The COVID-19 As employer mindsets shift to adapt to these changes, so has the fundamental paradigm tied to people’s relationship to their jobs. Today’s workers are looking for flexibility and more personal, more fulfilling experiences at work.

In 2021, 47.8 million workers participated in The Great Resignation. The latest challenge? Why? For many, a perceived toxic work culture, failure to recognize personal contributions, poor response to the COVID-19 pandemic and a lack of support for work-life balance and advancement opportunities are reasons enough. There are new opportunities, higher wages and better benefits elsewhere. While workers today contend with the idea of greener pastures with personal fulfillment, companies are struggling to adapt to the new worker mentality and to convince their employees to stay.

For many, entering into a new career means learning as you go without proper training or skill development. In many cases, the onboarding process is rigid, inflexible, slow and impersonal. For companies, this can produce high turnover rates and a need for retention measures. Companies are realizing that work-life balance and a more well-rounded work experience is not just a policy but is a strategy for both the company and employee to develop and enforce. Employers at every level and every size are realizing that retention and attraction of employees is deeply tied to their ability to support employee development.

Employees from chief executive officers to sales representatives are on a career journey. They are traveling from company to company along their journey. Unlike the average tourist, a traveler is invested in the land that they visit, leaving a part of themselves and taking experiences, knowledge and understanding as they move on to new lands. Companies are beginning to see their employees as “career travelers,” realizing that their stay is a mutual exchange of growth, learning and lasting relationship building.

With this view you can clearly see that people are motivated by both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards. Employees need and want a living wage, but they also need time to dedicate to their families and communities, in addition to a sense of fulfilment derived by knowing that their efforts have purpose and value to the success of the company. According to a Gallup poll, employees that were engaged in the company’s purpose and values were 59% less likely to look for a different job in the next year. Additionally, workers seek opportunities to gain experience and prepare for their continued career journey.

Here, engagement is key. Rob Macdonald, president of PlumDIBs, says, “People want to drill down, understand their work and know how their work is connected to the organization’s purpose, and why the work matters. They want to feel passionate about what they do. When guided by a sense of purpose, people provide their own intrinsic motivation.” For example, an employer who attempts to accommodate their employee’s personal commitments and career interests are more likely to develop a relationship with that employee, who in turn will be less likely to go elsewhere. Retention happens with engagement, empowerment and the development of purpose.

With this in mind, retention solutions should consider the personal nature of the traveler and the company and be flexible to respond to both companies’ and travelers’ needs and desires. Companies must engage with their current and potential employees as the career travelers they are. How should companies embrace and engage the career traveler enriching their workplace? First, ditch the idea that employees stay in the same company for decades. Today, people change their jobs every few years, even pivoting to new industries and careers altogether.

Finally, companies should focus on true employee development before an employee is hired and throughout their stay at the organization. Companies often are focused on delivering a product and service, and they maintain this focus by training their employees to contribute toward core business goals. If learning leaders can be aware of their employees’ motivations and goals, they can find that the “unicorn” they’ve always wanted is already in the organization.

Traditional workforce development models, such as apprenticeships, can sometimes be inflexible and based on centuries-old trade models. It’s time to break down these old models and design for this digital age where every sector is experiencing accelerated change.

Apprenticeships that foster purpose and engage employees as career travelers can help promote continuous employee development, attract employees and retain them for longer periods of time. Organizations can help encourage these agile programs by establishing a pool of funds that could be used to offset some of the training and wage costs. Application would be as simple as a request for funds to use preapproved providers or standards. It is now time to embrace the fact that our world is changing rapidly in ways never seen before. We need businesses and learning and development (L&D) to act and think in exceptional and collaborative ways to meet the challenge of supporting career travelers for many generations to come.