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No Time to Lose

What employers can gain by supporting upskilling and professional education.

Written by Philip Baker
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It’s a question all leaders are pondering today: What’s the secret to attracting and retaining employees?

The answer might be more straightforward than many think. Organizations should invest in the growth, education, and development of their workforce. With 93 percent of businesses currently concerned about employee retention, a recent LinkedIn study found that the best way to nurture and build a workforce is to provide employees with skill-building opportunities.

In fact, building a strong learning culture appears to be a clear benefit for both employees and companies. A Gallup study found that organizations reported 11 percent greater profitability and twice the likelihood of retaining employees after investing in employee development.

How Does It Work?

Here’s a typical scenario. Organizations that focus on learning and development create virtuous cycles where growth mindsets among leaders and employees lead to feedback loops that align employee satisfaction with increased company productivity and an ability to attract top talent.

What’s more, these lessons are only more relevant at a time when the speed of technological change has significantly increased the skills gap, which is slated to grow in the coming years. McKinsey found that 87 percent of organizations already have a skills gap or will have one in the near future. The consulting firm has also noted that lack of career development opportunities is the top reason for leaving a job.

It’s all to say that employers and businesses have a tremendous amount to gain from supporting upskilling and professional development in today’s rapidly evolving work environment. Here’s a rundown of some of the key areas where a significant commitment will drive the success of businesses for years to come.

Workforces Ready to Learn Are Prepared for Change

The pace of technological change is accelerating, and employees need continuously to update their skills to stay competitive. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) predicts that 1.1 billion jobs will be significantly changed by technology over the next decade. A World Economic Forum study from 2020 found that 50 percent of workers who intend to stay in their positions will need reskilling or upskilling by 2025.

At a time when businesses need to swiftly adopt new technology infrastructures to respond to changes across the business landscape, investing in the ongoing education and development of employees is no longer just a socially responsible choice. It’s also what it takes to maintain a competitive edge.

Fostering a Learning Culture Is the Cost-Effective Way to Run a Business

In addition to giving businesses the ability to rapidly adapt to changing market demands, upskilling current employees to fill skill gaps can be more cost-effective than hiring new employees for specific roles. Turnover costs can run a company roughly two times the employee’s annual salary. What’s more, learning cultures create paths for lateral movement and cross-functional work that not only play a major role in improving employee retention, but can also help to build succession pipelines.

A Pew Research Center survey from 2022 revealed that 63 percent of workers who quit their jobs reported that the number one reason was “no opportunities for advancement.” While it’s a given that employees are on the lookout for higher-wage opportunities, the virtuous growth cycle organizations can foster by incorporating learning and development into their mission remains underappreciated.

Is Your Organization Looking for a Productivity Boost?

More than just saving a company from turnover costs, professional development options boost employee morale and job satisfaction. This will typically lead to a more engaged and committed workforce, which itself is correlated with higher profits, lower absenteeism, and reduced rates of burnout.

In addition to a more skilled, efficient, and productive workforce, continuous learning fosters an environment of innovation and creativity. Skills learned through certificate programs and bootcamps often have immediate applications that lead to innovative approaches and solutions to business challenges.

It’s Essential for Building a Strong Company Culture

When key employees leave, companies lose more than their top talent and leading innovators. Morale and customer relationships also get impacted. By contrast, businesses known for investing in the development of their employees are frequently viewed preferentially by customers, partners, and the public. This can lead to improved business relationships grounded in deeper strains of trust. A PwC study found that how a company treats its employees was the second-most important issue for earning customer trust.

Across today’s disruptive workforce landscape, companies that create environments of continuous learning and development have stronger company cultures overall. By making learning and development a priority, companies demonstrate a commitment to employee growth that fosters a sense of community and shared purpose. That’s what leads to increased employee engagement, talent retention, and increased revenue growth.

Are You Prepared for the Future?

One clear takeaway here is that businesses that invest in the development of their employees are effectively future-proofing themselves. They’re not only ensuring that their workforce is equipped with the latest skills and knowledge to face future challenges, but they’re also creating an environment and culture in which skilled employees want to succeed.

Lock In the Higher Ed Advantage

Companies can gain an edge when they partner with higher education institutions for employee education programs. Taking this step, especially with a top-tier university like the University of Chicago, can significantly enhance a company’s ability to attract and retain top talent. UChicago’s robust and flexible partnership program is designed around the needs of the business and can take place at your location. To learn more about UChicago’s partnership program and how it can benefit your business, visit our Partnerships page or contact us at 773.795.8273.

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