Even with whispers about a potential recession later in 2023, the global war for talent is still relevant, meaning savvy learning and development (L&D) leaders must use every competitive advantage at their disposal to attract and retain the best workers, especially as millennials and Generation Zs aren’t afraid to job hop to better opportunities. Encouraging career mobility is one opportunity L&D professionals can use to show value to their employees, and use their skills to help the company while retaining and attracting top talent.

Career mobility can mean a few different things:

  • An employee moves upward, as with a promotion.
  • An employee moves laterally into an area where they wish to learn new skills.
  • Or an employee may even engage in a downward move that may be better aligned with their strengths and interests.

All of these career mobility options can better suit employees and make them more passionate about the work they do, meaning a longer tenure and saved costs within the organization.

L&D’s Crucial Role in Career Mobility

Employees can seek employment elsewhere for different reasons — one of them being they feel their skills are not being put to good use. In fact, LinkedIn’s 2022 Workplace Learning Report found employees are 10 times more likely to look for a new job if they feel their skills are not used well, compared to employees who are satisfied with how their strengths are used. Additionally, Pew Research Center reported a lack of opportunity to advance as one of the top reasons employees leave their jobs.

Career mobility and fostering movement within the company has many additional benefits, including being less costly, reducing onboarding time, enhancing employer branding and increasing employee engagement and productivity.

L&D has a huge opportunity to make an impact. Here are four ways L&D leaders can encourage career mobility in their organizations:

Creating relevant skills development programs.

Employees crave the opportunity to learn and grow — in fact, it’s the number one driver of a great work culture. MetLife’s study of employee benefit trends found that 45% of employees value employee development and advancement opportunities. However, in the same survey, only 28% of employers said they plan to use this to attract top talent — this is a hugely missed opportunity. This gap between employee expectations and employer commitment can partly explain recruitment and retention challenges.

Successful L&D programs consider employees’ preferences for real-world skills that increase their confidence to feel competitive in the labor market and within their current position. They want opportunities to advance their careers and for employers to provide the appropriate training to do so.

Skills development can be everyone’s responsibility, from managers to the employees themselves. However, the L&D department is very well-suited to guide the process by identifying learner needs and opportunities for career advancement internally.

2.  Getting all parties involved in skills development.

The World Economic Forum said the world is facing a reskilling emergency, with over 1 billion people needing to reskill by 2030. Based on their predictions, almost half of the core skills required to perform existing jobs would need to change, with both high-tech and interpersonal skills being in high demand.

Reskilling and upskilling are also vital because employers value different skills than the ones learned in colleges/universities. This is increasingly becoming a trend: The right skills are in short supply, there’s an abundance of skills that are no longer in demand and the need to balance skill supply and demand is accelerating. Despite the need, LHH found that fewer than one-half of organizations (47.2%) are focusing on the transferable skills of existing employees to fill future job openings.

This is where L&D can intervene and get everyone on the same page regarding upskilling and reskilling, starting with management buy-in. It’s essential managers promote skills development to their employees to make their teams stronger and better prepared for the future. L&D must also communicate to employees why these programs are valuable and what they will get out of skills development training — in an effort to ensure employees are taking the time to complete these training sessions.

3.  Finding opportunities for belonging and mentorship.

Building relationships within the company and having a level of mentorship increases employees’ sense of belonging. This could mean check-ins with employees and their managers, which can be very valuable to the employee experience. Additionally, employees who receive mentorship feel more confident, pursue growth opportunities and stay at their jobs longer.

According to McKinsey and Company, a frequent reason why employees leave a job is that senior executives misunderstand what they really want, which is to feel a sense of belonging in the workplace and to feel valued by employers. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not always about compensation, work-life balance and poor employee well-being.

L&D departments have a unique opportunity to create these opportunities such as investing in the appropriate tech to foster relationships and getting employees involved in gamification tools during training. Creating some kind of friendly competitive programs in the office can connect employees with people outside of their own teams.

4.  Promoting DEI in the workplace.

Nearly three out of four job seekers and employees consider a diverse workforce an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers. Compared to white employees, Black (71%) and Hispanic (72%) employees are more likely to say their employer should do more to increase the diversity of its workforce. This means diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs are a “must-have,” not just a “nice-to-have.”

L&D can play a huge part in fostering DEI within the organization by providing training that raises awareness of important topics like unconscious bias and how different cultures may react differently in certain scenarios. L&D can also help employees from historically underrepresented groups involved in new projects as well as offer them development that can help them advance their careers, such as leadership training.

Winning the Talent War

There are effective strategies that can help your organization attract, develop and retain top talent, even amidst the so-called “talent war.” These include clear and accessible career mobility paths, inclusive L&D programs, a focus on reskilling and upskilling and a commitment to inclusive employee business practices.

By implementing these tips, L&D leaders can help their organizations prepare their employee base for whatever is thrown their way next.