Benefits of Employee Learning & Development

It’s no secret that employee engagement and retention are serious concerns for employers. Gallup research has shown that 50.8% of US workers are not engaged at work and 17.2% are actively disengaged. The median tenure for American workers is 4.2 years, but at many Silicon Valley tech companies, it’s significantly shorter than that.

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According to Culture Amp, exit data shows that L&D is a key driver of retention. People who leave an organization are 38% more likely to feel there was not a career opportunity for them at the company. People who stayed were 24% more likely to say they had access to the learning and development opportunities that they needed.

[bctt tweet=”Learning and development is a key driver of employee retention. ” username=”@jenjuo”]

Udemy research also shows that learning and development (L&D) has a significant impact on employee motivation: 54% of employees we surveyed said having more time to learn at work would motivate them, and 46% said that personalized learning paths would influence their motivation.

There appears to be a strong connection between L&D and engagement and retention, but why does it exist, and what does that mean for your company? Here are three ways L&D drives employee engagement and retention.

1. L&D appeals to millennials

More than one in three American workers (the largest percentage of the US workforce) are millennials, according to Pew research. And in a few years, millennials will be the overwhelming majority of the workforce.

For this significant segment of the working population, L&D is a major draw, both to attract and retain talent. 87% of millennials rate “professional or career growth and development opportunities” as important to them in a job. Gallup has found that “opportunities to learn and grow” are one of the top three factors in retaining millennials. And for the record, 69% of non-millennials feel the same, so the desire to learn and grow isn’t just limited to the millennial portion of the workforce.

Some employers, like full lifecycle software development company ITX corporation, even make L&D a strategic part of their recruiting process. ITX shares courses with potential new hire candidates to demonstrate its commitment to learning and build relationships with key talent.

By highlighting your commitment to L&D, you can tap into the motivation of your millennial employees (and likely many others as well).

2. L&D and growth go hand in hand

HR thought leader Josh Bersin considers “growth opportunity” (including training and support on the job and self-directed, dynamic learning) to be one of the five factors of a “simply irresistible organization.” And in the modern workplace, the old paradigm of the career ladder is being replaced with the concept of a career constellation: “The career constellation represents a new paradigm that considers the lifelong compilation of experiences, capabilities, and skills instead of the old straight-line progression of job or role,” write Terry Patterson, Ina Gantcheva, and Erin Clark on the HR Times blog.

Shelley Osborne, Head of L&D at Udemy, echoes this sentiment, explaining that people are now switching departments, industries, and professions for a range of personal and professional reasons. This is why Shelley argues it’s essential to encourage horizontal movement and internal transfers into new roles. See Forget Career Ladders: 4 Steps to Career Development to learn more.

With the fluidity of skills coming and going, we are moving toward a “role-less” future of work. Career paths will be defined by constant reskilling and movement into new kinds of roles—so instead of job-hopping to new companies, employees will be constantly “role-hopping” within their company.

[bctt tweet=”We are moving toward a “role-less” future of work.” username=”@jenjuo”]

How do L&D programs support this type of growth? At Udemy, our research has shown a connection between growth opportunities, learning on the job, and employee engagement. 45% of employees wanted an exciting challenge, project, or new role to tackle, and as a result, wanted to learn new skills. These types of employees have positive and optimistic feelings about learning, viewing it as a tool they can use to grow and get better. We also find that employees who are looking to advance in their careers or get a promotion are often “learning to grow.” To find out more about this research, check out our post “How to Craft L&D Programs that Motivate Employees to Learn.”

3. L&D helps prepare employees—and employers—for the future

The rapid pace of technology change is sparking debate on L&D’s role in the reskilling revolution and the increased importance of constantly reskilling your workforce. A recent World Economic Forum report Towards a Reskilling Revolution: A Future of Jobs for All predicts 1.4 million US jobs will be disrupted by technology between now and 2025. Moreover by 2020, 35% of the skills people need will have changed. According to another World Economic Forum report, one in four adults reported a mismatch in their current skill-base and the actual skills they need to do their job. This rapid pace of change is placing a higher importance on continuous learning throughout a person’s career.

[bctt tweet=”By 2020, 35% of the skills people need will have changed.” username=”@jenjuo”]

Due to these changes in the workforce, it’s not surprising that in a recent Udemy study, 31% of employees said they’re learning to fill missing skills. These employees may feel pressure, but they’re still excited to learn since they view learning as a tool to help them complete projects and perform in their roles.

There are several ways companies can use L&D to prepare for the future of work, including driving the conversation on necessary skills, redeploying employees to new roles, and retraining employees quickly for new roles.

When cybersecurity firm Malwarebytes automated its quality assurance testing last year, the company invested in upskilling employees instead of laying them off. Malwarebytes identified the skills its quality assurance testers needed to stay competitive in the rapidly evolving cybersecurity industry. Using Udemy for Business, the firm upskilled its testers to learn coding languages like Python and PowerShell, so they can now help identify errors in the codebase and contribute to a solution to fix it. By relying on online Python courses on Udemy for Business, Malwarebytes also reaped significant cost and time savings in transitioning its workforce.

L&D is the key to driving engagement and retention

By dedicating time and resources to L&D, you’ll be appealing to millennials (and most other employees), fostering growth, and preparing your employees for the future. Take these steps and you should see the rewards in terms of higher engagement and increased retention.

Are you prepared for the future of L&D? Download a copy of Navigating the Reskilling Revolution: Top 10 Tech and Soft Skills in 2018 to stay ahead of the curve!

Udemy for Business is a learning platform that helps companies stay competitive in today’s rapidly changing workplace by offering fresh, relevant on-demand learning content, curated from the Udemy marketplace. Our mission is to help employees do whatever comes next–whether that’s the next project to do, skill to learn, or role to master. We’d love to partner with you on your employee development needs. Get in touch with us at

Jennifer Juo is Senior Content Marketing Manager at Udemy for Business where she conducts research and shares the latest learning & development (L&D) insights in the workplace.