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Posted by Lars Pedersen, CEO

Everyone benefits from learning and development (L&D). It helps employees gain new skills and develop professionally, while assuring employers that their workforce is fit for purpose and follows the latest industry regulations. It can reduce employee turnover, too, since according to LinkedIn’s 2019 Workforce Learning Report, an astonishing 94% of employees would stay at a company for longer if it invested in their careers. Considering that in the UK, losing an employee costs an average of £30,000, according to ACAS, spending on L&D is often a wise choice.

Given the challenge of retaining employees in an ever fluid labour market, it’s no wonder that L&D is increasingly becoming a critical part of the way that many companies do business. Here are some suggestions on how organisations can boost employee retention with L&D.

Understand the skills gaps

There’s a wealth of powerful, affordable tools and platforms for companies to improve their workforce, but they’re useless if they aren’t applied appropriately. The first step toward effective L&D is to identify skills gaps in your company – both individual and organisation-wide. Employees that are better prepared for the job at hand, and who contribute to the success of the business, are less likely to experience performance anxiety and more likely to be satisfied at work.

It’s worth asking employees what skills they feel they need to improve. A common mistake that businesses make is to rush to train employees in new software and techniques while neglecting soft skills. According to the LinkedIn 2019 report, some of the most in-demand soft skills for companies in 2019 were creativity, persuasion and analytical reasoning. These non-technical skills are just as important today, and digital learning means that they’re easier than ever to teach.

Many companies focus L&D efforts on ensuring employees understand the latest regulations to maintain compliance, and rightfully so. But to build an engaged and talented workforce, organisations also need to focus on developing the wider skillsets of employees. That way, employees recognise the professional development benefits of your organisation, and will want to stick around for longer. In the process, you’ll see business performance strengthen too.

Of course, you’ll still want to ensure that this L&D is contributing to the business’ bottom line. To monitor effectiveness and ensure your resources are not being wasted, you should deliver frequent tests to employees. Frequent testing puts less pressure on the employee than large, one-off assessments, and gives a more accurate measure of employee improvement. If scores are consistently low, either your learning programmes are not effective, or employees are not interested in the subject, in which case you will need to reassess your L&D strategy and delivery.

Market your L&D

For many companies, L&D means an annual training course. These rote instructor-led classes feel more like a formality than a genuine attempt at learning, and rarely leave employees meaningfully informed. Fortunately, technology is revolutionising L&D. Now, companies can provide world-class, customised courses to teach employees the exact skills they need to excel in their roles.

After implementing new opportunities for learning, it’s essential to broadcast what’s on offer. Marketing these opportunities is critical to increasing employee participation. The best internal channel to promote the company’s L&D offering is often word of mouth, but you can also use email and your intranet or website. Managers and leaders should be advocates for development courses, encouraging employees to get involved in L&D –  the 2019 LinkedIn report found that three-quarters of employees would take a course if their manager advised them to.

Investing in your employees

The more employees feel they are invested in, the more likely they are to stay with the company and keep their skills in house. This is why L&D is such a valuable investment: it helps employees to progress toward their personal career goals while also letting the business expand the workforce’s skillset. Employees with both technical and soft skills will not only be less likely to leave, they will also be happier and better at their jobs, and that should be reason enough to spend a little extra on L&D in the coming year. Couple this with regular assessments to track progress and identify further opportunities, and you should have a successful year ahead.