Four tips to improve staff retention

Article7 min read

July 12, 2022

Organizations are being pressed to do more to keep teams together and win the battle against workforce churn. Employee retention is the key.

We’re in the midst of the ‘great resignation’, a period where 3.4% of workers in the U.S. are leaving their jobs each month. Employees are in search of better benefits, a closer connection to corporate values, and corporate commitment to career progression.1With as many as four million Americans expected to resign from their roles during the course of 2022, the need to improve workforce retention isn’t showing signs of slowing down.2

Major economies are witnessing historically low rates of unemployment. The U.S. unemployment rate is 3.9%,3 and the U.K. unemployment rate is 3.7% — the lowest in over 48 years.4 While organizations are competing for an even smaller pool of applicants, digital transformation and emerging technologies have created burgeoning industries and many new jobs that now need to be filled. Calculations from EMSI Burning Glass and Eightfold point to almost 17 million vacant roles in the U.S.: that’s one in nine roles.5 It takes an estimated 36–42 days and now costs $1,633 to fill a vacant role.6 Whichever way you slice it, employees are demanding more, hiring is expensive, and the market is tight.

Since an organization’s most valuable resource is its people, it pays to focus on their retention and development. By creating pathways for team members to develop existing skills, reskill to address emerging gaps and grow their careers, learning and development managers are investing in strategies to retain their current workforce. 

How to meet employee expectations in the current market

In this competitive market, new recruitment can’t stem the tide alone. Organizations need to respond to existing employee concerns. 

They can do this by finding ways to: 

  1. Create a culture of learning. 
  2. Prioritize employee wellness.
  3. Align brand values with employee expectations.
  4. Foster paths for employees to grow internally.

Tip 1: Create a culture of learning

The benefits of a learning culture are well-established. Learning and development opportunities help motivate teams, engage individuals, and provide opportunities to build clear career pathways so employees can grow within organizations instead of needing to move externally. 

But ongoing learning isn’t just a requirement for career growth, it’s now essential for business agility. Driven by emerging tech and business models, skills gaps are widening. Upskilling and reskilling employees is not only important for corporate culture, but it is a necessary method of narrowing the skills gap caused by the evolving world of work.

One way to build learning into your organizational culture is to offer learning as a benefit. Traditionally, this would comprise tuition reimbursement for undergraduate or postgraduate degree programs. But, increasingly, enterprises are extending this to online learning opportunities for traditional degrees and also alternate credentials offered via an Open Courses Marketplace like edX.

edX For Business enables online learning opportunities with elite academic institutions and corporate curriculum partners from across the globe. Employees are able to fit self-paced learning into their schedules and practically apply their learnings in real-time at work. 

This means employees are empowered to plot and pursue steps in their career paths. Or they can reskill and ensure they remain relevant in a market where 85 million jobs are expected to be automated by 2025.7 

Applied Materials is one organization that was able to offer education as an employee benefit, at scale. They partnered with edX to provide targeted training to their team of over 27,000 individuals who work in nearly 115 countries worldwide. Training is designed to help staff advance along their career paths, grow the organization, and benefit the industry more broadly.

Applied Materials selected training opportunities in key areas, including data analysis, critical thinking, communications, and Python. This helps them to remain at the cutting edge of innovation in materials engineering solutions, and equips employees to pivot into new areas and fill emerging skills gaps. Since the program’s inception in 2017, employees have completed: 

  • 1,500+ professional education courses
  • 14,000 learning hours
  • 55 distinct course offerings

Along the way, Applied Materials has built up a culture of learning that makes sure the company is always improving and teams are happy. 

With a transformational culture of learning infused into your organization, your teams will feel valued, motivated to make a positive impact, and excited to grow with the business. Learn how to embed a culture of learning into your organization, here.

Tip 2: Prioritize employee wellness

It’s no secret that many employees are struggling with mental health in the wake of the pandemic. And this impacts how employees feel about their lives, their purpose at work, and their confidence in themselves. 

But there are factors that can turn this around. When employees have strong relationships at work, believe in the value of what they’re doing, and feel they’re meeting their potential, they’re likely to feel good about their work. And in this scenario of employee well-being, staff retention rates could triple.8

Learning and development plays an important role in employee well-being. Great Place to Work®, a leading workplace culture consultancy, advises organizations to create an environment where ongoing learning and development thrives. It’s one of six key mandates for creating a company culture that promotes employee well-being.

