Learning and development: How to leverage this talent acquisition strategy and attract motivated candidates

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Learning and development matters to workers. 

When surveyed, 94% of employees say they would stay in their roles longer if their employers invested in their careers, making learning and development a major factor in employee retention.[1]

But did you know that promoting employee learning and development is a great way to bring in new hires?

For millennials, 59% say that opportunities to learn and grow are a major motivation when they apply for jobs. And 87% consider professional or career growth and development opportunities to be important to them in a job.[2]

When you consider that millennials are poised to represent 75% of the workforce by 2025, it’s hard to deny that learning and development is a huge draw for a major pool of talent.[3]

In this guide, we explore why L&D matters – and how you can make it work as a talent acquisition strategy for your business.

What is learning and development?

Learning and development is the process of improving an employee’s skills and knowledge so they perform better at work. 

It’s the inevitable follow-up to a lot of other talent acquisition trends and strategies. Once you’ve hired new employees, they usually need to learn more skills to thrive in their role.

As a process, L&D aims to change employees’ behavior – whether individually or as a group – by teaching them the skills, ideas, or attitudes they need to deliver great work.

What are the differences between learning, development, training, and education?

These terms are often used interchangeably, but learning, development, training, and education all mean slightly different things. 

Here’s a quick guide:

Concept

What it means

Learning

An umbrella term describing the acquisition of skills, knowledge, or attitudes through teaching or training

Development

The long-term process of expanding or deepening knowledge, usually in line with personal or organizational goals

Training

The process of teaching someone skills or abilities that can be used right away in a specific role

Education

Formalized and systemic instruction, usually over a long period of time

Why is a learning and development strategy important?

Research from McKinsey identifies five areas of talent development. Each area speaks to a reason why learning and development matters to your organization. 

The five areas are:

  1. Attract and retain talent

  2. Motivate and engage employees

  3. Develop people capabilities

  4. Create a values-based culture

  5. Build an employer brand

5 key areas of talent development graphic

At its best, learning and development should be a way to motivate and engage your existing staff. As we’ve seen, employees value opportunities to learn and grow. A good learning and development strategy boosts employee engagement, productivity, and morale.

It’s also a way to develop a culture based on shared values. Learning and development ensures all employees are on the same page about your corporate identity.

That also makes it a great way to reinforce your employer branding, positioning yourself both to employees and candidates as a company that values career growth and personal development.

Naturally, learning and development also means building your people's capabilities, filling skills gaps, and ensuring your institutional knowledge stays relevant in a changing world.

But for the purposes of this guide, we’re focused on the last of the five areas: L&D is an amazing way to attract and retain talent. That’s because it’s something employees and candidates value highly.

Candidates love opportunities for learning and talent development because they offer them a way to build their professional future through learning new skills. Companies with L&D initiatives are companies where job seekers know they can move their careers forward.

Those opportunities to learn new things, in turn, boost workers’ confidence. It’s easy to feel good about your work when you know you have the tools to do it well.

To learn more about the importance of a clear, cohesive learning and development strategy, check out our in-depth guide.

The benefits of corporate learning and development 

You know why L&D matters, but what about the benefits? 

Read on to discover the practical advantages of a strong learning and talent development strategy.

The benefits of corporate learning and development graphic

1. Improves employee performance

Research from IBM shows learning and development has a direct impact on employee performance – and therefore on business performance, too.

It found that 84% of employees at the best-performing companies received regular training, compared to just 16% of employees at the worst-performing companies.[4]

When you train your staff regularly, you see better results, both on an individual and a company-wide scale. And when you neglect L&D, you risk falling behind your competitors and losing out on profit.

2. Reduces company costs

A good learning and development strategy keeps hiring costs down and saves your company money.

That’s because it helps you foster internal mobility by upskilling and promoting your existing staff. And with the starting salary of an external hire costing 18%-20% higher than that of an internal hire, it’s more affordable to promote a well-trained employee from within.

L&D also boosts employee retention (more on that shortly) and limits the high costs of employee turnover within your business.

