How To Leverage Learning & Development To Retain Employees

Learning and development are seen as important employee benefits more than ever before, with Forbes stating that “76% of employees are more likely to stay with a company that offers continuous training.”. Younger generations place a high value on education and continuous learning and want companies to invest in them and their long-term success. Having a robust learning and development plan is critical to attracting and retaining employees in today’s competitive market.

How To Leverage Learning & Development To Retain Employees

What Is Learning and Development?

Learning and development, or L&D, is the umbrella term that refers to on-the-job learning. L&D includes formal and informal learning and continues throughout an employee’s career.

Formal learning includes professional training classes or videos, traditional classroom courses, or enrollment in a certificate or degree program. Companies strongly committed to L&D have resources set aside to fund formal training.

Informal learning is when co-workers observe and practice skills, including mentoring and cross-discipline training. Acknowledging and supporting informal learning reinforces its value to employees. Mature organizations may even put formal support around informal learning, such as a coordinated company-wide mentoring program.

Why Is Learning and Development so Important?

According to SHRM, L&D is especially important to Generation Z workers. Forbes says, “76% of employees are more likely to stay with a company that offers continuous training.” 

However, in today’s workforce, there’s no expectation that employees will stay in the same job their entire career, so it’s important to pair L&D with strong retention efforts to keep growing expertise in a company.

Employees realize that continuous learning isn’t only important for their current job but also to prepare them for potential future jobs in other areas. As people grow and learn more about what’s possible in the job market, they often want to pivot their careers to align with changing interests.

Companies should make every effort to aid employees in those career transitions to land them in a new role within the company in their new area of interest. This way, employees can change and grow their careers, and companies won’t lose valuable knowledge and dedicated workers. As they advance and move through the company, these employees often make great mentors for others looking to make similar career changes.

In addition to changing jobs, today’s workers are also comfortable with technology and understand that it’s a constantly evolving landscape. New software and hardware versions are released regularly, and from time to time, disruptive events like the release of ChatGPT occur that quickly change how jobs that leverage technology are performed. 

Employees know that they must stay on top of these changes to stay relevant. They value a company that gives them the resources to maintain their knowledge of the latest technology trends.

While it may seem obvious, it’s worth noting that training improves the bottom line. Kaltura shares that “companies have reported anywhere between a 14-29% increase in profit” when they use L&D to upskill their employees. 

On the flip side, not training employees puts a company at risk, particularly in compliance, privacy, safety, and ethics. Training in these areas ensures everyone has a shared understanding of what’s required and minimizes the risk of lawsuits due to gaps in employee knowledge.

Can Learning and Development Increase Engagement?

L&D puts employees on a path to greater knowledge and expertise, leading to more job responsibility and often higher pay. All of these create a greater sense of confidence and job security that fosters job satisfaction and engagement. Informal learning through peers and mentors also helps employees build their networks. 

Learning from others is an opportunity to showcase skills and potential or for higher-level leaders to identify skills an employee might not realize they have, which can then be refined through more formal training.

L&D also creates better engagement with customers through improved customer service. While there’s often self-service customer help online, some people want to talk to a human expert to discuss their problems. Companies that train and empower employees to handle customer conversations effectively have seen up to a 16% increase in customer satisfaction.

Learning and Development Strategies

There are many ways to support L&D. The best way to start is by evaluating a company’s existing training and skills to identify what’s working well and where there are gaps, then consider how to improve. Here are some areas to consider, compiled from the author’s work experience, SHRM, and Indeed.

Internships and Co-op Programs

Internships and co-op programs enable college students to spend a summer, semester, or year working at a company. Students get to use the skills learned in the classroom on real-world projects and work alongside industry experts in their field. Some even get to count the work experience toward their graduation credits.

Employers get an early look at up-and-coming talent and build up a dynamic pipeline of future hires. And they already know how that talent performs and contributes to their company culture. Pairing new interns with new-in-career employees is also a great way to introduce junior employees to mentoring.


An apprenticeship is similar to an internship or co-op but with more of a focus on learning on the job versus expecting students to come in with a foundational education in the applicable field. 

Apprenticeships are useful for industries with talent deficits and that are struggling to meet their hiring numbers. With on-the-job-focused learning, employers expand their candidate pool to include individuals with different educational and work backgrounds.

For example, apprenticeship programs can be used to transition retail or customer support employees over to product teams that typically require more technical backgrounds. They can also aid post-military applicants in transitioning from military to civilian work. 

Apprenticeships typically focus more formally on job training up front, then transition to job placement once the required basic skills are mastered.

Rotational Programs

Another option for early-in-career or cross-discipline transfers is rotational programs. A rotational program allows an employee to perform the same job function for a set period in several parts of a company.

