The COVID-19 pandemic has upended nearly every aspect of life in and outside the business world. The workplace has adapted to a new normal as business owners and learning and development (L&D) leaders continue to grapple with changing employee expectations.

According to The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 40 million people left their jobs in 2021. For some, it was a reconsideration of the work-life balance and personal priorities. But for others, it was a case of supply and demand: an abundance of job openings and demand for better perks and job amenities.

What are the prime reasons workers quit their jobs? The three reasons cited by a Pew Research Center survey was low salary (63%) and no opportunities for advancement (63%) and feeling disrespected (57%). Employees want continuous growth and development opportunities and are willing to look elsewhere to find it.

How Training Benefits Retention

Training goes beyond onboarding. Both new and seasoned employees crave to build new skill sets and experiences. And when employees build new skills, they can contribute more to the organization’s success and find meaning in their work. Today, one of the reasons employees leave is to find meaningful work. By providing lifelong learning opportunities, you can ensure that employees continue to find success in their role.

In addition to helping employees find purpose, training can help employees gain new skills and advance their careers. According to Monster, 45% of employees are more likely to stay at their current job if it offers training opportunities. L&D can allow employees across levels to further their skills and advance within the organization.

So if you hope to retain your workers, you need to provide training. And the learning experiences should be tailored to each employee’s needs. By doing this, you can foster an employee-first culture. To retain talent, employers must build an employee-first culture that promotes continuous development. Otherwise, your people will be out the door.

Tips to Building an Employee-first Culture

An employee-first culture nurtures and encourages employee engagement, which in turn can reduce job turnover, enhance your company’s reputation and attract better talent. An employee-first culture can also help learners engage better with their L&D journey.

Here are some best practices to creating an employee-first culture to retain top talent.

Conduct “stay” interviews.

Why wait for an exit interview to inquire about your employees’ engagement? A “stay” interview is a proactive way to learn if they have any issues and concerns about the workplace culture that could hinder retention. These may include interactions with leadership, scheduling, benefits, compensation or negatively perceived job experiences. It can also allow them to share any potential training needs. These interviews can serve two purposes: They take the pulse of your employees so you can address any issues or training opportunities before they leave, and it communicates to the employee that their input is valued and their voice heard.

Establish fair compensation.

It’s not surprising that the primary reason employees gave for leaving their job in 2021 was due to poor compensation, according to the Pew Research survey. An employee-first culture establishes a policy of fair compensation for all employees through livable wages and fair profit distribution. A great way to ensure that employees receive the wages they deserve is to offer them opportunities to learn from senior leaders through mentorship and coaching. Continuous learning opportunities can allow employees to grow more skills, making them more apt for a promotion — which, more likely than not, comes with a raise.

Promote company culture and connection.

Fans of “The Godfather” will recognize the line, “It’s not personal, it’s strictly business.” Corleone culture would not fly in today’s workplace (and trust us, you don’t want Clemenza to give you an exit interview). “Strictly business” is an employee-last mindset that puts the bottom line first. This does not promote employee loyalty or engagement.

Promoting a culture that recognizes the contributions of its employees can go a long way toward encouraging an employee-first culture. This can be done with a monthly incentive program that recognizes and rewards outstanding achievement. Building personal employee engagement with the company can strengthen connections and increase your people’s sense of belonging.

Achieve an optimal work-life balance.

A flexible workplace is the new norm as businesses transition to a hybrid and remote work model. According to the World Economic Forum, establishing a culture of individualized working conditions that allows employees to choose how and where they’d like to work can help combat turnover. This also means to diversify the training delivery to suit individual learner needs, (e.g., offering asynchronous learning options for busy parents).

The Bottomline

To retain talent, L&D leaders must provide lifelong learning opportunities to help employees not only find meaning in their work, but also advance their careers within the company. By investing in your people’s growth and development, you can help build a company culture that puts its people, first.