3. Better employee satisfaction and retention

Employees highly value learning and development opportunities as part of their compensation and benefits package, especially when those opportunities play to their existing strengths.

Research from Gallup shows that an L&D strategy focused on developing employees’ strengths and maximizing their potential leads to a 23% increase in employee engagement and a 73% decrease in attrition.

Engaged employees are more likely to do better work, improving your business’s performance.

And as we’ve already covered, high retention means your company spends less on hiring and ramping up new staff.

4. Boosts trust and relationships

When workers come together to participate in L&D opportunities, they have a valuable chance to build trust and relationships.

Those relationships form the basis of a learning culture that 84% of organizations agree leads to a better company culture overall.

A good company culture is a vital factor in employee retention – while a toxic culture is known to drive resignations. It’s in your best interest to use learning and development to build the kind of work environment where employees want to stay.

8 best practices for leveraging learning and development to acquire top talent

Now that you know the advantages, it’s time to learn how to build the kind of L&D strategy that attracts the candidates you want. 

This section covers eight top tips that are sure to help you develop and refine your approach to learning and development.

Learning and development best practices at a glance

Best practice

How it helps

1. Determine your learning objectives and set measurable goals

Keeps your learning and development scheme focused, data-driven, and effective

2. Build a documented L&D strategy

Formalizes your approach to L&D and provides insight into your strategy for potential new hires

3. Harness different training methods

Accommodates a range of different learning styles, appealing to diverse candidates

4. Bring the 70/20/10 system into the future of training

Promotes a holistic approach to L&D that goes beyond formal learning interventions and encourages constant learning

5. Embrace generational diversity

Ensures staff of all ages have the opportunity to learn and grow, creating a more equitable L&D strategy

6. Use learning and development to aid succession planning

Increases organizational resilience and ensures existing employees are ready to step up to succeed when necessary

7. Consider outsourcing your L&D

Enables you to provide training that meets your organization’s needs, regardless of your company’s size or resources

8. Monitor progress with talent assessments

Lets you monitor whether your L&D initiatives are working as intended and shows you where to make adjustments

1. Determine your learning objectives and set measurable goals

Any good strategy should be guided by your long-term business goals, and your learning and development strategy is no exception.

Whether you want to use it to nurture your talent pipeline or for capability building within your current workforce, it’s important to know what you want your L&D efforts to achieve.

For individual employees, you should use professional development plans to set learning objectives and determine the training staff members need. But on a company-wide level, use a skills-gap analysis to decide your learning strategy.

Here’s how to carry out a skills-gap analysis:

  1. Define your business’s long-term goals

  2. Identify the skills you need to achieve those goals

  3. Use talent assessment tests to measure your employees’ hard and soft skills

  4. Use your test results to pinpoint the skills your organization needs to develop

During the hiring process, test candidates’ skills and determine where they fit within your company's gaps. Potential hires appreciate knowing right off the bat how your business plans to develop their skills after recruitment.

TestGorilla makes it easy to build custom skills assessments for all your employees or teams. Choose the skills you need to assess, compile them into a single assessment, and you’re ready to go.

custom skills assessments by TestGorilla

2. Build a documented L&D strategy

Once you know the approach you need to take to L&D, it’s time to make sure it’s documented clearly.

L&D may not be as exciting as other initiatives, but your company’s policies form an important part of its recruitment marketing strategy. When made accessible on your website, they give potential candidates an insight into how your company works.

More than that, they demonstrate what your company values, giving prospective candidates a sense of your company culture.

All of this means that a clear, readily available L&D strategy is a great selling point for top talent – especially given how important L&D is to candidates considering new roles.

