A Case for Employee InvestmentWritten by Madisyn Villamil
Employee investment is top-of-mind for employers as the war for talent wages on and the quiet quitting epidemic persists. According to LinkedIn’s 2023 Workplace Learning Report, 93% of organizations are concerned about employee retention.
The COVID-19 pandemic altered many workers’ perspectives on their companies’ values and what they want from their employers. Many employees left their companies to pursue more learning opportunities, flexible work policies, better benefits, and more.
Attracting and retaining skilled talent is more challenging than ever, making employee investment a critical part of business strategy. We’ll review the challenges modern-day employers face and why you should invest in your employees. Then, we’ll give you some ideas on how to start.
Struggles of the Modern-Day Employer
The Great Resignation refers to the record number of U.S. employees who quit in 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic. A staggering 47 million Americans quit their jobs due to low pay, no opportunities for career advancement, no flexibility in working hours, and more. Countries like the U.K., Australia, and France also saw a wave of employee resignations.
But the Great Resignation doesn’t seem to be a one-time occurrence. Year over year, companies have seen much higher employee turnover than usual. A recent report reveals almost half of U.S. employees plan to explore new opportunities in 2023.
The inability to retain employees reduces productivity and increases the cost of recruiting and onboarding. Morale can also take a hit when team members are in and out the door and employees become overwhelmed with taking on the extra work of a coworker who just resigned.
The cost of replacing an employee can range from 1.5 to 2x the employee’s annual salary. With today’s tight recruiting budgets and high competition for talent, most companies can’t afford to lose good employees.
“Quiet quitting” is doing the bare minimum responsibilities of one’s job and avoiding putting in extra effort, time, or enthusiasm. These employees are often disengaged and unhappy with their job but may not be able or ready to find another opportunity. Instead of resigning, they do the least work possible and continue collecting their paychecks.
A Gallup study found that 50% of the U.S. workforce is quiet quitting. Employees can become quiet quitters for various reasons, including burnout, disengagement, a lack of skills development opportunities, little to no recognition, toxic work culture, and more.
Quiet quitting is comparable to a fast-spreading virus. If some team members are doing the bare minimum, others are less likely to pick up their slack, especially if they won’t receive any recognition.
Before long, quiet quitting is part of your company culture. A company of quiet quitters will struggle to overcome new competition, economic turmoil, and significant organizational changes.
The Skills Gap
Companies also struggle to find skilled talent with the competencies and experiences needed for their roles, and it’s only getting worse. This gap between the skills employers desire and the skills employees have is referred to as the skills gap.
This mismatch is partly due to higher education’s inability to update curriculum to keep up with rapid changes in technology and the way we work. However, the remaining responsibility falls on businesses, as many struggle to effectively develop their employees’ skills.
Some industries are affected by the skills gap more than others, such as manufacturing and tech. A lack of skilled workers can harm productivity and require more employees to achieve the output companies desire. Employers must address the skills gap head-on to stay ahead of competitors.
The skill sets for jobs have changed by around 25% since 2015, and that number is expected to double by 2027. The most in-demand soft skills in 2023 are management, communication, and leadership, and hard skills in demand include data analysis, software development, and operations. Continuously hiring new employees to fill skills gaps is a costly and unsustainable strategy, which stresses the importance of developing existing employees’ skills.
The pandemic forced many organizations to operate virtually, and most have maintained their remote work policies. A Gallup survey conducted in 2022 found that 8 in 10 people worked either hybrid or remotely. Although flexible working arrangements help promote work/life balance and reduce overhead expenses, remote work has downsides.
With remote teams, there are no side conversations at the coffee bar, happy hours, or celebratory lunches. Virtual employees struggle to connect with each other, which can lead to communication issues and a dry company culture. Training and coaching can also be challenging in remote teams because it may feel impersonal, and employees can get distracted and open another browser window or reply to emails.
Why Should You Care About Employee Investment?
Now that we’ve explored the challenges companies face today, let’s talk about how employee investment will help your business prevent and overcome them.
Your People Are Your Most Valuable Asset
Though your employees aren’t on your balance sheet, they’re your most valuable asset. They’re the backbone of operations and can either make or break your company. Companies with happy, engaged employees stand a better chance of overcoming disruption and becoming strong, long-standing organizations.
