Businesses are increasing their spend on training and development again, as economies on both sides of the Atlantic show steady growth. This is good news for employees but some industry experts are concerned that companies still aren’t investing enough in this area.
This could prove short-sighted as providing learning and development opportunities improves the engagement and retention of talent. Training can also directly impact the bottom line according to research by the Association for Talent Development (ATD) which shows that companies who invest in comprehensive training make 24 percent more profit than those who don’t.
For organisations looking to refocus or expand their learning and development provision, how is the landscape changing? We spoke to a range of experts to understand how attitudes and expectations have shifted since the recession and how businesses can integrate training and development into talent retention strategies.
How are employer attitudes towards staff development and retention changing?
“The biggest change I have seen was directly following the crisis of 2008,” says Dr Dirk van Dierendonck, Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour at Rotterdam School of Management. “Organisations started to drastically cut down their investments in training and development. Even now investment in staff development and retention is still below 2008 levels.”
“Employers are looking for more stream-lined and efficient ways to deliver staff training,” says Mark Martin, head of e-learning at Euromoney Learning Solutions. “Just as workforces are expected to be more agile, so is the way training and development are delivered. A mixture of traditional face-to-face and e-learning can have real benefits, opening up opportunities across geographic regions, to fit around part-time working or to integrate with busy schedules.”
Yet staff development is seen as becoming an increasingly vital part of talent retention. “The cost (direct and indirect) of losing people is becoming a real business issue that is being felt in the boardroom,” says Phil Pringle, Senior Consultant, at Hay Group, “The retention concern is being heightened by future forecasting that suggests labour turnover rates are set to increase.”
In your opinion, have staff expectations towards development changed?
“Fundamentally I don’t think staff expectations towards development have changed,” says Pringle. “People have always wanted to develop and feel like they are making progress. However, I think what has changed is that employees have become more confident.”
“Employees are being more strategic in the way they approach training and development,” points out Martin. “They are more aware that they need to take responsibility for driving their own development and seeking out the opportunities that will help keep them highly employable.”
How can employers integrate staff development into talent management and retention strategies?
Any talent retention strategy needs to take into account an employee’s appetite for personal and professional development, particularly following CIPD findings that show satisfaction with career development directly correlates to job-seeking intention.
“Opportunities to grow and develop their skillset is a vital part of talent retention,” says Martin. “While high-performing staff are often the focus of specifically designed development programmes, it’s important not to neglect other employees.
“Providing quality training and development for these staff can reduce staff turnover, boost engagement and give them the chances to show their potential to progress.”
Pringle points out that any development programmes need to be closely aligned to business needs and plans. “It ensures that the employee development journey is mapped to the needs of the business in order for it to build competitive advantage. From an employee perspective, alignment ensures that the developmental journey is meaningful and intertwined into the fabric of the business.”
How can employers safeguard their investment in staff development?
This is the rub that can make employers wary of investing in staff development – the fear that another company will reap the benefits of their investment.
Von Dierendonck highlights culture as being an important tool in retaining staff. “It is essential to realize that working conditions are created to allow staff to use ability and competencies and encourage a culture where employees feel encouraged to actively craft their own jobs.”
“Employee mobility is simply part of the modern workplace but this appetite for job-hopping doesn’t have to work against businesses. Perhaps companies need to think less about safeguarding their investment, instead looking at how it can work for them,” says Martin.
“More fruitful questions focus around how staff develop can increase productivity, efficiency, engagement and cover needs for CPD and industry compliance,” he continues.
Pringle suggests that the emphasis should be on what can be done to progress people when you have them: “The least favourable situation is to have a stagnant pool of employees that are not moving through the gears in terms of development and performance.
“Becoming renowned for employee development also has significant advantages in terms of recruitment. A continual stream of new talent is a great source of innovation.”