Here’s what your learning and development strategy documentation should include:

  • The types of learning and development available to staff

  • How employees can access L&D opportunities

  • The resources your company budgets for L&D

  • How learning and development fits into your company’s long-term strategy

3. Bring the 70/20/10 system into the future of training

The 70/20/10 model is an approach to learning that divides a learner’s time into three categories:

  1. 70% of time spent learning by working

  2. 20% of time spent learning by working with others through coaching, collaboration, and giving and receiving feedback

  3. 10% of time spent learning through formal training interventions, such as workshops, classes, courses, and seminars[5]

Most conventional L&D strategies focus on the 10% of time spent on formal, planned learning. But as the model shows, that’s the smallest fraction of time spent learning at work – and companies stand to benefit by supporting less formal learning approaches, too.

Think about implementing informal learning opportunities like:

  • Coaching

  • Apprenticeships

  • Leadership shadowing schemes

  • Lunch-and-learn sessions

  • On-the-job instruction

These show potential candidates that your company takes a multifaceted, holistic approach to learning that goes beyond traditional, formal settings. That’s an attractive prospect for candidates who want to build a broad range of skills to advance their careers.

4. Harness different training methods

Not everyone learns in the same way. Researchers recognize a range of different learning styles, but most agree that there are at least four:

  • Visual: learning through images

  • Auditory: learning by hearing

  • Kinesthetic: learning through movement

  • Reading and writing: learning through reading and writing out information

To accommodate as many different learning styles as possible – and to give all your staff, including remote employees, a fair chance at benefiting from L&D opportunities in your company – it’s a good idea to include different training methods in your learning and development strategy.

Seminars and classes might engage people who learn best through reading and writing, whereas video training sessions work well for visual learners. Depending on the activities involved, workshops could be a great fit for kinesthetic learners, too.

Remember, your L&D strategy is a way to acquire top talent. Showcasing the range of learning and development trends you incorporate into your strategy helps you to engage diverse candidates with equally diverse needs.

5. Embrace generational diversity

Generational diversity is an aspect of inclusivity that’s easy to overlook. 

In a world of social media recruiting and campus recruitment – strategies that primarily target younger candidates – older generations are often forgotten.

That’s as true in learning and development as it is in recruiting. Different generations may need different teaching methods; older workers may struggle to access online learning, for example.

Showing you accommodate the diverse needs of your staff is a cornerstone of inclusive hiring. It’s worth your time to build a range of different approaches into your L&D strategy to show candidates of all ages that they’re valued at your company.

Remember, generational diversity isn’t an obstacle to overcome. It’s an asset since it empowers different generations to learn from each other.

Younger employees stand to learn from the experience of older coworkers through mentoring and coaching schemes, and can they reciprocate by helping older staff adjust to new technologies in the workplace.

6. Use learning and development to aid succession planning

Succession planning is the process of keeping talent ready to step up in case a key member of your organization leaves.

It’s a crucial element of strategic workforce planning, and failing to account for it risks leaving your company unready for sudden change or upheaval.

A good succession plan involves:

  • Having a candidate ready to assume the key role when needed

  • Knowing how a candidate’s skills and strengths fit into the role

  • Ensuring that candidate is trained to take on the role

The candidate could be internal or external depending on whether a qualified candidate is already working for your company. But either way, they need to be trained to take on the responsibilities of their future job.

That’s where your learning and development strategy comes into play. It should be the basis by which you train up the candidate you need, through methods like leadership development, shadowing, and mentorship.

This is a form of candidate nurturing and a great way to deliver a positive candidate experience and boost your chances of retaining the employee in question.

7. Consider outsourcing your L&D

Not every company is equipped to deliver a great learning and development strategy on its own.

Smaller businesses might struggle to secure the resources necessary to train their staff, whereas larger firms may find it hard to keep up with the diversity and range of their workers’ training needs.

Plus, not every subject matter expert is a great teacher. If the internal experts leading your training sessions don’t know how to run a compelling workshop or seminar, your workers don’t get the full benefit of the experience.

Outsourcing your L&D from a learning solutions provider enables you to deliver the learning and development opportunities your staff want at the level of quality they deserve. 

That’s especially true in situations where:

  • You need to roll out training under time constraints

  • Your training needs are temporary, and you don’t want to invest in long-term L&D infrastructure

  • You want to foreground interactive e-learning methods and don’t have an in-house e-learning developer

8. Monitor progress with talent assessments

How do you know if your learning and development initiatives are working?