Google has over 190,000 workers and is known as one of the best employers. Taking care of this many employees is no small feat, but Google has been successful in employee investment. In an annual survey conducted by Google’s HR department, 97% of employees felt positively about working for the company. 91% of their employees would recommend the company to a friend, meaning Google’s employee investment has created a positive reputation for them and ensured a pipeline of skilled candidates for new roles.
Higher Retention from Employee Investment
Investing in your employees will help you retain them. If you provide your workers with the working conditions, skills development opportunities, and compensation they desire, you minimize their reasons to search for opportunities elsewhere. One study found the top reasons employees stay with their companies are:
- Job stability
- Meaningful work
- Passion for their field of work or industry
- A strong support system
- Company growth
- Opportunities for personal career growth
- Close relationships with coworkers
- Company culture and values
Almost all of these conditions can be built by investing in your employees, and when employees stay with your company long-term, you’ll avoid the costs of constantly recruiting new employees.
Better Engagement & Performance
Happy employees are generally more engaged and perform better. A Gallup study found that companies with highly engaged employees see 17% higher productivity, 20% higher sales, and 21% higher profitability than those with low employee engagement
Humans spend a lot of time working, it’s natural for employees to want to work for an employer who cares about them. This drives their motivation to perform better and take care of clients. Workers who aren’t engaged will likely become quiet quitters, negatively affecting company performance.
“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.“
— Richard Branson, CEO and founder of Virgin Group
Investing in your employees will motivate them to care for your clients, live by your company values, and work hard. Failing to invest in your employees can place your organization at risk.
Build a Continuous Learning Culture
If your employees are motivated to perform better, they’ll be motivated to develop the skills to get there. Investing in skills development, in particular, will help you build a continuous learning culture in your organization.
A company of employees who continuously gain, share, and leverage new knowledge and skills will have a competitive advantage over stagnant companies. Continuous skills development will help your workers keep up with rapid changes and overcome disruption.
Ways to Invest in Your Employees
If you’re ready to invest in your employees and reap the benefits of a happy team, here are some ways to get started.
Benefits & Perks
Compensation and benefits are among employees’ top five factors to consider when looking for a new job. With the disappearance of employee pension plans and rising healthcare costs, offering benefits like a 401k company match and medical insurance are more important than ever. Consider increasing your 401k company match or investing in better healthcare benefits to attract and retain talent.
However, benefits aren’t all about retirement savings and healthcare. Many employees desire benefits like PTO, gym memberships, and mental health resources. Offering these benefits will show your employees you value them and want to keep them around.
Research shows that employees of companies who are technology innovators score higher on employee productivity, sense of belonging, and overall satisfaction. One way to use technology for employee investment is automation. Consider purchasing technology that automates some of your employees’ repetitive, mundane tasks so they can spend more time on strategic tasks, skills development, and passion projects.
A recent study found only 26% of employees say their employer is automating or enhancing work through technology, meaning companies miss out on a valuable opportunity to improve their employee experience. Metaverse technologies such as augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are also taking hold in the corporate world to provide better onboarding, training, and team-building experiences. Bank of America, for example, uses VR to train employees, deliver immersive team-building experiences, and give employees a space to meditate.
In a recent interview, Mike Wynn, Bank of America Academy Innovation and Design Executive said, “You can get people to feel and to communicate in various ways. It’s one of the many ways that we’re going to help make employee engagement better.” Consider investing in technologies like AI, VR, and the latest collaboration and communication tools to make work easier and more enjoyable.
If you’re not sure where to start, Edstutia focuses on company learning & development programs. Companies like Emirates turn to Edstutia to introduce immersive training and so can you.
Building camaraderie will help your employees connect with each other and foster loyalty. Start by encouraging managers to get to know their team members personally and be their advocates.
Some actions you can take to build a strong team include:
- Implement a buddy program
- Hold regular all-hands meetings where you discuss each team member’s successes and concerns
- Hold company events or lunches
- Organize activities that leverage teamwork, like scavenger hunts, escape rooms, and puzzles
- Provide volunteer opportunities for a cause or initiative that aligns with your company’s values
- Start a book club and form intramural leagues
These activities help employees to get to know each other and make connections, which will ultimately build unity and help them work better as a team.
