Beyond Total Rewards: Equip Your Organization With Learning & Skills Development

By: Tim Schieffer
two women having a skills development meeting

Human resources challenges, like labor shortages, inflation and workforce disengagement, demand HR leaders to answer critical business questions.

  • How can our organization improve employee retention? 
  • How can we deepen employee engagement and foster cultural connection across a dispersed workforce?
  • How can we address the skills gap and contend with labor shortages?
  • How can our business offer competitive pay without busting budgets?

Tackling any one of these issues requires a strong leadership commitment and enterprise-level solution. And yet, our current business environment requires addressing multiple challenges simultaneously:  

  • Competition for talent is fierce with low unemployment rates.
  • Recruitment costs are rising. SHRM research shows 45% of organizations are increasing their compensation budget specific to talent acquisition.
  • Inflation is creating expectations for higher compensation.  
  • Employee disengagement is a real problem, with 7 out of 10 employees actively disengaged or neither engaged nor disengaged. 

Leaders looking for a universal remedy to fix workforce issues are feeling frustrated. Although there is no magic solution, building comprehensive employee engagement programs can help HR managers adapt to evolving business needs. 

Simply increasing salaries isn’t leading to stronger results. Investing in learning and development programs equips organizations to help employees grow and thrive within their organizations. Employees have made it clear that they select and stay at companies that align with their values, which includes supporting their growth and development.

Below, we explore how focused and effective learning and development (L&D) programs can strengthen your organization to meet three significant issues (labor shortages and skills gaps, competitive total rewards, and a connected culture) head-on.

Watch Our Webinar: Developing A Connected Culture

Overcoming Labor Shortages & Skills Gaps

To address labor shortages, organizations must focus on upskilling their current workforce and strategically hiring to fill future needs.  

Identify skills gaps by conducting a comprehensive workforce analysis. Surveys, assessments, performance evaluations and manager feedback illuminate what’s currently missing and what development is needed to remain competitive. By finding areas where employees lack the necessary skills to support the future of the business, you can proactively set up training and career paths. 

Tip: Make sure employees know how they benefit. Estimates suggest that by 2030, nearly 20% of the workforce will be significantly under-skilled for their careers. As a result, many could find themselves less satisfied with their employment, or even out of work altogether.

Organizations must develop a culture of continuous learning. Encourage employees to embrace personal and professional development by providing them with resources, support, and opportunities for growth. 

Fact: Employees want to learn. 74% of workers are willing to learn new skills or re-train to remain employable.

Organizations can make three shifts to meet employees’ growth needs.

1. Design Career Paths Around Experiences, Not Positions

By shifting the focus from individual job responsibilities to collaborative projects, employees can become fluent in a wide range of business areas. Invest in internal talent mobility by training leaders to embrace a coaching vs. managing mindset. When leaders understand the importance of being “talent agents” for their people, they enable career growth on all levels of the organization—not just for high-performers.

2. Provide Job-Rotation Opportunities to Avoid Talent Silos

Encourage employees to gain exposure to different roles and departments. Cross-functional training helps employees develop a broader skill set, experience a variety of leadership styles and take on more diverse responsibilities during, say, a hiring freeze. Implementing knowledge-sharing and mentorship programs empowers emerging leaders to solve department-spanning problems. 

3. Build A Feedback Loop Rather Than Top-Down Communication Structure

Communication begins with listening. Establish mechanisms to gather feedback from employees and leaders about HR services and initiatives, then act on it. 

Related: Don’t let employee survey results collect dust. Here’s how to quickly and strategically analyze results.

Offering Competitive Total Rewards 

Robust compensation may attract employees to your organization, but offering a strong salary is rarely enough to sustain satisfaction. A competitive total rewards package that engages and retains employees needs to include learning awards and recognition, as well as development opportunities.

Support of upskilling and reskilling of current team members taps into internal motivational drivers. Strong L&D programs prove the organization believes in their existing talent. Continuous learning opportunities also address growing anxiety many workers feel about increased automation. Research indicates more than half (52%) of workers said they need to learn new skills within the next year to continue their careers; 46% said they are not as skilled as they need to be.

To foster a culture of learning and development, organizations should proactively address concerns about cost and convenience to access training.

  • Provide financial assistance for external training opportunities such as certifications, advanced degrees and professional conferences
  • Bring new training experiences in-house and on-demand
  • Offer time off for training
  • Recruit from within
    • Offer promotions to people engaging in career pathing through merit and competence-based incentives
    • Support the pursuit of internal job postings to encourage employees to acquire new skills 

Remember, all these efforts must be measured and evaluated for effectiveness. Regular assessment of L&D initiatives will help ensure they produce desired outcomes. 

Fostering Connection Through Consistent Workplace Culture  

To be considered a “great place to work,” employers must show alignment between company values and employees’ day-to-day experiences. Moreover, organizations can help their teams stay connected to their work and overall mission by prioritizing employee well-being, creating a sense of psychological safety and providing financial stability.  

Fact: Engaged employees are 44% more likely to stay with the organization and contribute to its success than their disengaged peers. 

Creating a consistently positive workplace culture starts at the top. Develop leadership alignment around organizational values, communications and what kind of behavior is rewarded. Trainings that help executives strategically implement the elements of a connected culture provide an important foundation for attracting and retaining top talent. Here’s why: If you have a solid employer brand, candidates will seek you out. 

Establish a framework for extending training so all employees understand how to show organizational values. Consider offering a special certification that celebrates training completion, emphasizes the importance of a connected culture and recognizes employees’ commitment. 

Related: Learn how executive teams can transform culture and elevate the employer brand

Launching Enterprise Learning & Development Initiatives With the Right Partner

Whether your organization is implementing learning and development initiatives or updating outdated programs, working with a consultive partner can help. 

For example, ITA Group partners with HR managers to design, implement and evaluate learning and development programs that align with their organization's priorities to create a positive, engaging and productive workplace for employees. Clients experience significant employee attraction and retention improvements by using a research-based approach that speaks to employees’ needs, aligns with organizational goals, and enhances employee motivation, satisfaction and productivity.  

Although HR managers can’t control external challenges impacting today’s labor market, you can guide your organization with a comprehensive employee engagement strategy. Leverage learning and development as a lighthouse, illuminating opportunities to close knowledge gaps, build leadership pipeline and motivate employees. 

Curious about retaining talent with a connected culture approach? Watch our webinar on how to facilitate more purposeful interactions.

Watch Our Webinar: Creating A Connected Culture
Tim Schieffer
Tim Schieffer

Tim is the Employee Experience Insights and Strategy Leader for ITA Group. With 20+ years of experience serving clients in multiple industries, including e-commerce, communications and finance, he offers a unique perspective on how to attract and retain top talent. His passion for delivering personalized employee engagement strategies helps create cultures centered on empowering people. Outside of work, you'll find him cheering on the Green Bay Packers as a proud part-owner. Go Pack Go!