The nature of work continues to evolve, and so do the needs and wants of employees. Now, in many ways, employees have the upper hand as companies experience labor shortages and competition for top talent. Employers seeking to recruit and engage employees during these labor market shifts need to offer top-quality learning and development programs to entice potential candidates and engage their employees who are looking to develop their skills, advance in their jobs, and grow in their careers.
To learn more about the current industry sentiment, Amazon commissioned research firm Workplace Intelligence to conduct a blind survey of 3,000 U.S. employees from a variety of industries and companies. The study revealed that most employees are concerned they lack the skills (78%) and education (71%) required to advance their career, and the pandemic is at least partly to blame. In fact, 58% of employees are afraid that their skills have gone stale since the onset of the pandemic, and 70% feel unprepared for the future of work.
Moving into 2023, however, employees surveyed are laser-focused on remedying this situation: 89% said they’re “extremely” or “somewhat” motivated to improve their skills this year, with 76% noting that the pandemic increased their motivation. And with 83% of employees reporting that improving their skills is one of their top priorities, it’s no surprise that 88% are already putting a significant amount of time and effort toward this endeavor.
What’s driving the motivation
For employees, developing their skills and climbing the career ladder is about much more than getting a salary boost or enjoying greater status and recognition. In addition to higher pay (cited by 59% of employees), people hope that advancing their career will lead to better work-life balance (48%) and a sense of purpose (41%). Among employees with leadership ambitions, 47% are drawn to the idea that they could create a better work experience for the next generation and inspire others to follow their dreams.
And while 78% of employees say that their company’s learning & development programs have “significantly” or “somewhat” benefited them over the past 2 years, many people don’t have access to the programs they want the most. For example, just over half of employees say their employer offers free or partially covered college tuition (51%), training programs in other areas of the business (55%), and networking opportunities (55%). However, more than 8 out of 10 employees say it’s important for their employer to offer these benefits.
The survey also showed that well over half of professionals surveyed feel it will be difficult to advance their career (56%) or transition into another type of job or a different industry (57%). Of those surveyed, around 2 out of 3 employees said it’s “extremely” or “somewhat” likely they’ll leave their employer within the next year because there aren’t enough opportunities for skills development (64%) or career advancement (66%), or because there’s no way for them to transition to a different job or a new career path (65%). Notably, Gen Z and Millennial employees were more likely to say they’ll jump ship: 74% are ready to move on due to subpar skills-building support or a lack of career mobility options.
The Workplace survey findings should present a strong impetus to other companies to ramp up their learning & development programs – and quickly. Those who don’t, risk losing their top talent, including younger team members driving the future of work, at a time when few can afford to do so. And it’s not just retention that’s at stake. Nearly 9 out of 10 employees said that if there were looking for a new job, it would be important for their potential employer to offer a strong skills development program (87%), an abundance of career advancement opportunities (88%), and ways for them to progress toward a different job or career track (87%).