Great Place to Work® advises organizations to:9

  1. Track feedback on employee well-being on an ongoing basis.
  2. Walk the talk when it comes to well-being at all levels of leadership, and be honest about tough times.
  3. Give access to personalized and professional care and support.
  4. Enable and encourage all levels of employees to champion well-being.
  5. Create a culture where ongoing learning and development thrives.
  6. Facilitate autonomy at work and clarify links between individual roles and the outcomes of the organization.

Tip 3: Align your brand values to employee expectations

Organizations need to show that they can deliver what employees need to grow and thrive in the workplace. Where there’s alignment between public-facing values and the day-to-day operations of an organization, and the development opportunities on offer, trust grows and employee buy-in improves. Not only will this help attract top talent, but it also supports employee well-being and motivation.

Through a job that’s aligned with their values, employees find greater meaning at work, as well as an intrinsic motivation. This, in turn, leads to improved productivity and staff retention. It’s a win-win and a strong motivator for prioritizing human-centered leadership.

Tip 4: Foster paths for employees to grow internally

With millions of jobs on a path to automation, many employees need to upskill or reskill to maintain employability.10

What happens to the workers whose jobs become obsolete? Around 77% of workers report that they’re willing to upskill or retrain to stay relevant in the job market. This is promising, given that 74% of CEOs report concern with the availability of certain key skills.11

By investing in your teams, and upskilling and reskilling staff, organizations can match talent to fill in skills gaps and retain quality employees. When you do this, many other areas receive a boost too. Data from LinkedIn Learning demonstrates that engaged learners are far more likely to participate in internal mobility programs.12

What happens when organizations have strong internal mobility programs? Employee retention doubles.13

To set up an environment that fosters internal mobility and opportunities for reskilling, organizations can look at Boot Camps, which provide a learning solution where employees can be reskilled on technical topics through high-touch, intensive training. 

Invest in your best asset

In a complex talent market that’s adapting to waves of change, focusing on the needs and development of your team is the best way to improve staff retention. It makes teams happier, more effective, and helps prepare organizations to plug skills gaps. 

With these tips on employee retention you’ll be equipped to create an environment where people can thrive. And with a happier team in place, your employees will find greater meaning in their day-to-day, and are far more likely to stick with your organization in the long run. 

Contact an edX learning and development consultant to begin building learning solutions for your teams today.

Accelerate the workforce of the future, with edX

Whether you’re a business leader, L&D executive, or other professional, we offer compelling data and insights for why an outcomes-based skills program is key to succeeding in tomorrow’s workplace.

  1. Bersin, J. (Apr, 2022). ‘From The Great Resignation To The Great Migration’. Retrieved from Josh Bersin 
  2. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. (April, 2022). ‘Employment Situation Summary’. Retrieved from US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  3. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. (April, 2022). ‘Employment Situation Summary’. Retrieved from US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  4. Office for National Statistics. (May, 2022). ‘Employment in the UK: May 2022’. Retrieved from Office for National Statistics.
  5. Bersin, J. (Jan, 2022). ‘Welcome to 2022: Too Many Jobs, Not Enough People’. Retrieved from Josh Bersin. 
  6. Samra, S. (Jan, 2022). ‘Everything you need to know about cost per hire’. Retrieved from Recruitee
  7. World Economic Forum (Oct, 2022). ‘Recession and Automation Changes Our Future of Work, But There Are Jobs Coming, Report Says’. Retrieved from World Economic Forum.
  8. Hastwell, C. (Apr, 2022). ‘6 Research-Backed Ways to Promote Employee Well-being’. Retrieved from Great Place to Work.
  9. Hastwell, C. (Apr, 2022). ‘6 Research-Backed Ways to Promote Employee Well-being’. Retrieved from Great Place to Work.
  10. World Economic Forum (Oct, 2022). ‘Recession and Automation Changes Our Future of Work, But There Are Jobs Coming, Reports Says’. Retrieved from World Economic Forum
  11. PwC. (2020). ‘Talent trends 2020’. Retrieved from PwC.
  12. Linkedin Learning. (2021). ‘Workplace Learning Report’. Retrieved from Linkedin Learning
  13. Linkedin Learning. (2021). ‘Workplace Learning Report’. Retrieved from Linkedin Learning

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