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Learning and development key to retaining dissatisfied employees in 2021

It doesn’t matter how big your business is or which sector it’s in, learning and development is crucial for continued growth and success! However, when the pandemic hit in early 2020, understandably other more immediate business concerns took priority. And as we approach the unwelcome anniversary of the first lockdown, it’s clear that many businesses have adapted amazingly well to the world of remote working, despite the initial challenges.

But how has L&D fared during that time? To find out, we surveyed more than 2,000 working professionals in the UK and discovered that more than half of them (52%) have had no training at all since the outbreak of the pandemic, while a further 23% have seen training and development significantly decrease.

While learning and development isn’t the sole factor influencing promotion prospects, we also wanted to find out how many people had seen promotions in their team in the last 12 months. Less than a quarter of the people we asked (24%) had seen a promotion in their team last year, while 72% said they saw promotions in 2019, indicating a 48% drop in the number of promotions in 2020.

At HowNow, we’re firm believers that continual progression and skill development is one of the strongest drivers in retaining employees, and this was echoed by more than a third of people (35%) in the survey. The most popular reasons that people are looking to quit their jobs this year are stress-related (60%), followed by a clash with management (51%) and lack of growth (42%).

The most popular age group to get promoted last year were those between 35 and 44 (35%), while those aged over 55 were the least likely (14%). While people between the ages of 25 and 34 are currently the ones most actively looking to switch jobs (54%).

Google search data backed up a rise in dissatisfied employees with searches related to work promotions peaking in autumn, while searches for job vacancies were on the rise this January, having previously peaked in January 2020.

Here’s what our CEO and Co-Founder, Nelson Sivalingam, had to say:

“Through the initial stages of the pandemic when redundancies were rising, we were seeing a lot of people that were simply grateful to still have a job. However, as we approach a year since the first lockdown, that appreciation has worn off, and those that are unsatisfied now appear to be stepping up their job search.

“We know the last year has been tough on a lot of businesses and in many cases learning and development opportunities may have been pushed to one side. However, in the current environment where changing a job is essentially; same home, different Zoom call, and the switching costs are not as high, it is even more important to engage and retain employees by investing in their continued learning and development. By giving them the opportunity to improve their skills and rewarding this development with promotion incentives, you’ll stand a much better chance of keeping your employees.”

How to upskill at home

Sometimes, you just have to take things into your own hands! Especially with our survey results revealing decreases in the number of promotions and opportunities to learn or develop. Whether you see upskilling as a way to drive progress in your current role or you’re one of the people driving the search volume for job vacancies, these tips will help you upskill and grow remotely.

1. If you don’t ask, you don’t get

Your development probably hasn’t slipped off the radar intentionally, so it’s time to take some advice from that old adage and start asking and nudging whoever you need to! If you’re not sure which skills or experience you need to progress, don’t be afraid to ask – especially given that the business needs or goals will have and will continue to shift. The talents that you might have needed to become a more valuable member of the team a year ago may no longer be what’s needed from the leadership perspective.

By the same token, you might have had some events or training workshops booked in before the pandemic and watched that fade away into the social distance. However, if you remind your manager of these then you may be able to direct that time and budget into something online which you can take advantage of now. Even having these conversations is a handy reminder that you’re interested in growing and progressing despite the situation.

2. Check out job vacancies

Something that’ll help regardless if you’re sticking around or seeking pastures new. If you’re unsure which skills are in demand, take a look at job vacancies and try to identify common traits in the roles you’d like to progress into. Once you’ve built your shortlist, you can either take those to your manager and discuss a formal path to building those or start incorporating them into your daily tasks and current workflow.

For example, if you notice senior sales roles are seeking people with strong copywriting skills, what’s stopping you from finding online resources offering tips on crafting great content and applying those principles each time you write to a potential customer?

3. Learn from your colleagues

Most of us are missing our colleagues for social reasons, a quick chat here, grabbing some coffee at lunch – we won’t take them for granted again. But picking their brains in person is another powerful thing that can fall to the sidelines when working remotely. If you were a few desks away from each other, you’d have no problem popping over for 15 minutes, asking for some help on a task, and absorbing some knowledge.

And if you’re not applying that principle in your homeworking life, you’re missing an upskilling trick! The experience that they’re able to share is contextual to your company and role, meaning it will likely be easier for you to digest and faster for you to implement. And that’s why you shouldn’t overlook knowledge sharing when it comes to remote development…

4. Find online courses and other resources

During the initial lockdown, online courses really took off! Employees spent 130% more time learning in March/April 2020 than they did in January/February, according to LinkedIn Learning. So, if you’re thinking about taking a course now, your decisions will probably be made a lot easier by the number of reviews and abundance of articles on which courses you should pick.

However, as we’ve already alluded to, learning doesn’t always need to be formal! If you’re working from home, you should apply the mindset of how you would normally learn at home (outside of work).

When you’re doing some DIY at home or trying to learn more about a topic you find interesting, you turn to Google, YouTube, podcasts or blog posts, and normally we’re pleasantly surprised by the quality of the free content that’s out there. Apply this principle at work and it becomes easier and more of a habit to find the information you need when you need it! Rather than waiting for a course to be approved, taking that and trying to apply what you learned later. We refer to this as learning in the flow of work and you can check out our guide here

5. Which skills and tasks do you enjoy?

There’s a Venn diagram for everything, right! So picture the things you enjoy doing outside of work in one circle and the tasks you do at work or skills you need for that in another. Where those two overlap offers a real sweet spot for learning, because it’s just so much easier when the subject or skill is one that we enjoy!

This might not be a conventional way to work out what you’d like to learn or which skills you’d like to develop, but it could a huge boost for your motivation. Before you know it, your powerful upskilling journey keeps snowballing and getting bigger and bigger.

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