Yujin Kim is responsible for software development and architecture at Justworks. He guides the technology teams and drives initiatives across the company to level-up Justworks’ products and services. Views are the author's own.
Today’s workforce grows more empowered each day. Workers are making demands for equal pay, fair treatment, and flexibility, and they’ve been ready and willing to find new employers who can meet their needs. From May to September 2021, upwards of 3.6 million people vacated their positions each month, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in what has been dubbed the "Great Resignation." Many of these individuals have found new employers who are meeting their needs, or started businesses of their own.
Another element on the periphery of this important conversation is how businesses help their employees to upskill — or don’t. In a world upended by the pandemic and faced with mass hiring challenges, employee retention is essential, and those who don’t offer a way for employees to learn and boost their skills will lose out.
According to research released in 2019 by customer experience management company Sitel Group, "more than one-third of employees (37 percent) say they would leave their current job/employer if they were not offered training to learn new skills." Research by LinkedIn confirms this: it found that 94% of employees said they would remain at a company if it was invested in helping them learn.
This factors into why some of the biggest companies in the world have invested in teaching not only their employees, but everyone, new skills. Amazon, Google, and Microsoft are among the companies offering tech training to anyone who seeks it out. In Amazon’s case, the company partnered with Kenzie Academy and Lambda School for a tuition-free program that even offers a stipend and health benefits subsidy for participating employees.
At Justworks, we recently launched an internal program, in partnership with Flatiron School’s The John Stanley Ford Fellowship, aimed at our non-engineer employees as well as Black tech professionals, so they can become members of our product engineering team. The overall goal of the program is to empower our people, promote mobility, and provide opportunities, like in the case of Melissa Wise, a member of the John Stanley Ford program who is now an associate software engineer at Justworks.
"Since I was younger, I always dreamed of being an engineer, but I didn’t know how to put that dream into action," she said. "In my new role, I know my opinion is valued and I’m doing work that inspires me every day."
Here’s why your company needs to start taking learning and upskilling seriously.
Today’s employees want to learn
Employees remain in their jobs longer when their companies are invested in helping them learn new skills. At Justworks, our program gives high-performing employees outside of engineering a clear way forward to keep learning and growing, as well as our existing engineers an opportunity to take on a new role and learn a new skill by becoming a mentor.
A few members of our team have mentioned that they would have left Justworks to attend a full-time engineering bootcamp if it weren’t for our apprenticeship program. It has created a concrete path and actionable steps for people to take to the next phase of their careers. Participation in the program is also rewarding for mentors and facilitators, and gives participants another reason to stay at our company.
An upskilling program can also serve as a beacon for recruiting talent. The study by Sitel Group found that nearly 8 in 10 people consider a formal training program an important factor when looking to change employers. Even more members of Gen Z, 88%, said it was important for their future employer to offer an upskilling program. More individuals of the youngest working generation also said they would be more likely to leave an employer if it didn’t offer a training program, compared to millennials and baby boomers.
Gen Zers are the learning generation. Three-quarters of 18- to 24-year-olds surveyed by LinkedIn said they believed learning is the key to a successful career, and they’re acting on it: Each of these young learners watched 50% more hours of educational content in 2020 than they did in 2019.
"Gen Z learners will spend time learning if it can help them perform well in their current jobs (69 percent), build the skills needed to work in a different function (47 percent), or find new roles internally (hello, internal mobility) —more than any other generation in the workforce," LinkedIn said.
Catering to this generation will become essential for businesses in the coming decade, as members of Gen Z are expected to make up almost a third of the workforce by 2030, according to research by Oxford Economics for Snap Inc.
Learning is good for business
Technology is rapidly changing the way we do business, and the World Economic Forum estimates that by 2025 a whopping 40% of workers will require reskilling, and 94% of business leaders report that they expect employees to pick up new skills on the job. Employers surveyed by the WEF said they expect to offer reskilling and upskilling to more than 70% of their employees by 2025, and almost two-thirds expect to see a return on their investment within one year.
But businesses are facing an even more pressing matter at the moment: they’re struggling to fill a variety of technology roles, which has the potential to hamper upcoming business goals. Rather than trying to find new employees to take technology positions, companies could instead focus on training existing workers to take on these roles. Within Justworks, more than 10% of our engineers graduated from the apprenticeship program, a true boon in a resource-constrained engineering market.
Ricky Rojas began working at Justworks in 2019 as an account manager on the customer success team. He took night classes through Flatiron School adding 25 hours of studying to his workload each week, and is now an associate software engineer on Justworks' engineering team.
"Engineering was not my original career path," he said. "I’ve always been an abstract thinker and technology savvy, so I put in the extra hours of work to learn more about engineering. It is rewarding to be valued on a team and trusted to develop code that will impact all our customers across the country."
Since the pandemic began, internal hires have made up a greater share of all hires, LinkedIn reports, and more than half of learning and development professionals said that internal mobility is more of a priority now than before COVID-19. Hiring from within offers vital benefits over external recruiting. The most obvious is the time and effort savings around not having to post a job, review resumes and interview candidates.
Other key advantages of internal hiring is that candidates' mission and values already align with the company’s. The internal candidate will also already be familiar with the inner workings of the business. Another factor is that upskilling existing employees and working in partnership with organizations and programs similar to Flatiron School’s John Stanley Ford Fellowship could bring more diversity to tech teams — Black and Latinx people are significantly underrepresented in the field.
On top of all these factors, hiring from within is good for strengthening company culture and improving engagement
These are some of the reasons why Justworks developed the Engineering Apprenticeship Program — we want our employees to grow and learn new skills, even if they eventually might move on from our company.
Provide your employees with opportunities to upskill, and they will stay around longer, be more satisfied with their jobs and strengthen your business.