How To Leverage L&D As An Employee Retention Strategy

How To Leverage L&D As An Employee Retention Strategy
Summary: Retaining top talent is critical if you wish to retain organizational knowledge and expertise while also maintaining a competitive position in your industry. In this article, we'll discuss tips and techniques to leverage L&D as a key employee retention strategy.

What Is The Impact Of Career Development On Employee Retention?

Simply stated, losing top talent has a deep impact on the profitability and economic value creation of an organization. Developing that talent encourages people to stay with the firm, saves rehiring and training costs, and preserves institutional knowledge. Statistics tell us that there are nearly 11 (10.7) million jobs waiting to be filled across America. The data also confirms that around 4.1 million people (roughly the same as last month) quit their jobs. By designing and implementing engaging and relevant career development programs, L&D plays a vital part in employee development and retention.

Overlay that current reality with the Great Resignation—where employees quit en masse during the pandemic. There's also an ongoing tendency of employees to do the Great Reshuffle, even within organizations, moving from current positions to access more challenging and appealing work. And then, there's the inevitable and fast-approaching intergenerational Great Attrition. All those trends confirm that there's a talent crisis on the horizon—and the data highlights some of the undercurrents of that crisis!

Unless organizations redouble their efforts toward an employee retention strategy, it'll be a huge challenge to find and attract top talent to join (or stay with!) the company. As knowledgeable, experienced staff exit the company, organizational competitiveness, growth, and innovation are at stake. Worse yet, your competitors may hire some of that talent walking out your door. They (your competitors) will ultimately benefit from your investment in those employees.

So, how can organizations attract and retain top talent? Through career development opportunities? Research shows us that availability of employee career development opportunities in an organization results in higher retention—34% higher. Why would an employee leave if they can access Learning and Development opportunities by staying with the organization? Making learning and growth opportunities available as part of a strategic employee development and retention policy can help stem the flow of talented employees out of the organization.

However, there's more to building L&D opportunities for employees than just offering them "training." It takes an L&D transition mindset to get executives, frontline managers, supervisors, and employees to think about the importance of a corporate learning culture. Employees are looking for enriched and fulfilling experiences as part of their workplace values, and that includes the organization's learning culture. They're looking for choices related to what they learn, how deep those learning interactions are, from whom they learn, and how that learning occurs. Unless senior leadership, functional teams, and individual employees align their goals with that of the organization, employee retention will continue to be a challenge—and making that cultural transformation begins with offering targeted professional development opportunities to the staff.

Why Should Training And Development Using A Learner-Centric Approach Be A Core Part Of Your Talent Retention And Growth Strategy?

Great! Now that senior leadership recognizes the importance of L&D as a critical tool in an employee retention strategy, it's time to redirect training budgets to acquire the best training courses available, right? Wrong! Highly effective employee retention strategies aren't contingent solely on the dollar value of L&D budgets but on how those funds are used. Instead of offering "every course available," there's a need for L&D to better focus on more personalized, curated, and role-based learning. It's therefore important to use a learner-centric approach to deliver targeted learning as a key pillar of talent retention and growth strategies.

Cookie-cutter learning approaches, employee development, and retention policies just don't cut it! For training initiatives to be effective employee retention catalysts, L&D teams must use a bottom-up approach, instead of a top-down one, to understand their employees' professional needs and aspirations. It's only then that training developers can tailor their strategies to deliver truly meaningful and individualized learning opportunities to meet those learning and growth needs.

Learner-centricity requires aligning learner goals with those of the organization. Toward this objective, businesses must match organization learning science and technologies with the appropriate mix of human-centered design. A learner-centric approach also entails viewing learning through the eyes of employees, who are expected to embrace and interact with the tools, technologies, and processes that support learning.

Some employees may not, however, understand what L&D opportunities they should leverage for growth within the organization. In these instances, L&D teams must guide them toward appropriate learning paths that help them grow and perform better. L&D can leverage Performance Support Tools (PSTs) to ensure learners access learning at the point of need and just in time to overcome critical work-related challenges. A good employee growth and retention strategy interweaves this level of PST as part of the ongoing learning support to work for teams.

Finally, a learner-centric approach to fostering talent development and encouraging employee retention depends on improving org-wide leadership and EI skills. This aspect of the employee development and retention strategy helps motivate employees to develop a continuous learning mindset, which precedes the motivation to grow and remain with the company.

How Can You Leverage L&D To Drive Employee Development And Talent Retention?

The following are some tips and techniques that L&D can adopt to drive employee development and retain top talent within the organization.

Learner Needs Analyses (LNA)

The initial building block of a successful learner-centric process is understanding and empathizing with what your employees are looking for. A well-defined LNA will help identify what learners are looking for so that L&D can build/curate/plan accordingly.


Sometimes, learner needs may diverge from the needs of the business (or vice versa!). Building consensus between those two objectives is critical for the success of any learner-centric program.

Personalized Strategies

Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, personalize learning journeys for each learner based on and customized to individual career development plans. To achieve this objective, create the right mix of formal and informal training and self-paced, supervised, and progressive learning programs.

Create And Encourage A Culture Of Continuous Learning And Development

  • Bring learning into an employee's daily work routine so learning becomes second nature. Challenge your staff to learn and implement better ways to do things. Encourage team members to maintain "To learn" lists related to workflow processes and procedures.
  • Make learning readily accessible and make learning anywhere a core plank of your L&D and employee retention strategy. This can be accomplished by providing training at the point of and at the moment of need and making it accessible through responsive design on the device of their choice, and in formats they prefer.
  • Build a formal and informal learning ecosystem that thrives on continuous and consistent two-way feedback, just-in-time learning solutions through the use of "nudges" to employees who may benefit most from L&D initiatives, and through opportunities for mentorship that lead to additional personalized coaching.

Leverage Social Learning Opportunities

An investment in social learning helps the team bond while learning together. This may be done by creating "Communities of Practice" for learner groups; bookmarking learning assets for learners to review and share with peers; providing discussion forums; facilitating collaborative learning networks; and encouraging competitive learning using badges, points, leaderboards, and dashboards.

Create Upskilling Opportunities For Your Employees

Plan your workforce strategically by balancing near and longer-term staffing needs. As part of your employee development and retention strategy, make sure employees have opportunities to adapt and fill new positions and to learn about, and grow into, future roles.

Ensure DEI&B Is A Central Component Of Your L&D Strategy

Making diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEI&B) a core piece of your L&D strategy ensures you tap into the full potential of every employee. Employees who feel accepted and welcomed in a workplace are more inclined to develop, grow, and remain longer with the organization.

Take L&D Beyond The Minimal

Instead of doing just the basics, include L&D initiatives that go above and beyond skills and knowledge-based learning programs. Include initiatives such as mindfulness training, mental health topics, and physical health and wellbeing.

Establish A Link Between Training, Talent Development, And Performance

Rather than simply focusing on learning completion, test scores, and prescribed courses, business leaders must establish firm linkages between the training provided, the level of talent developed, and measurable performance improvements as a result of those investments. This approach not only ensures that there's a learner-centric L&D framework in place but also links learning to both individual (employee) and business performance.

Parting Thoughts

By meeting employee professional growth aspirations, career development is inextricably linked to employee retention. Employees who learn, grow, and develop better also perform better and stay longer with an organization. But unless L&D teams use a learner-centric lens to create employee development and retention strategies, it's unlikely they'll be able to convince top talent to stay or to attract fresh talent to replace departing employees. The tips and techniques discussed in this article will help you make learner focus a core component of your professional development and employee retention strategy.

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