To attract, retain, and develop employees, create engaging opportunities for learning

By Colleen Boyle

The Great Resignation is a real problem facing many employers. And they're now looking to various options to stop the bleeding.

Some are focusing on salary adjustments. Others are promoting more comprehensive wellness plans. While others are rethinking their approach to flexible working. There are countless different attempts to retain people but with limited success.

The question remains: why are so many people leaving so suddenly?

For many, it appears people are resigning because they're burnt out, their organisations made promises that they didn't deliver on or they no longer want to be a part of a questionable culture.

To respond to this, it’s vital for employers to invest in more than just salaries, wellness and perks – they need to invest directly into their people's long term personal and professional growth.

To do this, organisations can adopt technology to deliver unique learning experiences embedded in employees' daily activities. This can energise and better equip them, rather than making development feel like an additional item on their already full plate.

More than 70 per cent of knowledge workers have said that workplace learning would improve productivity and engagement, and two-thirds would be more likely to stay with an employer that invests in learning. Also, when organisations encourage their people to take advantage of personal and professional upskilling opportunities, people metrics, such as employee engagement and retention, also go up.

So, how can employers maximise the benefits of learning in a hybrid work environment where learning is largely online?

Three ways to ensure the human link in digital learning plans

In the throes of the Great Resignation, employers are realising people want a workplace that's fulfilling and addresses their continual growth. Organisations need to consider the link between growth and retention.

The COVID-19 pandemic complicated things by moving most learning online. Digital learning has helped organisations solve a scalability issue, but there's widespread concern about its efficacy and engagement. Of the $82.5 billion spent on training in 2020, we saw a stark shift from blended learning to purely online curricula. Around $34 billion of this could have been wasted because the skills of the future require hands-on learning and personal observation.

When we think about digital learning, we need to consider the learner first. The design should focus on their job, time availability and preferred learning style. Tailoring opportunities to each person's learner profile is the only way to truly engage them and drive their growth. Based on our experience, this means focusing on three strategies:

  1. use digital tools to build a sense of community
  2. use gamification to improve engagement
  3. incorporate experiential learning into lesson plans.

Use digital tools to build a sense of community

The social component of education is critical, whether it takes place in a classroom or online. When learners can engage with others in real time, they can codify new knowledge, skills and mindsets, and understand complex subjects. Making social learning a part of the overall learning plan also makes room for people to set personal goals for how they'll use new information and skills in their lives and careers.

There are five moments of need in a learning framework that digital tools, such as artificial reality and virtual reality, can answer. Such technology can bring together diverse perspectives in a digital learning community, giving people an opportunity to discuss, digest and reflect on content together.

Not all training will be suitable for such approaches, but areas like onboarding, craft-based knowledge (such as nurse practitioner training) and new tools implementation are well suited to them. They mean people can discuss learnings with others, finding ways to apply them that they might not consider otherwise.

Group activities, whether virtual or in person, also keep learners accountable for mastering individual sections and working together to apply their content within their professional context.

This human-to-human interaction and dialogue builds relationships, solidifies knowledge and helps set contextual goals. Building a sense of community supports individuals learning together, promotes accountability and provides space for personal reflection.

Use gamification to improve engagement

Creating an opportunity for learners to have fun and earn rewards encourages them to seek digital learning opportunities and apply what they’ve learned naturally. Gamification uses game-based elements, such as targets and scoring, to drive engagement, reinforce skills and improve learning outcomes. One of the benefits of gamification is that participants can work together to identify, define and meet learning goals.

In a business environment, this might look like a competition among sales teams as they learn to use a new Customer Relationship Management platform. Each time a user inputs a sale, sends a message through a new chat function, or inputs client data, they would receive a point to add to their team’s tally. This promotes the key knowledge, skills and mindsets necessary for employees to master new tools and ways of working.

This sort of gamification can work with just about any learning and development plan.

Incorporate experiential learning into lesson plans

Experiential learning lets people fully process and apply new knowledge and skills by learning through doing. It's about moving from theory to practice. This gives people more context for each challenge and solution, letting them reflect on the applications of each lesson and how it relates to their daily role.

Mentorship is an important facet in this area, providing expert guidance and real-world support. In a hybrid work environment, it's important to consider how to enable mentor-mentee experiences without losing the human touch.

Shadowing can work virtually. The mentee can observe an example of what good looks like, ask questions in the moment and receive personal coaching when it’s time to try their hand at the skill. The mentor can provide real-time feedback to discuss what’s going well and identify what to improve. They can also debrief afterwards and come up with a continued learning plan tailored to the mentee's performance and individual needs.

Mentors should focus on what's necessary for their mentees to me successful. This approach builds trust and empathy, and produces more effective outcomes for the mentee in the long-term.

Experiential learning an opportunity for people to move beyond understanding concepts in theory to infusing them in their daily practice, which is critical to building new habits and growth.

Show people you value their work

People want to work for organisations that value their skills and invest in their growth and development. By providing meaningful digital learner-centred opportunities, employers show their commitment to their people and their appreciation of the value they bring.

To attract and retain people through the Great Resignation, employers must move beyond simply increasing salary and benefits. It's essential they invest in their people's continued growth by providing opportunities for them to learn together and independently.

Organisations need to understand what truly motivates their people – the chance to grow and develop. Employers can offer this by providing ways for teams to learn as a group, infusing fun into the learning plan and creating opportunities for experiential learning. These steps will add value to employee experiences, demonstrate a continued investment in the long-term personal and professional wellbeing of their people, and continue to foster the link between people and the ever-changing digital future.

About the authors

Colleen Boyle Learning and Development Expert

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