For example, a finance rotational program might take new hires and have them work for six months in the finance departments of three different divisions. At the end of the final rotation, the employee submits their preference for the division where they’d like to work long-term.

This type of program allows new employees to learn about different parts of the company and choose which group they feel aligns best with their interests and work styles. Similarly, it allows managers to get to know multiple strong candidates and help them decide where they’d perform best in the company.

Onboarding Buddies

No matter what type of job an employee is starting, having an onboarding buddy is the fastest way to get them up to speed on all the nuances and institutional knowledge of their new team. 

An onboarding buddy is a co-worker from the same team who has been on the team for at least one to two years, so they know how the team works and understand any unwritten rules and expectations. But ideally, they haven’t been on the team for more than five years, so they still remember what it’s like to be new and can focus on what’s important without overwhelming a new hire.


A mentor is usually a more senior employee from outside the mentee’s immediate team. It may even be someone from a different part of the company that does a similar job. 

This organizational distance between mentee and mentor enables the mentor to offer an outsider’s perspective. Because they’re not as familiar with the daily workload of their mentee, mentors don’t have preconceived notions about how a project should progress and can offer less biased feedback and suggestions.

Anyone at any level benefits from having a mentor, but they’re especially important for new-in-role employees and employees wanting to advance their careers.

When someone starts a new role, it’s helpful to have an experienced person advise on adjusting to the new job demands. Admitting they don’t know how to do something to their managers might be too daunting, so having a mentor outside the reporting chain facilitates more open conversations.

For employees who want to advance their careers—either vertically or horizontally—consulting with someone who has made similar changes in their careers can yield valuable insights, both about what steps to take and what opportunities are available in other parts of the company. 

Finally, minority employees face unique challenges only understood by people like them. Pairing employees of shared backgrounds together enables deeper conversations around important (but often challenging or private) topics.

Career Plans and Counselors

Having well-defined career paths allows employees to plan their careers and set a clear path toward their goals. Managers must be given the materials and training to understand the potential career paths for their employees so they can have meaningful conversations that accurately reflect how a person can achieve their aspirations.

For students, school counselors fill in for managers regarding career conversations. There are also industry career counselors available to professionals. While it’s not common for a company to have career counselors on payroll, employees can still benefit from meeting with a career counselor familiar with their industry. 

Career counselors identify skill gaps and ways to fill them in and work with customers to create a career plan growth plan. They also offer an independent assessment of realistic goals and the approximate timeline for achieving them.

Cross-Organization Initiatives

For companies that want to foster more cross-company cooperation and enable career transitions to retain employees, a thoughtful approach to cross-organization initiatives accomplishes both. 

Bringing different parts of the company together on projects allows employees to learn how different groups approach and solve problems and get a sense of how other parts of the business are run. They may find that another team’s culture or processes line up better with their working style or skills. 

Mentoring, internships, apprenticeships, and rotational programs are all L&D strategies that benefit from cross-organization components. For new employees, exposing them to different parts of the company early and letting that inform where they start their full-time careers is an empowering exercise. 

Similarly, facilitating cross-organizational mentoring allows employees to expand their knowledge of the long-term career possibilities a company has to offer.

Professional Organizations

Many professions have associations that support networking, mentoring, and continued learning outside of work for the good of the profession. These associations are great ways for employees to make connections across the industry and learn at the same time. Company-sponsored membership to applicable professional associations is an attractive L&D benefit.


For those employees looking to grow particular skills, workshops are a great way to build on their existing knowledge quickly. Professional workshops are typically only a few days to a week in length. They are tailored to working individuals and sometimes even to their specific company. These workshops include an intense focus on training and practicing skills that will be immediately valuable at work.

Professional Development Programs

For areas of expertise that require ongoing learning, companies should consider sponsoring or bringing in professional development programs. Some careers, such as attorney or doctor, require regular educational updates to maintain a license. 

Other careers, such as those in tech, have advancement paths in specialized areas that require certifications. This type of formal training is invaluable for keeping employees up-to-date on industry best practices and compliant with professional regulations.

Formal Education

In some cases, employees will discover gaps in their education after they begin working. Or they might want to pursue a role significantly different from the one they received their original education in. 

For these situations, returning to school to obtain a post-graduate or secondary degree might be the best way to ensure the employee gets the foundational education they need to succeed long term. Tuition reimbursement programs are a key differentiator demonstrating a company’s willingness to invest in their employees’ learning and development.

Industry Events

Finally, industry events are a fun way to learn about new skills while hearing best practices from industry experts in other companies. Learning what other companies are doing and bringing those findings back to their team gives employees new perspectives and gives them the responsibility of sharing their findings with their team.

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