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Today it feels like change is the only constant that you can rely on. Brexit, digital transformation, industry 4.0 and a changing make-up of the workforce, it’s no surprise that resilience has never been higher on the boardroom agenda. Retaining and upskilling employees in the next few months may well prove critical to business success.

When the cost of employee ‘churn’ is so substantial. Factoring in recruitment fees, remuneration and onboarding costs, the true cost of the loss of just one employee is estimated on average to be around £30,000.[1]

Training and development is recognised as a vital component of employee retention. 2019 Salary Guide found that more than three in four (76%) organisations believed their staff would leave them if they were unable to provide them with the training they want. In particular, SMEs lag behind large companies in terms of the training they are able to offer staff.

Once aspect we don’t often consider on retention is that is should start during the onboarding process. Across the UK, over a quarter (27%) of UK employees opted to leave a job during their probation period due to a lack of proper onboarding. Given the global talent shortage, it’s essential for organisations to provide a well thought out onboarding experience for new employees if they want to avoid the problems that result when staff leave shortly after joining. Ultimately, employees who feel valued are less likely to look elsewhere, but employers need to invest in them.

Therefore, employers need to consider a range of training options to up-skill existing staff, which will add value to their organisation and help retain an engaged employee base.

Training options
For employers, investing in learning and development opportunities for their staff does not have to break the bank. There are a whole host of options for employers looking to up-skill their employees.

Creating a mentoring and shadowing scheme can be an incredibly effective method of transferring knowledge. There will be plenty of subject-matter experts within a company who will be willing to pass on their knowledge to more junior members of staff. Mentoring is beneficial for both parties too – mentors can hone their leadership skills, while employees pick-up valuable real-world experience and advice that would be difficult to learn in a classroom setting.

Logistical issues often prevent employers from hosting training days. It can be especially difficult to get employees together in one location if they work remotely or in different locations. However, increased digitalisation in the workplace has meant that virtual learning has become a reality.

An online platform for training can be highly effective. Employees can log in at a designated time and follow a facilitator through a class or lesson. The training software is immersive and dynamic – employees can take quizzes and surveys, watch videos illustrating a particular topic and even use virtual ‘rooms’ for breakout sessions.

For certain subjects, like boosting employees’ understanding of a particular software programme, learning in quick bursts can be particularly effective. These ‘micro learning’ sessions are typically very short – taking between five and 10 minutes. They entail watching a short video on the chosen topic and then sometimes completing an exercise or quiz at the end.

For more in-depth learning that goes beyond a company’s capabilities, it’s often best for employers to consider paying part or in full for professional training courses with industry recognition.

The value of secondments
Beyond training, employers should consider the value of a secondment and its impact on an employee’s development. Secondments can range from a short-term arrangement of a few weeks, to something more long-term stretching across a number of months. They provide the opportunity to experience new things or different teams and can help employees acquire a wider range of skills.

With many industries undergoing a wave of digital transformation, experiencing different teams and learning new skills can give employees a competitive advantage over their peers. For example, an accountant learning new technical skills such as data analysis or a new coding language on a secondment would help them stand out from the crowd and add value to their organisation.

In addition, there is increasing demand for professionals with international business experience – a result of the rapid pace of globalisation, digital transformation and adoption of global regulatory standards. International secondments provide employees with exposure to a different market, culture and new ways of working.

Completing an international secondment shows their employer that they are adaptable and able to work on a different set of challenges, such as a language barrier. Working in a new environment or culture also helps employees strengthen their ‘soft skills’ like communication, business partnering and strategic thinking.

In conclusion, training and development is a crucial part of an employer’s proposition, and they should be prepared to offer their employees a range of training options or secondments. Crucially, these programmes serve a dual purpose – up-skilling employees to provide additional value to the organisation and improving staff retention.

[1] Oxford Economics, ‘The Cost of the Brain Drain’, 2014.

Matt Weston, Managing Director, Robert Half UK

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