Beyond training: why development is equally important to organizational success

June 17, 2024

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By Douglas Dell, VP Executive Leader, Learning & Development; Andrea Fergona, Director, Technical Training and Development, Germany, Sedgwick; Suzanne McTeague, Vice President, Client Services, Sedgwick

In today’s rapidly changing workplace environment, it has never been more critical for employers to develop their employees’ skills to meet the needs of their jobs — today, tomorrow and long into the future. 

Between swift technological advancements, the rise of distributed teams and shifting values of younger generations of workers, retention strategies have emerged as paramount in the current labor market environment. It is now necessary for employers to take a proactive, future-forward approach to offering employees training and development resources and opportunities — a trend emerging as both critical for an employer’s talent retention and an increasingly common demand by employees.  

Training and development

To effectively quell employees’ desires to grow and succeed in the current workplace environment, training and development cannot be either-or. Training — meaning providing an employee with technical skills and tools to perform a specific job — and development — supporting an employee’s career growth goals — are key drivers for employee retention, fulfillment and success.

Training, a short-term focused component, has always been integral to organizational success. But professional development, the latter future-focused component, has often been treated as a nice-to-have benefit. However, the combination of training and professional development together enhances job satisfaction, boosts productivity, improves retention and increases employees’ potential for career advancement. It’s a win for employers and employees alike. 

Putting context behind the rising demand

Employees today change jobs at an unparalleled rate, which is one factor driving the broad increase in turnover rate. According to one report, more than half of employers (51%) experienced a turnover rate of at least 15% in 2022, up three points from 48% in 2021. Couple that with the high cost to replace an employee (estimated at 33% of their annual salary) plus lost productivity and knowledge and time dedicated to onboarding someone new, and the financial impact to an employer can be plainly seen. 

As a result, employers are seeking new ways to transfer knowledge and skills to younger employees, upskill and reskill a wider talent pool, and strengthen retention strategies. According to a 2023 LinkedIn workplace learning report, 93% of organizations reported concern about employee retention. It also reported that employers’ top operational priority is retaining talent — even ahead of revenue — and the #1-way organizations are working to improve retention is by providing learning opportunities. 

The is especially relevant for younger generations, such as Generation Z, who collectively crave growth more than previous ones. According to Training Industry, Gen Z workers consistently rate skills development alongside compensation among their most important factors in choosing a job. Millennials, too — who now comprise the largest generation in the workforce — are twice as likely to stay with an organization if they’re satisfied with their development and mentorship opportunities at work. 

Finally, rapid technology advancements are altering some jobs, and putting others at risk of becoming obsolete. The World Economic Forum predicts that technology — through AI and machine learning, in particular — will transform 1.1 billion jobs over the next decade. This is fueling a new urgency behind upskilling and reskilling employees to enable adaptability. 

How employers should respond

Employers must foster a growth-minded culture. This is only possible through comprehensive, top-down change and a genuine commitment to the development journey of each of their people. It requires every level of the organization’s support for strong execution and holding leaders accountable for developing their teams. 

Managers should work with their team members to develop individualized growth plans to chart each employee’s goals and the skills they need to advance. Engaging with certification and design programs and courses for building soft skills can all help employees develop new areas of expertise. Tried and true mentorship programs should also be a widespread expectation and available to all, as such programs cultivate and empower emerging leaders and help them feel more connected to their organization.

Stay flexible by leaning into online and hybrid learning models — like video conferencing and e-learning platforms — but don’t over-rely on technology; in certain areas, there remains a strong need for experiential, hands-on training and the opportunity to apply knowledge in real-life experiences. In online learning classrooms, employers should create opportunities for engagement and interaction, such as small group breakouts, occasional polling or a dedicated live-chat channel.

Some of these ideas were shared in a piece for the 23rd issue of Sedgwick’s digital magazine, edge. 

Tags: Career development, careers, employee experience, Employees, employer, employers, empowering performance, Gen Z, generation z, Performance, Productivity, Professional development, Recruiting, Retention, Training, Workforce