Leadership & Productivity

When employees stop learning they start job hunting

6 min read

28 September 2019

Worried about your employees wandering to greener pastures? Keep them interested by making sure that learning, development and creativity are part of your retention strategy and your culture. 

Imagine being able to do your job with your eyes closed, hands behind your back. That’s how a stagnating employee feels. Once enthused and engaged, this person is now directionless and coasting. The job’s getting done, but their skills have plateaued and they’re no longer improving.

Why is this a problem?

This is problematic because as humans we are wired to strive for more. Our thirst to learn is innate. We are natural goal-setters, always looking for the next challenge.

Intrinsic motivation is believed to be based on three factors: purpose, mastery and autonomy, and the absence of one of these may create feelings of stagnation, explains business psychologist Matthew Emerson, founder of Blackmore Four.

Typically in the case that an employee is no longer learning, it’s the absence of mastery that may be the final push for an employee to search for jobs elsewhere.

What do employees want? 

Is it time to rethink the up-skilling programmes you offer?

As an employer, I’m sure you have a modest employee development scheme in place. However be warned, recent research by global skills organisation Kineo has revealed that, while employees have a strong appetite for learning, they are inhibited by a lack of accessible, appropriate and engaging training opportunities.

How hot is your training?

Only 16% of the 8,000 people surveyed found learning opportunities offered in their workplace to be very effective. The majority (79%) of employees agreed they would like to see a bigger focus on training and people development in their company.

Your workers are more attuned to what skills they’re lacking. They have a greater awareness of what knowledge gaps are holding them back, which they may not readily wish to share with you.

In fact, learning is so important to people that two thirds (66%) had taken matters into their own hands and invested their personal time in learning, education or training. Employees globally are also calling for more self-direction over their learning experience.

How ‘nurturing’ are you?

Today there is a desire in employee culture to take control and as employers, you must nurture that Employees globally are calling for more self-direction over their learning experience.

I’m completely convinced an innovation culture – and giving permission to be creative – blows the cobwebs away and counteracts stagnation.

The same study revealed 71% would prefer to choose when and where they train, while 68% think they would pick up skills faster if they had more control over the pace of workplace learning.

The theme emerging here is the learning experience ought to be dictated by the employee – not the employer. Your workers are more attuned to what skills they’re lacking. They have a greater awareness of what knowledge gaps are holding them back, which they may not readily wish to share with you.

Employee training is not one size fits all 

This also caters for different learning styles: while some will relish the change to get back into the classroom, others will opt for online courses they can fit around other commitments, while some will seek one-to-one tuition.

To keep learning at the front and centre of your culture, have your freshly trained employees share what they’ve learnt with the rest of the team, either by filming a short video and sharing on internal social media or relevant Slack channels or in a brief meeting. The idea is to inspire others to go off and learn something new.

I’m completely convinced an innovation culture – and giving permission to be creative – blows the cobwebs away and counteracts stagnation.

Utilise tech-aid 

Have an e-learning platform integrated into your digital workplace, packed with carefully selected courses that can be watched on-demand by anyone in the business is also well worth considering. The convenience of bite-sized lessons that can be viewed on a mobile phone should not be underestimated.

We find our software developers watch courses on marketing and even customer experience, which gives them a deeper understanding of what their colleagues are up to and how the business functions.

wearing a suit at work

Trust your employees to work independently

Be a bit more laissez-faire

There is another way to push workers harder to improve, be creative and problem solve – and that’s to give them permission to work on their own projects.

Every year, we host an Innovation Week, when all our teams stop client work and spend time, away from the office and often overseas, working alone or in small teams to build anything they think the business would benefit from.

No business can afford to lose its top talent. Keep ambitious employees interested by making sure learning, development and creativity is both a part of your retention strategy and your culture.