The service industry faces unique challenges in hiring and retaining workers as The Great Resignation looms over the job market. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed people’s expectations on how they’d like to work, resulting in a mass quit as people hunt for other options, including remote work.

As more industries shift to a more dispersed work environment, adapting to these sudden changes can seem like a losing battle for the service industry, where most workers are required to work in person. However, there are other benefits outside of remote work that front-line managers and employers can offer to meet workers’ expectations. By focusing on learning and development (L&D), employers can improve retention, set themselves apart in a competitive job market and upskill their talent pool to help keep them engaged and loyal to the company.

Stop Turnover with Learning and Development

Voluntary turnover can be incredibly costly to an organization and many of the reasons employees leave can be prevented. Today, the top reasons employees leave an organization include a lack of connection to company culture, lack of direction and a desire for more meaningful work. All of these can be influenced by a solid L&D plan.

Employers can demonstrate their commitment to their employees’ career development with training and development opportunities. Furthermore, by taking the additional step to tailor an individual plan for an employee, that leader can naturally lead the conversation to that employee’s career goals and mold their vision for a future with the organization. Training on the organization’s culture, values and mission statement can help employees see the big picture of where they fit in and how they can contribute, today and in the future.

As learning leaders, it is important to be cognizant of where and how the employee would like to consume content. Training plans offered through online learning modules or mobile learning — or a blend of the two — can allow employees to participate at a time and place that works best for them. Social content, such as blogs, videos or posts, can further strengthen an employee’s connection to the organization and their colleagues and can promote knowledge transfer.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics JOLTS report, there were 11.3 million job openings in the United States in January 2022. The service industry faces unique recruiting challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the rise in remote work, many services still require a physical brick and mortar store and cannot be completed remotely. While the pandemic started new practices, such as social distancing, service industry jobs, especially entry-level, have to remain working on the front-line.

To compete with other industries that can offer remote positions, the service industry must focus on other expectations to attract new hires.

By implementing individualized L&D plans and openly communicating this benefit during and after the hiring process, the organization can show their investment to the new hire’s future. And that new hire can then be positioned into a career path, rather than just a job. With visibility into their future direction with the company, a new employee is more likely to become a loyal contribution.

Prepare Front-line Workers for Automation

Research and today’s digital era has shown that automation will change the nature of service industry jobs in the near future. This can already be observed in many places. For example, many grocery stores now offer self-checkout lines and some hotels offer a mobile check-in experience with room keys that can be downloaded to a phone. In addition, hospitals are deploying robots that can find and deliver supplies and medication to save time versus staff having to manually search and retrieve.

By automating these kinds of tasks, the need for skilled workers will increase and organizations will need to provide the necessary tools to obtain critical skills and knowledge. An effective way to do this is to elevate current employees through an L&D plan that is driven by science. Organizations already have insight into their employees’ behavioral and performance data and can use this to create plans tailored to everyone.

For example, certain employees may inherently possess certain leadership traits that can be leveraged or some may perform better in an environment where multitasking is imperative, while others might thrive when they can focus on a single task. If automating entry-level positions will help save an organization’s bottom line, then investing those savings back into their employees can turn it into a long-lasting investment.

Moving Forward

Though remote work has becoming increasingly popular in today’s world of work, some industries are still required to work on-site. Remote work has been cited as one of the most important expectations for job seekers, however, it is not the single most important trait. Workers also want to feel like their professional development is valued and that their organization is invested in their future.

Front-line managers and employers can use L&D and career succession plans to attract and retain their on-site workers. As employers around the world continue to look forward to life after the pandemic and navigate The Great Resignation, making learning plans to further your new hires and current employees career development will be the key to coming out successful on the other side.