Significant challenges with employee satisfaction in the workplace and high attrition levels over recent years have put employee engagement top of mind for organizations. Engaged employees are more dedicated and passionate about work and are highly involved in creating greater value for their organizations. And since employee engagement and retention are linked, when engagement levels are attrition is more likely to be low.

As such, it’s hardly a surprise to see enterprises prioritizing employee engagement in their strategic initiatives. However it must be noted that employee engagement is not a static concept. The changing paradigms of the workplace — like the rise of hybrid work, digital transformation of the workplace etc. — all influence employee engagement. And as new generations enter the workforce, drivers of engagement change as well.

Millennial talent is now the dominant demographic in the workplace. Gen Z talent is expected to also make up a sizable chunk of the workforce within this decade. Frankly, the days of a job being “just a job” are now over. Studies show 87% of Millennials want jobs to be development opportunities and consider this aspect as important as the salary. And 76% of Gen Z consider learning opportunities to be key to their success and an essential driver for selecting and staying in a job.

So, investing in employee development with robust learning and development (L&D) plans is no longer a nice thing to have — it’s a necessity. Either organizations invest in creating the right learning opportunities for the modern workforce or risk losing top talent. In today’s world of work, L&D has become a strategic priority that enables employees to improve their performance and support internal mobility.

Organizations are increasingly leaning on L&D as the agent of employee engagement and retention, especially as the world of hybrid work becomes the norm. Let’s explore four ways that L&D can drive employee engagement in the workplace.

Creating Growth Opportunities

According to the Gallup survey, 59% of Millennials consider opportunities to learn and grow as important to them when applying for a job. In comparison, 44% of Gen X-ers and 41% of baby boomers say the same about these opportunities. This reflects the difference between what this generation values in a new job and what other generations value.

Millennials and Gen Z do not want just jobs. They want careers, and they want to thrive. They want learning opportunities that are valuable and contribute to their career development.

Robust and relevant L&D programs are critical as the current demographic at work desires to expand their knowledge, improve their skills and deliver value in their role to create better career pathways.

Closing Skill Gaps

Compared to all previous generations, digital natives bring completely new skill sets, motivations and learning habits to our modern workplace. Along with this, the COVID-19 pandemic has also accelerated the push to adopt digital technologies to drive better organizational outcomes. The pace of technology change must also be considered as an influencer of rising skill gaps across enterprises.

A 2020 McKinsey Global Survey on future workforce needs shows that:

  • Nearly nine out of 10 executives and managers say their organizations either already face skills gaps or expect gaps to develop within the next five years.
  • Three in 10 say at least one-quarter of their organization’s roles are at risk of disruption.
  • According to the research, 44% of organizations expect to face skills gaps within the next five years. Another 43% report an existing skill gap.

While many enterprises are hiring employees to prepare for potential skills gaps, making the right effort to build skills with upskilling and reskilling can be crucial for the new world of work. Focusing on forward-thinking L&D initiatives has to become a priority in the hybrid workplace to drive employee engagement.

Organizations that prioritize closing these potential skill gaps can build higher levels of commitment toward employee development. This can help boost employee engagement as the workforce sees the organization’s investment in their career progression.

Building an Entrepreneurial Mindset

A growth mindset or entrepreneurial mindset is critical in the hybrid work environment. Those with this mindset are solution oriented and capable of discovering opportunities even during a crisis. This mindset also can help drive collaboration across hybrid teams in highly digitized and dispersed workspaces.

Robust L&D programs can help contribute to developing a growth mindset. It enables learners to find solutions faster and become more successful. This is because knowledge is power, and it provides the capacity to identify opportunities and solutions.

The Bottom Line

It’s evident that high salaries are no longer the only driver for employee retention. Organizations must rely on their learning leaders to provide the right development opportunities to navigate skill gaps and demonstrate investment in employee well-being.