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Why L&D is the key to winning the talent war

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You might think cash is what everyone wants but investing heavily in the learning and development could be the key to unlocking the exponential potential of your talents and winning the talent war.

As part of your company’s strategic goals, it’s your job to bring the next generation of the best and brightest talent to your company. Yet, you still find attracting, and more importantly, retaining Millennials and the newly ripe Gen Zs a bit like spotting a leopard in the wild.

You have tried it all to ensure success and to give yourself a competitive edge; a more than generous compensation and benefits package; you’re so flexible you’re bending over backwards; and you’ve invested heavily in digital to make life as easy as possible for employees.

And then after two years, they leave you. “What do you want?” you want to scream to these perpetual free spirits, and in a last-ditch effort, you make a counter-offer. They eventually leave you anyway – in fact, a recent survey by staffing firm Robert Half showed staff members who accept counter-offers typically end up leaving the company in less than two years. You start an onerous and tortuous recruitment process all over again.

What does the next generation of employees want? It turns out not cash, but more training and development for career growth. In a 2016 report by Gallup, “How Millennials want to work and live”, 87% of Millennials in the study rated “professional or career growth and development opportunities” as important to them in a job. Furthermore, in terms of applying for a job, 59% of Millennials surveyed said opportunities to learn and grow were most important to them.

This sentiment was echoed by researchers Brandon Rigoni and Amy Adkins who wrote in the Harvard Business Review: “At their current stage in life, Millennials fundamentally think about their role as a stepping stone and a growth opportunity. But they also want to feel deeply committed to their role and to work for a manager who will invest in their development, which isn’t entirely different from what other generations value.

“Our research shows that having a great manager and being part of a great management culture is important to all employees. However, Millennials place a greater emphasis on opportunities to learn and grow and opportunities for advancement.”

In Hong Kong, Robert Half’s 2018 salary guide conducted a survey among 500 job seekers and found work-life balance by over a quarter of respondents to be the primary reason to change jobs (27%) this year. This was followed by career development (20%) and financial rewards (19%). Another 15% highlighted management/leadership and 8% said co-workers were the main reason why they would leave their organisation.

And in the finance industry, a key driver of the Hong Kong economy, more than half (53%) of Hong Kong CFOs say they have seen an increase in staff turnover in the past three years, according to research by Robert Half with the average turnover currently standing at 9%. And despite the fact that 98% of CFOs currently have in place measures to avoid staff turnover, almost half (44%) say turnover within their organisation is expected to increase over the next 12 months.

When looking at the measures companies take to retain their employees, a little over one in three (38%) have employee wellness programmes, while less than one in three (31%) regularly review salaries or offer training and development programmes (29%).

While it’s clear what’s driving this younger workforce, the same Gallup study indicated just how underwhelming the training and development was that staff received. In the survey, only a third of Millennials strongly agree that their most recent learning opportunity at work was “well worth” their time and less than 50% of Millennials strongly agree they have had opportunities to learn and grow in the past year.

When it comes to training and development, gone are the days of blocking out whole days for conferences, off-site training and bringing in coaches. This type of training is increasingly costly and uses a lot of resources when there is little data to support its success.

Instead, companies need to have a blended approach to learning spread out over an employee’s entire life cycle. Today’s T&D landscape is all about personalisation, constant learning and transferring T&D responsibility from employer to employee.

Even online training that has a “one-size-fits-all” approach is inadequate. Resources need to contain a range of options from games to articles and videos. Companies are recognising that employees are individuals, and as such, T&D is increasingly becoming personalised to cater to varying levels of progress, career development and lifestyles.

The future of corporate training will incorporate short bite-sized coaching programmes and resources to allow employees to access them anywhere, anytime as they gain problem-solving skills on the spot. This will allow not only employees but businesses to constantly develop, and for workers to feel engaged and energised about their work.

“A learning organisation is an organisation skilled at creating, acquiring and transferring knowledge, and at modifying its behaviour to reflect new knowledge and insights,” said Jacqueline Cheung, senior vice-president of human resources at Li & Fung, in her keynote address at Training and Development Asia 2018 in Hong Kong.

However, L&D technology is fast moving beyond just e-learning and mobility. The next generation of training uses virtual reality (VR), augmented and mixed reality (AR/MR), artificial intelligence (AI), data and real-time analytics, simulations and gamification to completely change the employee experience when it comes to training.

At the forefront of these technologies, the Hong Kong Police College invests heavily in the training of its new recruits. This includes everything from high-speed car chase simulations to a first-person role-playing system for press conference training and 360-degree VR immersive experiences in dealing with major incidents.

“I think AI would be good to do training needs analysis because you can capture a large amount of data where we can do pre-learning, learning and post-learning, different types of data for analysis so as to get the best out of a person’s profile,” said Edwina Lau, director of the police college of the Hong Kong Police Force, in an exclusive interview with Human Resources.

“So that we know the exact training needs, the training gaps and to put together the best possible training course. We can also use AI to couple with other technologies such as facial recognition, speech recognition and chatbots so as to create a simultaneous, simulated, automated response.”

T&D goes beyond employee engagement and the motivation of Millennials in this age of AI and robotics. Agility is now a must-have quality in a candidate as jobs, industries and skills are evolving at an unprecedented pace.

Seventy nine per cent of jobs in Hong Kong will be transformed in the next three years, 60% of which will be redeployed to higher value roles, or reskilled to meet the needs of the digital age, according to a 2018 study released by Microsoft in partnership with IDC Asia/Pacific. The study also found that 23% of new jobs are expected to be created by digital transformation, which is close to the same number to be automated, which stands at about 19%.

“Despite the impact on jobs being mitigated, organisations should still work on partnering with governments and educational institutions to provide feedback, training and reskilling programmes so the workforce is equipped with future-ready skill sets,” said Cally Chan, general manager of Microsoft Hong Kong, upon the release of the report.

Employees are anxious about their jobs and their future, while Millennials are completely upending traditional models of attraction and retention. It’s a generation that works at hyper-speed and is accustomed to instant gratification. This applies also to the workplace. You may think cash is what everyone wants, but investing heavily in learning and development could be the key to unlocking the exponential potential of your talent and winning the talent war.

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