Flexible Work Policies
Being flexible about where, when, and how your employees work can help you attract and retain the right talent. People feel valued when their employer trusts them enough to let them customize their work style to their lifestyle. Enabling employees to work remotely is a great example. Not having to commute to work will give them extra time to cook healthier meals, exercise, and balance work time with time for family and friends.
Another way to demonstrate how much you value your employees’ work/life balance is by letting them choose their schedules. Let’s say one of your employees has school pick-up at 4. You can let them begin their day at seven so they can get off earlier and make it to school pick-up. Maybe one of your employees has a recurring doctor’s appointment, and instead of taking PTO every time, they can come in early or stay late to make up the hours.
Value Mental Health
72% of employers say stress and burnout are challenging for their organization. It’s important to regularly check in with your employees and take action to prevent burnout. Some of the ways you can help employees de-stress are:
- Encourage them to use their PTO
- Offer a quiet space in the office to unplug
- Offer resources for mental health counseling
- Talk openly about burnout
- Be mindful of Zoom fatigue and limit meetings
A great example of investing in employees’ mental health is Chipotle’s Strive platform. Strive is a virtual mental wellness platform that offers mental health services like coaching and support in setting wellness goals. The company also partners with Health Advocate to offer employees and their family members visits with a licensed counselor.
Marissa Andrada, Chief Diversity, Inclusion, and People Officer at Chipotle, said, “By offering access to a personal wellness coach, individualized content, and solutions for selfcare, our goal is to foster a continual culture of well-being for all employees.” Because of programs like Strive, Chipotle has a reputation for strong company values and excellent employee benefits for education, healthcare, and well-being.
Upskilling & Reskilling for Employee Investment
Employees fear stagnancy will put them at risk of losing their job or missing opportunities for promotions, so they crave opportunities to learn. Regarding tech skills, employees are even more concerned about their skills gap. 39% of employees said they’re concerned about not getting sufficient training in digital and technology skills from their employer, and the number is even higher for younger employees.
Upskilling is one of the most important factors of employee investment, as it directly addresses these skills gaps. Investing in ongoing L&D programs will help you build skilled talent within your organization rather than continuously looking for it outside your organization. One of the top reasons millions of employees quit their jobs during the Great Resignation was “no opportunities for advancement.” Not only does upskilling help you stay competitive, but it also helps you retain employees.
“Learning is key to your resilience as a business. If you invest in curiosity, learning, and agility for your workforce, you will be able to bounce back from setbacks, adapt to change, and be more ready for whatever comes next.“
— Cat Ward, VP, Jobs for the Future
As technology continues to change, upskilling will be the key to building a skilled workforce. 89% of L&D professionals agree that proactively building employee skills will help companies navigate the evolving future of work.
Some ways you can upskill your team are:
- Mentoring programs
- Self-training sessions
- Outsourcing a specialist
- VR training modules and simulations
- Credentialing programs
Edstutia delivers a variety of VR training experiences and simulations to take your upskilling program to the next level. Thanks to its “learn-by-doing” approach, VR training is more engaging, efficient, and impactful than online and classroom-style training. Edstutia can create upskilling programs for your organization’s unique training needs, giving you a competitive edge in your L&D programs and better talent retention.
Invest in Your Managers
We’ve all heard the expression, “People don’t leave companies, they leave managers.” Today, employees consider their supervisor the most important source of information to understand their organization and its priorities—above the executive team. A recent study found 82% of employees said they would consider quitting because of a bad manager.
Managers have a lot of pressure to understand and carry out the priorities of the executive team, make sure their team members understand their roles and responsibilities, and provide support to coworkers above and below them. 43% of managers say they are burnt out, which is higher than any other job level.
To retain employees, invest in your managers by:
- Recognizing their contributions with bonuses or pay raises
- Openly discussing workload and burnout
- Creating room for them to grow in the company
- Providing skills development programs specific to managers
Employee Investment: Wrap-Up
Employee investment should be a priority for all organizations that want to attract, develop, and retain skilled talent. Workers who feel their employer invests in their happiness, well-being, and professional development will perform better and be more engaged at work. Investing in your workforce builds a loyal and skilled team that in turn gives you a competitive edge.
Edstutia helps companies develop immersive training programs in VR for better collaboration and more impactful training experiences. Learn more about our Enterprise Solutions and how Edstutia can ensure your investment in immersive technologies will lead to a more skilled and agile workforce.