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How training and development can help with staff retention

Training and development can help new hires stay in their positions, we found

Last updated: 17 May 2023

Despite a recession nipping at our heels, one of the main reasons employers are hiring this year is because of staff churn. Trade Me Jobs Employer and Job Hunter Intentions 2023 report found staff turnover was the main reason to recruit last year (54%) and it’s still the biggest motivator in 2023 (35%).

Employers should be doing all they can to retain staff they hire, employees need to be viewed as their top priority, says Trade Me Jobs Sales Director, Matt Tolich.

Career growth opportunities are top of mind for Kiwi when accepting a new role, we found. The top five reasons job hunters looked for new jobs, besides an uncompetitive salary, were a lack of promotional opportunities, poor management style, lack of new challenges and insufficient training and development.

“Employers should prioritise providing opportunities for employees to grow and advance in their careers. This should involve offering training and development programmes or mentorship opportunities, “ says Matt.

Not enough training and development can be a reason to leave the job

The importance of training and development among job hunters was also being noticed by Accordant’s Madison Recruitment.It found in its own research that training and development was the number two non-financial benefit rated as very important (70%) among respondents, a very close second to career development (71%).

At the same time, more training or career development opportunities were seen as a key reason to move jobs, especially among younger generations.

What kind of training is there demand for, and how will it be applied in businesses? Christian Brown, General Manager of Madison Recruitment says the company has seen a rise in roles with a focus on business transformation due to new technologies and increasing automation.

“As a result, any business going through these transformations is seeking critical thinking, business analysis, project management and problem-solving skill sets,” he says.

Many businesses are looking towards an agile approach to best utilise these skill sets and deliver on projects to modernise and future-proof their businesses, he adds.

“Leaning into these skill sets and thinking critically about how to apply them to business goals is a great way to ensure you’re making the most of (staff’s) newly acquired skills and setting your business up for success,” he says.

Training and development can be a benefit in lieu of a big raise

And training and development, or learning and development (L & D) as it’s also known, can be something an employer offers if they can’t afford to give a substantial wage raise, says Platinum Recruitment managing director, Daniel Harmes.

The recruiter says that training and development could be a course through a staff member’s professional body, or the Institute of Directors. Or it could be something more personal, a te reo course, or a pottery course, for instance.

Meanwhile, for higher end roles it might be a Master of Business Administration or a doctorate, a Doctor of Business Administration which could be a next step, says Daniel.

And when hiring, employers should flag the company’s robust training and development strategy if they have one. Not every employer does that, says Daniel.

Are you sure you’re providing the best training and development opportunities?

Auckland-based Skills Consulting Group provides training and development courses to New Zealand businesses and its research says the more supportive the employer is on providing training and development, the more an employee is likely to stay.

“Training and development aren’t only important for encouraging staff to stay, it also leads to more satisfied and motivated employees,” says Gwyn Thomas, director of product development and delivery at Skills Consulting.

In recent research Skills Consulting commissioned, an employer might think they’re providing good training and development but their staff don’t necessarily agree. While 79% of employers surveyed believed they were supportive of the idea, only 58% of staff thought they were in reality, the study found.

If an organisation is serious about supporting extra learning, the employee should spend a couple of hours a week on their training, says Gwyn.

Employees who are offered an individual training and development plan are likely to feel more supported, he adds. Tailored learning leads to engagement but also improved productivity, says the training and development expert. And those skills are able to be applied in the current workplace. “The labour market is tight, it’s about retaining people and doing more with less,” he says.

Employees are showing a strong desire to learn transferable or soft skills such as problem-solving, leadership, inspiring others, team management, critical thinking and communication, he explains.

“There’s always some kind of change occurring in the workplace. How do you think your way through it, how do you work with your team? Problem solving and analytical thinking are important transferable skills,” says the Skills Consulting director.

Project management is one of the most popular skills employees want to learn, adds Gwyn.

“Our world is project based – there’s always a project, where you’ve acquired another company, or you’re looking to grow margins, so you set up a team to manage that. It gives staff a bit of stretch in their jobs.”

The Agile Product Ownership course run through Skills Consulting’s company SoftEd, provides great results, notes Gwyn. It gives a clarity of vision to attendees and an ability to communicate with a wide variety of stakeholders, says the director.

“With programmes like that, attendees emerge saying, ‘It’s like a revelation’ for what they’re doing in their role. It’s easy to implement, there’s not huge amounts of theory, it’s an amazing opportunity to improve their business,” says Gwyn.

Training and development back in pole position

There’s been a big shift back to training and development for job seekers and employees, says Shannon Barlow, managing director of Frog Recruitment, whose own research has shown training and development was a key factor for job hunters in deciding whether to stay or when looking at new opportunities, she says.

“While the past couple of years were about job security and survival, in 2023, people are thinking:’My career is important, it’s time to put me first again’,’” says Shannon.

People are looking for what they can do to benefit their career, to be able to keep moving and developing, looking at different opportunities for their career path.

“I think it’s smart for employers to be able to recognise this and do the right thing by the employee,“ says Shannon. It’s very hard to find new staff, a lot of businesses are operating under-capacity so employers are asking a lot of their employees. It’s a way they can give back and reward people, she argues.

The interest in training and development used to be about the training being specific to the role only, adds the recruiter. Now she’s seeing demand also for general development leadership skills too, and a much bigger focus on wellbeing.

The employers who do training and development well, take a holistic view, says Shannon. “They say, ‘What can we do to develop our staff and make it something that’s meaningful for the individual as well as the company?’”.

Some employees like to do public speaking courses, to help them develop confidence, in meetings or engagement with companies. It can have a big effect on keeping them happy and productive.

Training and development don’t have to be cookie-cutter, stresses Shannon. At Frog Recruitment, staff training isn’t about recruitment, necessarily. People have done Toastmasters or public speaking courses, which helps them present to the team and do promotional videos, for example.

One staff member did a course on cryptocurrency, thinking it would be a good thing to know about in business, it was more about acquiring general knowledge, explains Shannon.

Meanwhile, the most popular course among job hunters is project management, as people look to future-proof themselves. “Even if they’re not directly using it, it’s about being able to organise, to communicate with different stakeholders, it’s really useful in any office-based role. We’ve seen a lot of job seekers taking it up,” says Shannon.

And among the popular softer skills courses, there’s a lot of interest in communication-based training, for example influencing through communication, and getting your point across.

It’s not about what you know, it’s about what you do with what you know

Larger employers may have their own internal training and development department. The national real estate agency, Harcourts has its own Academy for agent and staff training. The company’s National Performance Coach and the NZ Head of the Academy, Tania Greig, says the real estate firm has a number of courses, from those onboarding new agents, who need a lot of support in their first few months, to leadership ones.

At the future leaders course, experienced agents, as well as learning at workshops, also enjoy the excellent networking opportunities, says Tania. These workshops also have guest speakers who come in, including the REINZ Chief Executive, Jen Baird and public speaker, Allison Mooney who talks about personalities.

On the course, leaders will set goals and put them on a commitment list which are also sent off to managers so they can support them when back at work, says Tania.

“It’s not what you know, it’s about what you do with what you know,” says Tania.

The Academy head says agents who come to Harcourts from other real estate firms are pleasantly surprised by the amount of training and development at the company. The agency also has a big national conference annually with international speakers and awards.

The coach says she believes retention is better at Harcourts than other smaller independent real estate firms, and when agents come to the firm from other real estate agencies they’re impressed at the training at the firm

“They can’t believe what’s on offer, “ she says. Most of the training is free but sometimes agents are asked to pay as independent contractors. “It’s an investment, so people tend to be more engaged,” says Tania.

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