The answer is simple: You keep tracking your employees’ progress over time.

When hiring, you monitor talent acquisition metrics across multiple new hires. It’s an important part of data driven recruiting because it enables you to identify places where you need to adjust your processes to meet your goals.

The same principle applies to any process that needs to adapt to meet your needs, including L&D.

For example, let’s say you hire a programmer who is skilled in basic coding languages but needs more experience with databases. Test their baseline skills and keep testing them every few months, comparing their results as they progress.

Asking your employees to participate in regular skills tests helps you to check for any new skills gaps, and it ensures all your staff have the resources they need to do their jobs.

It also shows you’re invested in their continuous learning and development; you don’t simply treat L&D as a one-time initiative.

It sends a great message to both current staff and potential future candidates.

4 examples of companies succeeding with learning and development as a talent acquisition strategy

Learning and development is a great talent acquisition strategy, and these companies prove it. 

Keep reading to uncover our insights into these four success stories, all of which use their L&D strategy to draw in top talent.

Learning and development success stories at a glance

Company

How it’s succeeding

Freeletics

Supporting employees promoted from within through blended learning programs and information sharing

Etsy

Offering channels for sharing continuous feedback and factoring it into 360-degree performance reviews

Marriott

Implementing a wide range of L&D initiatives for all types of employees, including hourly and contingent workers

Cisco

Tailoring training schemes to teams and their needs to ensure L&D programs are truly targeted

1. Freeletics

Freeletics, the company behind a fitness app, helps 52 million users become the best versions of themselves through exercise coaching. 

But while its users report great results, it hasn’t always been able to make its staff training sessions stick.

Its people managers were too busy to internalize what they learned during training sessions, which meant they struggled to live up to the firm’s best practices and internal policies.

When evaluating its L&D strategy, the company found its managers needed:

  • More time to learn regularly

  • More opportunities to practice what they learned

  • More chances for social interaction during 1:1 meetings with their own managers

Freeletics adapted its approach to meet these needs by implementing three new programs.

The first was a microlearning program, involving short lessons that take five minutes for time-pushed staff to complete.

The second was a people manager roundtable – an opportunity for managers to share ideas and learn from each other.

Finally, the company built a set of onboarding best practices into a comprehensive introductory training program for new people managers.

Thanks to the new approach, 100% of people managers at the company feel supported in their growth and development.[6] Newly promoted managers no longer feel out of their depth. Instead, they’re prepared to step up to meet new challenges.

2. Etsy

Etsy, an online marketplace for makers and crafters, has seen massive growth since it began life in 2005. No longer a company of four, it now boasts more than 2,700 employees.

Its L&D strategy has expanded to meet the size of the company. Employees have the opportunity to learn skills like jewelry making and tap dancing through the Etsy School program, which offers creative classes in line with the company’s mission.

But when it comes to offering practical ways for employees to improve their performance, things get trickier. The company’s positive, supportive culture means it can be hard for managers to give difficult feedback – even when workers need it to grow and develop.

The solution? Sonar, a program that enables employees and their managers to collect 360-degree feedback on individual performance.[7]

Sonar collects timely, actionable feedback that employees can access easily. In partnership with their managers, they then apply that feedback into thorough personal employee development plans, which drive their learning and development goals.

This system ensures Etsy’s pleasant and welcoming company culture is honest and helpful. It empowers staff to take ownership of their learning and growth – and to do so based on real, useful feedback.

3. Marriott

The Marriott hotel chain is recognized around the world. Its great reputation stems from the quality of its staff, who enjoy the benefits of a wide range of training programs.

All new hires are welcomed to the company through an onboarding training program, which introduces them to the firm, their specific workplace, and its local area. 

The company then claims to provide 15 minutes of training every day to each hourly employee.[8] Whether or not those numbers add up, hourly employees do have access to regular training in the basic skills needed for their role.

