In today’s competitive environment, where every company is seeking its place on coveted “Best Employer” lists, creating a learning and development (L&D) program that speaks to your learners’ needs in a meaningful way can be a key differentiator for your organization.

According to a report by Robert Half, job-hopping is on the rise. The question is whether your top employees’ next move will be within your company or with a competitor. One way to stem the tide is by supporting them with ongoing opportunities for learning and growth. A strong learning program can help you improve your employer brand, retain current employees and, of course, set them up for success with new and better skills.

Here are some tips for creating L&D experiences that meet employees where they are and takes them — and your company — to the next level.

1. Give Time and Space for Learning, Not Just Lip Service

To differentiate your brand, the entire company has to embrace ongoing learning as a core competency. Create a learning culture by embedding it into the fabric of your company. Make sure learning is incorporated into annual goals and performance planning, and give tangible recognition and rewards based on learning efforts. Perhaps most importantly, ensure that managers give their employees adequate time, space and permission to participate in learning programs.

2. Provide a Blended Experience

We’re all feeling stretched these days, and making time for learning and development can feel like an added burden. Too often, learning is viewed as a nice perk — when there’s time for it.

It’s important to recognize the constraints on employee time by providing on-demand, online training, but it’s also critical to support the ever-increasing need for authentic face-to-face experiences. With all of us spending more time on our devices than actually speaking to each other, there’s a hunger for “real” communications and better connections. In a survey of meeting attendees by imago and the Loughborough University, 96.6% said they prefer small, face-to-face meetings for business communication. This trend extends to training as well.

3. Personalize Wherever Possible

Off-the-shelf training has its place, but it’s important to follow up with this type of training to ensure that it is relevant and timely for learners and that they can apply it to real work situations. For the data-driven world in which we live, personalization is table stakes for today’s top employers.

4. Apply Modern Learning Theory and Communication Modes

Even if the process or skill you’re teaching hasn’t changed, if you’re still using the workbook you created in 2001, it’s time for a refresh. Today’s employees want on-demand, in-the-moment learning that is fun, easy to digest, interactive and connected to your brand. In fact, 81% of the participants in the imago study said the best way to retain information was an interactive tool.

5. Don’t Neglect the Softer Skills

According to a 2018 study by LinkedIn, “57% of leaders say soft skills are more important than hard skills.” It’s the soft skills that set rock star employees apart from their co-workers, and employees themselves are craving learning experiences that help them develop those skills.

Moreover, Udemy’s 2020 “Workplace Learning Trends Report” identifies 10 top soft skills that are in high demand, in part because they will help employees remain valuable in the face of artificial intelligence (AI) and other disruptive technologies. The list includes skills like emotional intelligence, leadership and creativity, which employees can nurture and enhance through practice.

When you invest in your L&D program in a thoughtful, modern and employee-centric way, you can create a culture of continuous learning that will help you attract and retain employees and set them up for success. Although you may not have total control over regular employee attrition, with a modern L&D program, you can build a stronger employer brand — one that shows that your company values its people and invests in their personal growth.

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