Talent Management

A Learning Path to Retention

Organizations are struggling to keep (and engage) a multigenerational workforce. Based on its research, LinkedIn is working to create a sense of belonging among employees and rethinking its approach to conversations, training and feedback.

Companies simply cannot grow without recruiting and retaining millennials — the generation that, according to research from LinkedIn, will comprise 50 percent of the employable workforce by 2020. But with millennials changing jobs far more often than older employees, even the most innovative companies are struggling to find ways to retain these young workers.

More data suggest the average 32-year-old has changed jobs up to four times. Further, as diversity efforts continue to promote inclusion and a culture of belonging, companies must examine a variety of ways to retain top talent. While this challenge may seem complicated, successful retention efforts themselves can — and should — actually be simple.

Retention strategies need to occur every day but should only add a few minutes to the work schedule. It’s often a simple matter of changing the conversation. Ideally, such strategies can take up just 10 minutes a day. For some employees, it may be as simple as offering more thoughtful compliments on a job well done or expressing deeper interest in their aspirations.

Successful retention strategies focus on humanization, recognition and an understanding of aspirations — followed by the opportunity to develop the skills to realize these aspirations and the feedback to keep employees motivated. A new LinkedIn survey shows that more than 18 percent of working professionals stay in their current job because of opportunities to learn and grow.

Employees want to get better at their jobs, but they also stay longer when they feel like they belong. Learning paths to retention begin with a culture of belonging. At LinkedIn, we’re working to create a sense of belonging by paying greater attention to employee feelings, addressing sensitive issues, using storytelling as a learning strategy and tracking employees’ progress.

When employees feel they belong, they are more engaged and more productive. Unfortunately, however, many employees don’t feel like they fit in. The issue is even more pronounced among minority employees, who, according to LinkedIn research, spend 25 to 30 percent of their time worrying about whether they belong. Pat Wadors, LinkedIn’s chief human resources officer, says: Only when people feel psychologically safe can they unleash their best selves. When employees are part of a team that values their opinion, they speak up and contribute more. Alternatively, when they don’t feel like they belong, they lose productivity because they waste time worrying about it.

Like many companies, LinkedIn has long known it needs to ensure it is retaining its top tech talent, but it hasn’t always known exactly how best to accomplish this goal. Starting in 2015, the company re-engineered its approach to conversations, training, and recognition and feedback with employees to reduce attrition and increase loyalty and engagement. These steps include manager buy-in, personalized pathways and action plans, and research-based training, as well as a deep dive into talent analytics. LinkedIn’s 2018 “Workplace Learning Report” also suggests that manager involvement is a critical ingredient to increase employee engagement with learning.

By proactively having career conversations with employees, LinkedIn managers were able get ahead of a person’s decision to leave. By the end of 2015, the engineers who were part of this new concentrated effort had an attrition rate of 8 percent — a rate that was significantly lower than the rest of the engineering organization.

 Tanya Staples in vice president of learning content at LinkedIn Learning Solutions. She can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.

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