Investing in your employees’ career growth drives satisfaction

Think adding a ping-pong table and dry cleaning services will boost employee engagement? Think again. What your workforce really wants is the opportunity for career growth.

invest in employee training and growth
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Today's workforce is less concerned with perks like ping-pong tables, dry cleaning services and on-site massages than they are with their future, according to recent research. If your organization is struggling to attract and retain IT talent, perhaps it's time to rethink your benefits and perks strategy.

In the 2016 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends study of the 7,096 HR and executives surveyed, 48 percent of respondents say engagement is a major area of focus in 2016. "Employee engagement, like culture, has become a CEO-level issue. Companies now compete to win 'best place to work' surveys and monitor social media carefully. There is an escalating war to design great workspaces, provide flexible benefits, and create great corporate cultures in an effort to drive higher engagement. Nearly nine in ten executives, or 85 percent, in this year's survey rated engagement as an important (38 percent) or very important (48 percent) priority for their companies," according to Deloitte's research.

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Focus on the right things

As companies double down on engagement, though, it's important to make sure their efforts are focused in the right places, says Jason Weingarten, CEO of talent acquisition and recruiting software platform Yello. A recent survey of approximately 7,000 recent college graduates found that only 25 percent of respondents cited salary or company culture a priority, placing higher importance on developing their professional skills, learning and growth opportunities.

"I think engagement is a leading indicator, not a lagging indicator of what your future churn will look like, and companies are taking it a lot more seriously. Similar to how marketing companies look at customer pipeline, talent acquisition teams and HR departments are looking at their talent pipeline and considering proper succession planning, and looking for ways to invest in people that will help them stay longer and make the most impact," Weingarten says.

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The millennial factor

Using training, learning and professional development opportunities to drive greater engagement is especially important as companies court millennials, who in 2015 became the largest demographic in the workforce. "Millennials are concerned with investing their energy and their time in organizations that will reciprocate. They want to make sure they're growing inside their organizations and that they have a path to continue to do so. The fact that our survey found that salary isn't as key for them wasn't honestly much of a surprise to us; they're more concerned with working well with teams of their friends, making a positive impact on the world and having a promising path to growth is really important," Weingarten says.

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Job satisfaction

Engagement is directly tied to job satisfaction and in another survey, this one by cloud learning management solutions platform Bridge by Instructure shows that training is the most important learning opportunity that drives job satisfaction.

Today's fast-paced digital world requires constant learning, professional development and new skills acquisition to be successful, says Jeff Weber, senior vice president of people and places at Bridge. A recent survey that polled 1,000 working professionals across the U.S. in October 2015 showed that workers' job satisfaction was directly tied to the availability of continuous learning and training.

The survey revealed that 36 percent of respondents say training was the most important factor in determining their job satisfaction; continuous learning and training were number 1 on the list when respondents were asked to list the most important factor contributing to their job satisfaction.

"It's pretty clear from our survey that today's workforce requires relevant training to help them become more effective at their jobs now, as well as prepare for progressing and acquiring skills that can help them move upward within their organizations," Weber says.

Today's nonstop technological and skills changes happen so rapidly that workers, especially in IT, are required to update their knowledge and skills almost on a daily basis to keep up, Weber says, and previous research from Bridge revealed that even college-educated professionals felt their college education didn't adequately prepare them for their present roles. With so much new technology and new skills to acquire, continuous learning is a major factor in not just an IT pro's success, but in their satisfaction with their role and their future, he says.

"In our survey, the majority of employees say continuous learning was important or very important to their job satisfaction.They cared about their growth and wanted these training opportunities. And 53 percent of respondents say they're very likely or likely to leave their job because there are insufficient learning and professional growth opportunities. This is a major message to companies that if you're not sufficiently providing ways for workers to learn and grow, they have no qualms about leaving for another place that will give them those opportunities," he says.

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