May 21, 2019

Employee Training: More Critical to Recruiting and Retention Than You Thought


Employee turnover is costly. From a purely financial perspective, replacing a departed employee can cost roughly one-third of their total salary. From a cultural perspective, institutional knowledge is lost, morale can be harmed, and engagement can suffer.

What can companies do to avoid these costs and convince their employees to stay? Stronger benefits and salary raises are often floated as the top ways to improve recruitment and retention efforts, but many employers undervalue the critical role of learning and development (L&D) in an employee’s decision to leave.

According to the “Future of Work and Employee Learning” report from Sitel Group, 79 percent of employees say it is important for them that prospective employers offer formal training programs. In addition to being a key recruitment differentiator, training is also a powerful driver of retention. More than one-third of employees said they would leave their current job if they were not offered training to learn new skills. However, 19 percent of workers say their employers don’t offer any training at all, and those workers who do have access to training are often dissatisfied with their employer’s offerings.

Let’s delve into what the findings of this report can tell us about how employers can create the kinds of L&D-rich environments that attract and retain top talent:

The Skills Gap Misunderstanding

The best talent knows there is always room for improvement, yet 35 percent of employees say their employers do not take the time to get to know them or their personal skills gaps. Without training opportunities that are specifically customized to address each employee’s particular areas for improvement, it can be difficult for employees to advance professionally. Ultimately, when these employees feel or are rendered stagnant, they will seek new opportunities.

Not only do workers feel their employers don’t understand their skills gaps, but they are also nervous to ask for the training they need to close those gaps. Nearly half of employees think their employers penalize them for not having certain skills on the job. It makes sense, then, that 30 percent of employees admit they have avoided asking for training on a specific topic because they thought their employer would be concerned about their lack of skills or knowledge. Furthermore, a little over a quarter of employees admit they have not participated in training in the past because their manager didn’t encourage them to attend or they felt their manager didn’t think it was important.

These statistic illuminate the need for more training support from the top down. If employees feel their managers don’t prioritize training — or view employees who need training in a negative light — they have little choice but to search for other managers at other companies who do.

Top Ways to Train Employees

When implementing L&D programs, it is important to consider which method(s) work best for your employees. The most preferred method of training overall is instructor-led, in-person training, with 43 percent of survey participants naming it their preferred method. Additionally, 30 percent of employees prefer blended learning, or a mix of in-person and digital learning, while another 15 percent say they prefer online learning.

In addition to getting the delivery method right, you must also account for your employees’ learning styles. Forty percent of survey respondents described their personal learning styles as “physical learning,” meaning they respond best to hands-on training. Another 36 percent of employees described themselves as “visual learners,” meaning they respond best to viewing the training. Consider implementing training options that cover both of these common learning styles, while also consulting your employees to see what works best for them.

One area of training that often goes overlooked is soft skills training, in which employees learn less technical skills like how to speak with a client effectively or how to diffuse difficult situations with colleagues. Only 44 percent of employees say their employers offer any kind of soft skills training. Given the importance of communication in the workplace — and the fact that 36 percent of workers believe soft skills training is the most needed form of L&D in 2019 — it would be a grave mistake for employers to forgo soft skills training.

Perhaps the most noteworthy finding of this study is the simple connection between employee learning and employee engagement. Nearly all employees (92 percent) say that when they learn something new on the job, it motivates them and makes them more engaged in their work. No matter what kind of budget you’re working with or the size of your company, offering employees the experience to learn and grow on the job could ultimately be the deciding factor in your employee engagement efforts.

Aaron Schwarzberg is COO of Sitel Group’s Learning Tribes.

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As chief operating officer (COO) of Learning Tribes, Aaron Schwarzberg is responsible for the efficiency, effectiveness, and quality of learning solutions delivery in addition to business development for the Tribe (organization). A strategic leader and collaborative driver in the L&D/eLearning space, Aaron brings more than 10 years of expertise in leading global operations, client services, and corporate partnerships for EdTech corporations. Throughout his professional career, he has worked closely and extensively with a myriad of senior leaders (CEOs, CLOs, presidents, and provosts), helping them understand the internal learning needs of their respective organizations as well as the needs of their end users. Prior to joining Sitel Group, Aaron served as the executive vice president of global operations for dialogEDU, a learning management system company. In this role, he oversaw the expansion of the organization to include 1,000,000+ platform users in 50+ countries. Aaron holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Denver, a JD from Nova Southeastern University, and an MBA from New England College.