Companies are continually faced with the challenge of empowering employees to develop the technical skills today’s business demands so they don’t have to re-staff. Data proves that employees prioritize learning and development (L&D) as a central part of their career. Organizational leaders must do the same.

Learning opportunities may have been a prerequisite for workers in the past, but today, it’s a necessity. According to a meta-analysis by Gallup using 263 research studies across 192 organizations in 49 industries and 34 countries, companies that implement strong, engaging learning programs have happier, more engaged employees and 21% higher profitability.

Learning Is a Key Benefit

While workers certainly assess the job description and compensation when evaluating a potential role, a workforce study found that L&D is a top benefit people consider when deciding if they will accept or decline a new position. Today’s workers are serious about their career path and job satisfaction and view learning programs as a way to build a strong foundation for both.

Learning opportunities also play a major role in the length of time an employee will spend at a company. Unlike their parents, today’s youngest workers are likely to hold several jobs during their career. In a recent Gallup survey, 60% of millennials said “they are open to a different job opportunity,” compared to just 45% of non-millennial workers. In some industries, such as retail, research shows that employees value access to L&D as much as having a competitive salary.

Employees proactively seek out opportunities to hone their skills on their own time. L&D leaders must match this interest in learning by making immersive and diverse training part of each employee’s experience.

L&D Leads to Success

Many employees feel that their organization doesn’t support their learning goals. For example, nearly 40% of employees say their companies do not offer sufficient training to build day-to-day technical skills. Instead, organizations spend more time rolling out updated company policies and procedures to the entire workforce. More than 25% of workers across industries say they are introduced to changes weekly, and 49% experience new procedures and policies on monthly. In comparison, the skills-building learning programs that employees crave are delivered significantly less often. As many as 44% of employees say their organizations only offer this type of critical training annually.

Without adequate company-sponsored training initiatives, employees often take L&D upon themselves. Yet, these initiatives will only go so far, especially when it comes to technical skills. Despite their learning ambitions, 50% of workers across the retail, hospitality and telecommunications sectors do not feel confident in their technical skills. As the demand for technical skills grows, organizations must offer the training that will enable employees to be successful.

Put a Modern Spin on Training Formats

Research shows that employers and employees are not on the same page about learning formats. Nearly 40% of workers prefer training sessions that are led by an instructor, finding this style to be the most engaging. Despite this preference, fewer than 15% of L&D leaders say they plan to prioritize investment in instructor-led training (ILT) this year, and more than 20% will actually reduce ILT efforts. To ensure the most engaging and fruitful L&D strategy, organizations will be looking toward more immersive, enhanced learning programs.

Turnover varies by industry, with research estimating rates of employee attrition in the U.S. at between 6% and 28%. Workers across sectors have a strong desire to learn about emerging technology and gain critical problem-solving skills. Companies looking to stay competitive and maintain their workforce should consider helping employees improve their job skills for their personal development and for the company’s benefit — a win-win.

Global L&D in the Age of Deskless Workers

The global workforce is undergoing a widespread digital transformation of business processes, and L&D is not immune. For remote and “deskless” workers — from nurses and engineers to retail workers and warehouse staff — companies should evaluate their curriculum to better align with employees’ on-the-go work style.

Current mobile devices can provide deskless workers with the on-demand training they need. Using mobile devices on the job, combined with a manager’s or mentor’s oversight or “shoulder-to-shoulder” training, can provide more rewarding learning experiences for employees without affecting costs. Enhanced training formats, including augmented reality (AR), give deskless workers an opportunity to solve real-world problems, such as how to use or fix equipment.

In an ever-changing digital economy, organizations need to find a balance of delivering next-generation training formats and expert-led learning to recruit, retain and engage today’s employees. As companies strive to remain competitive in a low-unemployment market, L&D will become a central part of a winning strategy. With the right training, employees can hone their technical skills and help businesses achieve their bottom-line goals.