Supporting staff development a key opportunity for retention

24 October 2023 Consultancy.uk 6 min. read
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A long-held belief among some employers has been that investing in training and development enables staff to move on more easily – but the Great Resignation has shown that the opposite tends to be the case. With many workers exiting roles complaining of a lack of opportunity to learn and advance, Punit Arhora, COO at Pyramid Consulting, explains the importance of supporting employees with personal development opportunities.

During my long stint as a business leader, I have seen many cases in the past where companies took their employees for granted and enjoyed substantial leverage over them. Employees were forced to take on extra responsibilities without compensation, and many fell victim to selfish abuse of power or toxic leadership. And then, the pandemic changed everything!

Every cloud has a silver lining, and this one had too. The advent of “The Great Resignation” made those toxic employers learn the value of their employees the hard way, and for the first time in decades, employees took the driving seat.

Supporting staff development a key opportunity for retention

The world is experiencing an unprecedented talent shortage, and businesses are struggling to attract top talent. In the UK itself, 46% of employers are facing a shortage of workers to get the necessary work completed. The situation is even more intense in countries like France (61%), Italy (49%), and Germany (47%). It is no secret that people management has become an extremely challenging job. 

Hiring the right employees has been difficult, but retaining them has become an even more intense uphill battle. It is like going out of a frying pan and into the fire. So, what do we do? How do we attract top talent and retain our best ones? In my opinion, personal development opportunities could help in ending the quest. 

Personal development opportunities

Today, employees demand more, and their demand goes beyond salary or compensation. They refuse to stagnate and long for change, growth, and personal development opportunities. They seek personal value and purpose at work.  As per Pew research, 63% of employees who quit their jobs in 2021 cited “no opportunities for advancement” as the primary reason. Moreover, another study states that 86% of professionals would change jobs if the other company offered them additional growth opportunities.   

The message is clear that the need to support employees with personal development opportunities is high. Unfortunately, things do not look bright in the tight European labor market, especially in the United Kingdom.

Organizations in the UK are struggling to drive the training and development agenda. A recent survey suggests that 23% of employees do not have access to any personal development opportunities, and less than half (43%) of employees have access to both online and offline training courses. But there is a catch. 

Despite 81% of the UK workforce claiming learning and acquiring new knowledge or skills to be important or very important, only 15% of the employees actively reach out to their employers concerning the lack of opportunities. On the other hand, 81% of employers believe employees would be happier in their current roles if they had further opportunities for personal development. Yet, HR and L&D managers are falling short of addressing personal development opportunities for their workforce. 

There is evidently a huge gap that needs bridging. While we, as leaders, need to foster an environment conducive to learning and development, we also need to help employees achieve their personal development goals and reach their full career potential.

Leadership coaches suggest several ways to promote personal development in your team through facilitating self-awareness and improving cross-departmental collaboration, but here are my 2 cents for achieving the objectives.

Be it the fear of rejection or the fear of making mistakes, fear is the nemesis of growth and progression. Employees often let their fears get in the way of success, and their hesitation or reluctance to change risks their personal development. Thus, as a leader, one should mentor and help the employees face their fears and unlock their confidence. Confident employees are high performers, less stressed, and loyal. This also goes a long way in strengthening your employee retention efforts. For instance, 96% of employees are more likely to stay at an organization when they feel confident.

Let employees lead and give feedback

Mentoring the employees does not necessarily mean delivering a motivational monologue or setting an example. It is more about building trust and strengthening the employee-employer relationship. Allowing your employees to set the tone of the meeting or lead a discussion is a wonderful way to show you trust them. 

However, letting your employees lead is only half the job done, and you must provide constructive feedback. Employee expectations are shifting, and lack of feedback often detaches people at the workplace. In fact, 98% of employees disengage from their work when they receive little or no feedback. Moreover, 73% of Generation Z employees are likely to leave the organization due to a lack of frequent managerial feedback and communication.

Every plan is made keeping the end goal in mind. Take the example of organizational objectives. They are developed to pursue and achieve a set target by the end of the year – be it revenue or market share. This approach should be followed when it comes to personnel development plans. While the end goal of personal development initiatives is to assist employees in progressing in their careers, each individual is different and has a distinct vision for their career. Some may wish to work on their time management skills, while others may be aiming to work on emotional intelligence or critical thinking. Thus, before getting on building development plans, understand the vision of your employees and the direction in which they want their careers to progress. Train people well enough so they can leave, but treat them well enough so they don’t want to.

Encourage self-leadership

Personal development is an essential component of success. However, one cannot lead others if they are not leading themselves. Thus, leaders must practice self-leadership as it sets the foundation for all types of leadership. While they must consistently work on developing an intense sense of self-awareness, communication, and adaptability themselves, they should also encourage their employees to take responsibility for their growth and development. All efforts of personal development will fail if an individual does not take charge of their feelings, thoughts, and actions.

While it is the moral duty of leaders to mentor and support personal development opportunities for the employees, it is largely up to the employees to make the best out of them to achieve their goals and reach their full potential. 

Punit Arhora is the Chief Operating Officer of US, UK, and Europe staffing at Pyramid SysTech Consulting. He has decades of experience in operations management – as well as a bachelor's degree in economics from Delhi University and an MBA from IBS Hyderabad.