Buzzwords like flexibility, remote work and generous paid time off often make their way into headlines regarding discussions on employee retention. While today’s workforce still heavily consider these factors when searching for new job opportunities, many companies lack in offering a widely untapped employee perk in an effort to attract and retain top talent: professional learning and development (L&D) opportunities.

According to Employ Inc.’s 2022 Job Seeker Nation Report, more than one-quarter (26%) of workers want more L&D opportunities from their employers. However, only 24% of surveyed workers said their employer currently offers it. For employers, this is a secret weapon that many can and should kick into high gear to increase retention and engagement by upskilling employees for the future.

Competence + Confidence = Better Customer Outcomes

Being competent in a skill or specific area of expertise doesn’t happen overnight. It takes hours of dedicated training to speak intelligently on the topic or execute a task with the utmost confidence. That’s why it’s imperative to offer opportunities for workers to add new skills or strengthen existing ones because it ultimately benefits the overall workplace and leads to better customer outcomes.

Furthermore, employers that offer L&D opportunities must find a balance between prescriptive and non-prescriptive learning. In other words, the immediate needs of the business and its employees must be aligned in order to meet the company’s overarching goals. Managers can do this by evaluating baseline competencies for their teams and design group-based training activities in order to cultivate a culture among employees who are working toward a common goal.

Choosing the Right Type of L&D Opportunities

With an infinite number of courses, coaches and resources an employee can leverage for professional development, it can seem impossible to select the right learning opportunity that aligns with the goals of both the learner and organization.

The most effective L&D initiatives help employees do their job better. For instance, like how learning a new technical skill can help a company stand out amongst competitors. These opportunities could also be centered around a skill that has been missing from the team, such as proficiency in a software the company uses or how they could better communicate with clients. Once learners complete their training, a solid next step is to have team members share what they’ve learned and what they plan to do with this newfound knowledge.

Employers should also consider situational learning. For example, let’s say the company is getting ready to launch a new product. Situational learning would educate specific teams quickly about how the new product functions, how it’s used, and why it benefits customers. This ensures employees are equipped to handle any situations aligned with the new product launch instead of being left in the dark.

Online learning is an option many organizations could leverage in offering their workforce learning and development opportunities because it allows them to gain valuable skills on their own time at their own pace. Oftentimes, these courses are competency-based and move through the session based on mastery of a particular topic. No matter the kind of training offered, it’s important to have the right learning management solutions to meet the needs of learners and the business.

Budgeting Considerations

One of the most asked questions about professional development is how much a company should allocate in the budget toward this investment. This can be executed several different ways depending on how large or small a budget might be, such as setting aside a percentage of an employee’s salary for professional development. Another option would be to allocate a certain amount of money for each employee to leverage based on their title within the company.

Employers might consider selecting a vendor that can hold thousands of online courses in a wide range of subject matters. Employees can be assigned certain courses or allow them to pick their own. This option delivers a positive return on investment (ROI) while also allowing a workforce to incorporate essential knowledge into their skill set, benefiting the individuals needs and the organizations.

Another effective option would be to bring in an outside vendor for digital content development. This route is often more expensive, but can deliver incredible value depending on the subject matter and the team’s needs. No matter the route taken for professional development, the most important aspect is to ensure it delivers an engaging experience for the workforce.

Tap Into Untapped Resources

It’s important to understand that major workplace perks that were popular several years ago may not be relevant or applicable to today’s workforce. Instead, incentives to upskill and reskill are widely sought after when workers consider whether they should stay with their current organization or leave for another. L&D opportunities are not only a valuable tool to retain talent within an organization, but also prepare workers to move through the ranks and help propel the company and its mission forward.

Now is the time to make the investment to ensure the workforce is skilled in the right areas now — and for the future.