Joseph Hrycak
By Joseph Hrycak on August 24, 2021

Employee Development is Key to Retention - 4 Strategies to Improve Your L&D

Over the last 18 months the working world has gone through its biggest disruption in decades, and with that came new challenges and concerns for employees and employers alike. The first question to grip the world of employment was ‘how are workers going to be as efficient at home as they are in the office?’. A question that employees around the world proved was unnecessary as productivity levels remained around a similar level. 

More recently, a new question has started to take centre stage off the back of multiple reports that employees are working as much as 25% more while at home, and that work life balance has been totally destroyed during the pandemic. That question is, ‘How do we ensure our employees have a strong work life balance?’. This question is an extremely important one, as without work life balance employees will be more stressed, less efficient, and prone to burnout. However, as is often the way with these things, the conversation around this issue is being somewhat sidelined by an altogether larger shift. This shift is of course the September return to office. A stake in the ground that many employers have decided to adopt, and with it will come the biggest disruption to the workforce since we were all ordered to stay at home. 

This raises a new question for HR leaders across the country, ‘How do we avoid a catastrophic drop in employee retention?’. There will undoubtedly be thousands of articles dedicated to this topic, and with them will come a dizzying range of suggestions and ideas to help you retain your talent. Among them, we don’t doubt there will be three that appear more frequently than most, and these are: 

  • Build your company culture
  • Create an employee perk programme
  • Improve employee recognition

There is merit in the suggestion of building/improving on your company culture. Research by BreatheHR has suggested that as many as 49% of senior decision makers agree that company culture has a positive effect on staff retention, while research on employees has found that 32% of people who left their job in the first 90 days cited company culture as the reason. However, company culture is not an easy thing to evolve, and could very much be considered a long play when looking at how to increase staff retention, or avoid a sudden drop in it. 

Then we come to the suggestions of employee perks and recognition, which are both often touted as great ways to engage staff and decrease the likelihood that they will leave. The proliferation of services like PerkBox and Mo make perk and recognition programmes easy to implement too, which surely makes them ideal when you need a quick win? However, there is a bigger underlying question around perks and recognition programmes, and that is, do employees really want perks and greater recognition? A quick Google into the effectiveness of perks and recognition will show that the jury is well and truly out. Research into perks has also found that 42% of employees don’t even have any perks, and of the 58% that do only 53% say those perks give them a better quality of life. So, although perks and recognition programmes have been on trend in recent years, they may not be the most effective way to increase staff retention. 

So, if company culture is a long play and perks/recognition aren’t guaranteed to work, what is the answer to improving staff retention? Simple. Employee development. Why? Because research has found that 94% of employees will stay at a company for longer if it invests in their learning and development. That’s right, 94%. This puts learning and development in a league of its own when it comes to improving staff happiness and most importantly, increasing retention. 

With that in mind here are 4 high impact, low effort strategies that you can integrate into your learning and development programme to improve retention. 


1. Develop Soft Skills

Soft skills have long been overlooked by businesses as skills that need to be actively developed, but remote working has brought into focus just how important it is for companies to dedicate time and resources to them, and this importance will only grow with hybrid working set to be the norm in 2021 and beyond. Without soft skills, your business is likely to suffer from reduced efficiency, poor decision making and weak collaboration. Thankfully, soft skills development is something that can easily be built into your L&D programme with the right solution. 

At Ethical Angel, we provide soft skills development through our experiential learning platform, and have seen time and time again that the key to soft skills development is that it’s accessible, applied, varied and done often. By incorporating these elements staff will see great improvements in their soft skills. In addition to this, investment in soft skills will show employees that you don’t just care about developing the technical skills that they need to excel in their role, but also in the skills that will help them to become a more rounded employee.


2. Increase Realism with Applied Learning

A common complaint with L&D from employees is that it is too theoretical, and lacks real world application. Not only can this make learning boring for employees, which will lead to lower engagement, but it also significantly reduces retention of knowledge. Research has shown that by combining theoretical learning with applied learning, retention of knowledge can increase from 29% to 68%. In addition to this, applied learning will also increase employees’ understanding of how to use their learning in practice. So, consider how you might augment your L&D programme to offer employees the opportunity to apply their knowledge in a real-world setting. 


3. Integrate Micro-Learning

One of the biggest barriers to learning is time. So much that it ranked top in a LinkedIn Report that looked at barriers to learning for employees. This is a hugely concerning fact for L&D, as ultimately if employees don’t ever find the time to engage with the learning you’re providing, you’re unlikely to see the benefits it offers for staff retention. To address this, learning should be broken down into blocks that can be completed during a normal workday without taking employees away from their daily activities for too long. In doing so, you will make your programme more accessible to employees, increase their engagement with learning, increase skills which will all in turn combine to reduce churn.  


4. Give Learning Purpose

Last but not least, wherever possible, build purpose into your L&D programme. This may seem like a strange suggestion at first, but at Ethical Angel we have driven engagement in learning through projects that have genuine purpose. For example, a group of employees using Ethical Angel can improve their teamwork skills while supporting a good cause with an operational review, marketing strategy, or other business task. By building purpose into learning, you can tap into employees’ want to have a positive impact on the world and work for a company that is doing corporate good. This is something that becomes even more important when trying to engage millennials and Gen-Z, often referred to as the purpose generation, as research from PwC found 88% of millennials will choose employers whose CSR values reflect their own while 86% would consider leaving an employer if those values no longer matched their expectations.

Whatever Your Strategy, L&D is Retention

Any of the four strategies above can be easily integrated into your existing L&D strategy and rolled out to staff in a way that not only drives retention and skills development, but also re-energises their enthusiasm for learning. However, they are by no means an exhaustive list and the most important takeaway is that the route to avoiding a reduction and staff retention is learning and development. Whatever its form, it shows employees that you value them and want to continue their development, and that’s something that no perk programme can ever match.

Published by Joseph Hrycak August 24, 2021
Joseph Hrycak