That’s as true for back-of-house staff as it is for customer-facing workers. Hourly employees in non-management office positions access training opportunities through the Gateways program. The training they receive is usually focused on their role.

Lastly, more than 20 training programs are available to managers at the company. They range from classes taught by certified experts to self-directed e-learning training courses.

Contingent workers are often left out of company-wide training programs elsewhere despite their valuable contributions. But all workers at the hotel chain have opportunities to learn and grow at work, regardless of how advanced they are in their careers.

It’s a comprehensive approach to L&D that sets Marriott apart.

4. Cisco

Cisco, a digital communications firm, is a huge company that runs on a vast suite of technologies. As those technologies continue to develop, its staff need regular upskilling and training to keep up.

The firm’s training information site underlines the breadth of training available to workers:

  • Training by product, including resources for Duo, Webex, and Meraki

  • Training by certification, including ways to earn CCNA and DevNet Associate certifications

  • Training by technology, including training sessions focused on cloud computing, cyberops, and the Internet of Things[9]

Employees also have the option to choose between self-paced and guided training. The former enables them to learn independently at their own pace, and the latter sessions are led by experts, usually in real time.

But the most noteworthy feature of the company’s L&D strategy is customized group training. This approach enables team leaders to work with learning specialists to develop tailored training programs based on preferred learning outcomes.

Because these training sessions are designed for specific teams, they’re as efficient and effective as possible. Teams learn exactly what they need to deliver their best work.

Plus, they’re an invaluable opportunity for team members to come together and build relationships while learning.

Attract top talent with great learning and development opportunities

Learning and development isn’t a fringe benefit – top candidates consider it vital.

If you want to stay competitive as an employer, you need to make sure your L&D initiatives are top-tier.

Not only does learning and development make your company a more attractive prospect to candidates – it puts you in a great position to retain your existing staff by keeping them engaged with your company and its mission.

By giving employees opportunities to come together and build relationships, it’s a brilliant way to foster a positive company culture, too.

If you’re ready to start setting learning goals for your company, use the tests in our test library to start conducting your first skills-gap analysis.

Or check out our guide to employee wellness, another feature of company life that candidates and employees find increasingly important.

Sources

  1. “Developing Employees and Improving Performance”. LinkedIn. Retrieved August 14 2023. https://learning.linkedin.com/resources/career-development/develop-employees

  2. Adkins, Amy; Rigoni, Brandon. (June 30, 2016). “Millennials Want Jobs to Be Development Opportunities”. Gallup. Retrieved August 14, 2023. https://www.gallup.com/workplace/236438/millennials-jobs-development-opportunities.aspx

  3. Timmes, Michael. (June 27, 2022). “Millennials And Gen Z: Now Is The Time To Reshape Businesses To Harness Their Power”. Forbes. Retrieved August 14, 2023. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2022/06/27/millennials-and-gen-z-now-is-the-time-to-reshape-businesses-to-harness-their-power/

  4. “The Value of Training”. (May 2014). IBM. Retrieved August 14, 2023. https://www.ibm.com/training/pdfs/IBMTraining-TheValueofTraining.pdf

  5. Arets, Jos; Jennings, Charles; Heijnen, Vivian. “What is the 70:20:10 model?”. 70:20:10 Institute. Retrieved August 14, 2023. https://702010institute.com/702010-model/

  6. “Creating a training routine for leaders at Freeletics”. Zavvy. Retrieved August 14, 2023. https://www.zavvy.io/case-studies/freeletics

  7. “Developing Ourselves”. Etsy. Retrieved August 14, 2023. https://www.etsy.com/progress-report/2015/developing-ourselves

  8. “HR: Marriott employee training and development program”. (June 8, 2010). Hotel Management. Retrieved August 14, 2023. https://www.hotelmanagement.net/human-resources/hr-marriott-employee-training-and-development-program

  9. “Cisco Training”. Cisco. Retrieved August 14, 2023. https://www.cisco.com/c/en/us/training-events/training-certifications/training.html 

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