In an article called “The ‘Great Resignation’ Is a Misnomer,” author Whitney Johnson challenges the accuracy of the label to describe the high quit rates in 2021. Instead, she proposes the term “Great Aspiration” to represent how much change has come from people reevaluating their priorities and “aspiring to proactively make the life they want.”
According to Gartner , 65% of employees say the pandemic has made them rethink the place work has in their lives. Beyond lifestyle changes, they’re searching for meaning in their work. For example, some people want to work for companies with values similar to their own. Others want to work on more interesting projects than their current role provides. Many are looking for employers that are willing to invest in them and offer opportunities to learn and grow.
While this may be impacting attrition rates for some organizations, the fact that many people are looking for change also represents a huge opportunity. Employee expectations have shifted, and the organizations that respond to this shift will be in a good position to satisfy this need.
One of the best ways to tap into this aspiration is to partner with employees on their growth. In our recent webinar, “Addressing the Skills Gap,” Katy Tynan from Forrester shared this insight:
You need to be doing the fundamentals right, which includes looking at why people leave. The number one reason why people quit is still a year-over-year lack of career development. So when we talk about learning as an opportunity to help create an environment where people want to stay and where people feel like they’re growing, that’s a powerful tool.
If the topmost explanation of why people leave is, as Katy puts it, a lack of career development, then you need to give them a reason to stay. Your organizational learning and development programs can be powerful competitive advantages in attracting and retaining employees who value growth.
Here are three things you should include in your organizational learning strategy to turn this Great Aspiration to your advantage.
1. Normalize Internal Career Mobility
A 2021 survey of 3,000 job seekers around the world found that only a third of employees looking for a new opportunity searched internally first. Some of the reasons for this included lack of awareness of the opportunities available, the perception that they wouldn’t be considered, and a lack of support from managers for pursuing internal roles. In fact, only 20% of employees felt supported to apply internally, making it easier to look for opportunities elsewhere rather than face the awkwardness of admitting they’re ready for a change.
Normalizing internal career mobility may require a bit of a culture shift, but the results will be well worth it if you become known as an employer that supports the career goals of its people. To achieve this, consider how your organizational learning strategy can:
- provide people leaders with training to have growth conversations with their direct reports, and make it an expectation to do so regularly
- document the skills and competencies required for various roles, and make this information available to all employees
- facilitate career exploration across the organization through internal networking events, job shadowing, stretch projects and so on
- provide or fund education and training that prepare employees for lateral opportunities
By making internal career pathing a norm at the organization, you give employees reasons to stay and keep your talent pipeline healthy.
2. Nurture a Learning Culture
Fostering a learning culture will take your reputation as an employer of choice to the next level. That may sound like a cliché, but consider:
- 86% of professionals would change jobs to gain access to more professional development opportunities.
- 94% of employees would stay longer at a company if it invested in their career development.
- study after study confirms that learning and development are essential drivers of employee engagement, a strong predictor of employee retention.
In an organization with a learning culture, employees in every department and at every level are able and encouraged to access learning opportunities and share knowledge. Learning is not just available, but it’s also a major focus that informs strategy, goal setting and daily work. An environment like that attracts and nurtures talented people with a growth mindset, which in turn reinforces the culture of learning, resulting in happy, engaged employees.
3. Create the Workforce You Need
Using strategic learning initiatives can also help you overcome the skills gap by creating the workforce you need. With so many people looking for new opportunities, the available candidate pool is full of talented and eager potential employees. They may not have exactly the skills you need, but with 90% of executives reporting a skills gap at their organization, you can’t afford to wait for unicorns.
So, Can Learning Help You Take Advantage of the Great Aspiration?
The short answer: yes.
Employees want opportunities to learn and grow now more than ever before. Adapting your organizational learning strategy to support their aspirations will not only help you retain employees, but it will also give you a strong value proposition for candidates looking to get more out of their careers.
Learn more about the strategic role of learning in our webinar “Addressing the Skills Gap.”
Karen Karnis has a BA in sociology from the University of Guelph. She has worked in social services, higher education, communications and journalism. Karen is currently working toward a Master of Education in Sustainability, Creativity and Innovation through Cape Breton University.
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