Hypothetical question: “What happens if I train my staff and they walk out the door?” Hypothetical response: “What happens if you don’t train your staff and they stay?”
It’s a conversation worth pondering. The risk of having employees with outmoded skills is a clear and present danger in today’s rapidly changing world.
However, professional development plays an even more important role than keeping skills sharp: it can be an invaluable way to retain staff. Sadly, the 7-year itch referred to in the headline is no longer reality. Back in 1975, Australians aged 45+ typically stayed in the same job for 10 years. Today, the same demographic stays in their jobs for an average of around 6 years 8 months. For those aged 35-44 it’s 4 years, and for those aged 25-35 it’s 2 years 8 months. For under 25’s it’s just 1 year 8 months.
In countless research papers, lack of career development is cited as a key reason why employees jump ship. One 2017 survey indicates the top two reasons for employees leaving their current organisations are limited career progression and to seek a new challenge.
It seems professional development (or lack thereof) is both a “push” and a “pull” factor when it comes to staff turnover: people leave companies because they aren’t getting enough professional development, and they are attracted to companies that offer it.
However, like all aspects of work, professional development has changed. Research suggests that the concept of a career is evolving towards a model that empowers individuals to acquire valuable experiences, explore new roles and continually reinvent themselves.
Despite traditional career models becoming defunct in the new world of work, Deloitte found that more than half of the business leaders surveyed globally (54%) have no programs in place to build the skills of the future.
So, what sort of professional development are people seeking?
- Content that helps with subject matter mastery. Employees want the foundations of soft skills, compliance-related skills and technical skills but they also want to become subject matter experts in their specialty area. Learning opportunities that offer self-direction and self-discovery are two ways to ensure this occurs.
- Relevant, timely content. Professional development options need to be up-to-date, customised and applicable to the roles and tasks that are presently required of employees; generic or irrelevant learning solutions will result in your learners simply switching off.
- A range of content delivery. Learning no longer needs to be presented to groups in lengthy sessions within a classroom environment. While face-to-face training will always have a place, this should be complemented with digital and mobile delivery.
- Bite-sized, easily digestible chunks. Today’s learners are drowning in a sea of data; this can be avoided by delivering information in smaller chunks. Bite-sized learning presented on laptops or mobile phones also enables learners to access their learning anytime and anywhere.
Developing a culture of continuous learning can have a profound effect on the success of your employees and your business. If you’re empowering your people to learn new skills, grow in their roles, and collaborate with their colleagues, you’ll increase productivity, profitability and ultimately, your retention rates.
Transparency is the key: if employees aren’t aware of the available career paths, compensation for roles of interest, and skills and experiences needed for promotion, it’s time to rethink your strategy.
ELMO Cloud HR & Payroll’s “Develop” solutions suite can help organisations evolve their approach to continuous, electronic learning. Our suite includes: Learning Management, to automate, keep track of, and report on learning activities across your business; Course Builder, to create bespoke online learning content; and Course Library, which provides access to over 400 pre-built online courses covering everything from soft skills to compliance. If you’d like to know more, contact us and one of our consultants will be more than happy to reach out.
 Household, Income, and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) report, Department of Employment
 2017 Australia Salary & Employment Outlook, Michael Page
 2018 Human Capital Trends Survey, Deloitte