Finding and retaining lifelong learners is a tall order, but one that may have a strong return on investment.
Data shows that most turnover is voluntary, and most hiring is done to fill existing positions, according to research published in Harvard Business Review. But learning and talent pros can take several steps to reduce turnover, thereby mitigating brain drain and hiring-related costs.
Show applicants a culture of learning
Donna Murdoch is a lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania, and a "people first" philosophy about global learning in organizations is the basis of her work.
Noting a workforce generally less engaged than in years before, Murdoch, in an email exchange with HR Dive, encouraged companies to set themselves apart by cultivating an inclusive environment for existing employees. This is vital when it comes to job seekers, too. A big part of this is dependent upon organizational culture around learning and development.
HR professionals know that prospecting, recruiting, hiring, engagement, retention and succession are all phases in the workforce management lifecycle of an organization. But too many job requisitions still include terms like "self-starter," "thrive in ambiguity," and "hit the ground running." "Buzzwords," Murdoch said, that can "effectively screen out desirable candidates."
Job seekers might draw quick conclusions from terms like these, which can convey certain messaging about low employee investment, not only in learning and development, but across the board, in compensation and benefits. Instead, employers can work to identify lifelong learners.
As applicant tracking systems rely more heavily on automation, job seekers have become savvy about keyword inclusion to trigger a prescriptive algorithmic match. But Murdoch suggested that a job seeker skilled at beating the machine doesn’t indicate a good fit for the team nor, importantly, that they’d want to learn more because, ultimately, a resume is not a person. It’s the "candidate who has proven successful in another role," she said, "[that] is most likely a great learner and will welcome the opportunity to develop in a new or adjacent space."
When asked for advice to hiring managers interested in humanizing their approach to talent or their tone in recruiting, Murdoch suggested HR pros "loosen the guardrails on applicant tracking software." These tools that algorithmically filter and select aren’t necessarily yielding desired results. Chasing that dream candidate who knows everything and is ready for anything, "someone who fits an algorithm, may be a disaster," she said.
Instead, Murdoch said, it’s worth the time of HR teams to "[be] sure to really look at job seekers, no matter how tedious."
Recognize that L&D can aid retention
Murdoch also encouraged companies to be intentional about retaining the employees they have, because the expense of "hiring, outsourcing hiring, and having people learn not only the role but the company culture and function" can be substantial.
When employees choose to stay, it speaks loudly. There’s an important connection between employee retention and on-the-job training, as reflected in this stat from the LinkedIn 2021 Workplace Learning Report: "82% of L&D pros report that engaged learners are also more likely to participate in internal mobility programs."
An organization driven by thrift can lose sight of the importance of retention, according to Murdoch; there's even more at stake when the situation involves legacy knowledge born from "continuous learning and development."
For those in workplace management, this pandemic marketplace "came too hard and fast … to pivot culture," said Murdoch, but HR pros aware of needed change can move toward organic capture of avid learners disguised as job seekers, and now is a good time to start.