The landscape of work has become distressing and unsettling for many. High-profile layoffs, quiet quitting and economic challenges, put a lot at stake for both employees and employers. And new research finds significant numbers of people don’t feel prepared for the future of work.
But there is good news: People feel motivated to learn and improve. The big thing that will keep them engaged and doing their best work may surprise you: development opportunities. And organizations can take some specific actions to ensure they’re able to deliver what employees want and what will benefit the business as well.
Fully 70% of people don’t feel prepared for the future of work, according to a study of 3,000 people conducted by Amazon and Workplace Intelligence. In addition, research by Adobe involving almost 10,000 people across eight global markets found 80% of people are concerned by at least one global issue, upsetting them enough to impact negatively on their productivity and job satisfaction.
In the Adobe study, concerns tend to cluster along generational lines. Younger workers tend to be more affected than older workers, with 93% of Gen Zs, 87% of Millennials, 79% of Gen X and 71% of Boomers reporting negative impacts. And 44% of employees across age groups feel more anxious and more discouraged than ever before.
Skills and education care top of mind. According to the Amazon/Workplace Intelligence study, almost 80% of employees are concerned they lack the skills and 70% of employees are concerned they lack the education to advance their careers, and 58% believe their skills have gone stale since the pandemic.
This has big impacts, as 56% of people believe these deficits will impact negatively on their ability to advance their career, and 57% believe they’ll struggle to transition to another job or industry.
The implications for employers are significant as well, with 64%-66% of people saying they are likely to leave their employer because there aren’t enough opportunities for skills development or career advancement. Gen Z and Millennials are the most likely to move on, with 74% saying they’ll leave their current employer because they aren’t getting the development they want.
On the positive side of the coin, a study of 1,357 employees and HR leaders by TalentLMS and SHRM found 76% of people said they would be more likely to stay with a company that offers continuous training. And for job seekers, nearly 87% said a strong development program would be critical and 88% said an abundance of career opportunities would be the priority, according to the Amazon/Workplace Intelligence study.
The generational lens is interesting to place on this issue as well—and a survey from Oyster found Gen Z rated the opportunity for career development as the most important attribute of work. Research by LiveCareer found growth was the second-most important element with 46% of Millennials and 42% of Gen X giving it priority.
The bottom line: Development and growth are important for all generations, but especially for those who are earlier in their careers.
Of course, it’s a big investment for organizations to provide comprehensive and meaningful training for employees, but there’s also a lot of agreement about its benefits. In the TalentLMS/SHRM study, strong majorities of HR leaders believed training results in key benefits:
Employees too see the benefits of training for themselves. According to the Amazon/Workplace Intelligence survey, 59% believe skill development will help them achieve higher pay, 48% believe it will lead to better work-life balance and 41% see a payoff in their sense of purpose.
Also, 80% believe training will make them more productive and 75% feel it will help them be more satisfied with their job, according to the TalentLMS/SHRM study. And perhaps best of all, reserach over the years has demonstrated learning is significantly correlated with happiness and joy.
For those who have aspirations to lead others, the Amazon/Workplace Intelligence survey found 47% believe their own development can help them create better work experiences and inspire others.
There are some specific ways organizations can shape the path forward for learning and development based on the data.
Perhaps the most obvious next step is to take action. Employees won’t be looking for perfection in training programs, but they will need to see effort toward learning, development and career advancement programs. In fact, according to the Amazon/Workplace Intelligence study, 88% of employees say they’re motivated to improve their skills and 83% of people say it’s among their top priorities—so the time is right for employers to demonstrate commitment to learning and development.
Many organizations have some training in place—even if it’s simply new employee orientation or compliance training. Smart companies will build on what they have and increase the amount and types of training they offer.
According to the Amazon/Workplace Intelligence study, 78% of employees say their organization’s programs have helped them. Most companies are offering a mix of programs:
No training program is perfect, and according to the TalentLMS/SHRM study, people would like training to be more relevant (50% of people), more up to date (40%) and broken into shorter segments (28%). These are valuable areas to begin with taking action and improving offerings.
A pitfall of training is for organizations to overemphasize their own priorities, and fail to provide people with enough of what they want for their own personal and professional growth. Multiple points of research have found choice and control are associated with greater levels of engagement and job satisfaction—and the area of learning and development is a perfect place to give people plenty of autonomy about what they learn. The TalentLMS/SHRM study found 37% of people wanted more control over the training they receive.
According to the TalentLMS/SHRM study, these are the kinds of training people want to receive:
These percentages can give you a sense of what people want, but of course the best approach will be to offer a variety of programs and then give people options to choose what’s most important for them, their team and the ways they can contribute to the organization.
Another of the mistakes companies can make in learning and development programs is to put too much emphasis on getting large numbers of people through training, rather than on creating great training experiences. Online learning is booming, and it has an important role to play, scaling training efforts and offering high levels of convenience for employees and organizations—but it can lack effectiveness and engagement.
Learning is often more impactful and memorable when it’s linked with the opportunity for people to connect and develop within a community—making friends, building relationships and hearing differing perspectives. In fact, the TalentLMS/SHRM study found 27% of people want training to be more social—consistent with the benefits of learning which is a shared experience.
Learning and development are pathways to engaging and motivating people and driving positive organizational outcomes. It’s an investment, but it’s worth the effort, for sure.