on their purpose in life. Almost half said that post-pandemic, they are reconsidering what type of work they want to do. Millennials were three times more likely than others to say that they were reevaluating work.

    Every employee’s skills development plan should explicitly acknowledge that employees want their work to have meaning and feel purposeful. Career counselors say, “Individuals are different, and those differences matter.” Work that doesn’t feel meaningful to one employee might feel like an ideal fit for another. The career development part of an employee’s individual learning plan should assess interests, strengths, work style preferences, and career values.

    Structured learning needs to happen through all stages of the employee life cycle: attraction, recruitment, onboarding, retention, development, offboarding, and even exiting as a “happy leaver” because “boomerang employees” (employees who left their company but returned) are up to 4.3% of hires in 2021. Training should be ongoing, not “one and done.” A Citrix study found that 82% of employees and 62% of HR directors believe workers will need to hone their current skills or acquire new ones at least once a year to maintain a competitive advantage in a global job market.

    By facilitating skills development at all levels of the organization, today’s hires are tomorrow’s leaders. Training plans should include specific steps for succession planning to ensure the company has the talent in place both today and in the future. 


    Read more: How to create personalized corporate training through an intelligent learning platform


  4. Skills development encourages innovation

    The only constant in modern workplaces is change. Employees who know how to learn will be the ones who thrive and who will have the confidence and critical thinking skills to foster innovation. Blade Kotelly, a senior lecturer who teaches innovation at MIT, said innovation is a learned skill we can measure and teach.

    An innovative learning culture welcomes questions about the status quo, encourages experimentation even if mistakes happen, gives employees sufficient time to pursue individual learning objectives, and offers opportunities for collaboration and brainstorming. Because this type of work culture is engaging and fun, employees enjoy working there. Market research firm Rockbridge Associates found job satisfaction is 87% among companies perceived as highly innovative, 53% in those perceived as moderately innovative, and 31% in those perceived as low in innovation.

Retain top talent through skills development

We’ve reviewed four ways that skills development strategies attract and retain top talent: by promoting a company’s commitment to learning to improve recruitment, offering high-quality learning programs to increase employee loyalty, using skills development to promote a sense of employee purpose, and creating a learning culture that encourages innovation. 

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