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Can Engagement Be The Biggest Lesson from Training?

Employers are using upskilling and reskilling benefits to attract and keep employees who work in hybrid environments

The COVID-19 pandemic kicked off a rare, real-world experiment for employers to test the potential of remote and hybrid work.. Post-COVID, it’s safe to say that hybrid work is here to stay, but what exactly that means is still up for interpretation. A 2021 survey by McKinsey estimates that employees who aren’t required to work from an office will be working in a hybrid model from 20 to 80 percent of the time.

What we do know is that hybrid work, while popular, has its own set of challenges. It could tamp down on employee engagement, which can lead to higher turnover and lower productivity. The growth of hybrid work also reflects a larger shift in employee values. Workers now expect more from employers and tend to value jobs that offer flexibility, personal growth opportunities, and upward mobility. This change in work habits, paired with a potential higher resignation rate, has put increasing pressure on employers to stay competitive when it comes to attracting talent.

A potential solution for these new challenges is reskilling and upskilling the ‘hybrid workforce.’ Reskilling (learning new skills needed for a new job) or upskilling (learning new skills needed for a current job) are opportunities to address employers’ urgent recruiting needs, as well as employee turnover and dwindling productivity in a post-pandemic hybrid environment.

With so many major employers introducing extensive education-as-a-benefit programs, from WalMart and Papa John’s, to Starbucks and Amazon, a growing list of examples show how empowering employees with new skills can make hybrid work an asset for businesses and workers alike.

Training attracts top talent

Facing a tight labor market and tough competition for top talent, the multinational chemical and consumer goods company Henkel collaborated with Accenture on a digital upskilling program for its 52,000 employees. Focused on developing job-specific skills, the program created a continuous learning culture and demonstrated to employees Henkel’s commitment to their long-term potential. The program had a major positive impact on attracting new talent. Applications for open positions grew by 40 percent, helped by a process improvement that reduced the time to complete a job application from 30 minutes to 60 seconds.

Henkel’s approach confirms research showing that employees working in hybrid situations expect flexibility, ownership, and opportunities to learn and grow in the organization. According to a Visier Insights report, 73 percent of workers would leave their current job for another with the same pay but more training opportunities. Industry leaders surveyed in the 2021 Kaplan-Insights HR Leadership Report “believe that employee development will be key in today’s competitive hiring environment, so organizations that are lacking in their learning and development strategies should focus on solutions.”Staying for the learning benefits

Another challenge is keeping top talent onboard during the “Great Resignation.” Consulting firm Gartner says that the U.S. employee annual turnover rate is likely to jump 20%, from a pre-pandemic average of 32 million employees quitting their jobs to 37 million in 2022.

Major employers are offering fully-funded, debt-free education benefits to keep hybrid and in-person employees who say they increasingly value personal growth. For example, Amazon expanded its successful Career Choice program to include certificates and degrees for hourly employees; participation jumped 45% since 2021. After Chipotle offered debt-free college degrees, participating employees were 350 percent more likely to stay with the company and were seven times more likely to move into management.

These proactive steps help combat turnover caused by burnout or a lack of learning opportunities. In a recent Gallup poll, engaging employees in a learning environment resulted in 81 percent less absenteeism and 18 percent less turnover in high-turnover organizations.

Teaching the skills to build engagement and productivity

The long term success of hybrid working environments will rise or fall on their ability to support productivity. To date, disengagement has been a challenge during this great experiment with hybrid and remote work. In 2020, the first year of the pandemic, employee engagement in the U.S. dropped to 36 percent, according to Gallup. It got worse over the next two years, dropping to 32 percent in 2022. Even when offered remote and hybrid roles, most employees seemed to be disengaged at work. Per Gallup, disengaged employees cost companies between $450 and $550 billion annually due to lost productivity.

IBM has tackled this challenge head-on with impressive results. The company spends $574 million annually on employee training and development. Its best-known program, Basic Blue, gives managers the necessary emotional-development and coaching skills to help keep their teams productive, even during a crisis. The results speak for themselves; 96 percent of IBM employees in an employee engagement survey conducted by Comparably say they are proud to be a part of the company. This kind of reform makes a big difference to a firm’s bottom line.

Conclusion

Adapting to the hybrid work environment calls for a variety of measures to ensure increased employee productivity and engagement. One of the ways to avoid disengagement and burnout is to better involve employees in their own self-development. By undertaking employee reskilling and upskilling programs, organizations can improve engagement and productivity. This is true anytime, but it’s all the more essential as hybrid work becomes the norm.

With a long-term focus on employee reskilling and upskilling, organizations can cultivate a culture grounded in continuous learning and innovation. That will help turn today’s challenges into opportunities to build competitive advantages.

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