How Career-Long Learning Opportunities Increase Employee Retention

The skilled trades are facing an unprecedented labor shortage. Workforce development publication The Cornerstone revealed that 18 percent of the current workforce will have retired by the end of this year, 29 percent by the end of 2026, and 41 percent by 2032.  This not only puts a primacy on identifying, recruiting, and upskilling new workers but also on keeping those that your company already employs. In this article, we’ll explore how continuing education and training can help you retain employees, increase engagement and loyalty, and reduce turnover. 

The Cost of Employee Attrition

Gone are the days of the so-called “company man” (or woman), when a tradesperson would stay with a single employer and put in 40-plus years of loyal service. Per a study from the Work Institute, 42 million US employees left their jobs of their own accord in 2019 — a full 27 percent of the workforce. And as we already mentioned, nowhere in the economy is this skill drain as acute as in the skilled trades. 

According to another Work Institute report, the cost of losing each employee is up to 33 percent of their annual salary. When a worker decides to go elsewhere, your investment in their initial training follows them out the door, and the HR team must plow resources into identifying, interviewing, and onboarding a replacement. 

Then there are the soft costs to take into account. If enough valued employees leave to join competitors, your company might relinquish its market advantage, while the cumulative knowledge drain when master-level team members depart could prove insurmountable. High turnover can also impact the timeline and quality level of crucial projects, which might in turn decrease customer satisfaction and retention. Although ongoing training might seem like a big investment, it pales in comparison to the cost of losing and replacing top talent.   

Keeping Your Most Valuable Asset

While a few of your employees might be content to coast or stick with the status quo, most don’t want their careers to get stagnant and would welcome the opportunity to broaden and deepen their skillset. According to research conducted by TINYpulse, “Employees who feel they’re progressing in their careers are 20% more likely to still be working at their companies in one year’s time. On the other hand, a lack of advancement or skill-building can be morally deflating. Not to mention, more than 70% of high-retention-risk employees say they’ll be forced to leave their organization to advance their careers.”

So what can you do to retain the most valuable asset your company has – it’s people – for longer? Invest in their continued education. LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Report discovered that 93 percent of workers who felt their employer was committed to professional development said they were likely to stay. There’s plenty of other research to back up this finding. Summarizing a comprehensive 2015 survey, consulting group FMI shared that 76 percent of employers believe ongoing training to be essential for employee retention.  

In the 2017 edition of this report, FMI consultant Emily Livorsi explained why an investment in training and education will always yield dividends. “In a landscape where there isn’t enough talent to meet market demands, competitive pay is simply not enough,” she wrote. “People want to see that their companies are truly invested in their own growth and development. And while most organizations in the industry put some training in place to further their talent, investing in training on an ad hoc basis is not enough. It’s those organizations that live, breathe and eat continuous development that are able to retain top talent.” 

Educating Your Employees

In the skilled trades, the apprentice system can be highly valuable because it allows a novice to learn from a master in a hands-on environment. But the limitation of this learning style is that it can only be implemented one-on-one or with small groups of trainees. Capturing subject matter experts’ know-how and making it available on demand in bite-sized micro chunks would allow your business to pass on expertise to both new or mid-level employees faster and more conveniently than apprenticeships ever could, helping you to close your skills gap in a shorter time frame. 

In an article for Personnel Today, Steve Dineen asserted that it’s critically important for workers to have access to such knowledge. “Simply put, learners place high value on engaging with trusted subject matter experts (SMEs) because doing so helps them to solve a problem,” he wrote. “Over time, this access to SMEs and their tacit knowledge – something that Albert Einstein himself remarked on as being more important to learning than facts or figures – delivers yet more value, and the all-important habit for learning becomes ingrained in company culture.” And the more tacit knowledge you can obtain from your SMEs and share with the rest of your workforce, the more likely they will be to stay for the long term. 

Scaling Experts’ Knowledge Sharing

Traditionally, skilled trade employers have complemented on-the-job apprenticeships with classroom learning. This is often effective, but due to the duration of such training programs – up to four years – many companies can’t upskill trainees fast enough to replace those they’re losing. This is where a solution like DeepHow via Stanley X comes into play. With this AI-driven solution, you can record high-quality footage of your expert tradespeople operating equipment and performing safety procedures, create a content library, and make videos and accompanying transcripts available to your entire workforce. Trainees can easily find the precise part of the process that they need to learn and re-watch it until they grasp the skill in question. 

Complementing your existing training with cloud-based video learning will help you onboard new employees faster and extend the competencies of your existing team further. As a result, you’ll be more likely to keep employees engaged and give them a compelling reason to stay.