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This Coveted Perk Could Be Critical To Workforce Development Efforts

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By Marq Burnett – Associate Editor, The Playbook, The Business Journals

As the focus shifts from recruitment to retention in a still-tight hiring market, many employers are searching for the incentives that will retain workers.

While perks like four-day workweeks, unlimited vacation and remote work are often in the spotlight, another coveted perk is career development and upskilling opportunities.

That’s according to The State of Upskilling and Reskilling — a survey by learning management system TalentMLS and human resources suite Workable.

The survey found 71% of employees have a desire to update their skills more frequently and 80% want their companies to invest more in upskilling and reskilling.

As we’ve noted, experts say those types of programs are likely to be pivotal for building workforce pipelines in the years to come — thanks in large part to the nation’s demographic shifts.

The survey also found a significant desire for personal growth that transcended the four different generations in the workforce.

At a time when many corporate heavyweights are laying off workers, the survey found the presence of upskilling and reskilling programs has an impact on how workers view their job security. That could be particularly relevant as some believe the layoff picture could change in the months to come.

Conversely, 64% of respondents said they believe upskilling and reskilling training has been useful for their long-term job security.

The rise of generative artificial intelligence and other technology also appears to be weighing on employees.

The fact that many hiring managers are looking to use AI to reduce labor costs probably isn’t helping matters.

Nearly four of 10 employees are concerned their current skills could become obsolete in the future, which could have a lasting impact on productivity and an organization’s culture.

“While half of employees see AI’s benefits, it seems there’s more to realize about its full impact,” said Rob Long, CRO at Workable. “I’m convinced a majority would benefit from its integration, leading to increased revenue and productivity across diverse sectors.”

Experts have said employers and workers who embrace the opportunity to utilize AI can give themselves an edge in the years to come.

While the survey found upskilling and reskilling are critical for retention, it also showed satisfaction rates with the programs have declined from 78% in 2020 to 71% in 2024.

The Gen Z effect

While some factors transcended generational divides, satisfaction with learning programs was not one of them.

Satisfaction peaked with employees over 54 at 77%, while only 54% of Gen Z employees were satisfied with their programs — suggesting many employers have room to grow when it comes to career development for Gen Z workers.

Communication could be critical to addressing that gap.

The survey found 20% of Gen Zers don’t believe their manager or supervisor understands their skill development needs.

About 50% of respondents said their current job would benefit from the integration of AI technologies, while 39% said they use AI skills in their current role.

Earlier this year, a survey by TalentLMS and Vyond found that 41% of U.S. employees planned to look for another job in 2024 if their company doesn’t provide training opportunities for them.

As we’ve noted before, a failure to provide adequate career development opportunities can both increase turnover risk and jeopardize employee engagement.

But the reason a lack of training is particularly problematic is that it could also do long-term damage to workforce development pipelines at a time most businesses can’t afford it.