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Business Services, Survey

Workforce Retraining and Employee Job Development in 2019

July 09, 2019

More than three-quarters of companies (77%) offer at least some of their employees skill development opportunities, but 93% of employees say it is important for their company to help them build skills for their job. Businesses large and small must embrace employee job development and retraining to recruit and retain a talented, capable workforce.

For the past year, the American labor market has had 1.63 million more open jobs than unemployed workers.

Given the tight labor market, companies must be willing to improve the skills of their existing employees and retrain them for new jobs.

Clutch surveyed 510 full-time employees to learn about their experiences with and expectations about job development and workforce retraining.

We found that employees expect companies to help them build the skills they need to do their job and value opportunities to be retrained for new roles. Companies must accept these expectations and consider job development as a way to attract and retain employees.

Businesses can use this report to evaluate and improve their retraining and job development offerings.

Our Findings

  • More than three-quarters of companies (77%) offer at least some of their employees skill development opportunities, indicating that companies understand the importance of employee job development.
  • Nearly all employees (93%) say it is somewhat or very important that the company they work for help them build the skills needed to complete their jobs successfully, suggesting that employees may leave companies that fail to offer suitable job development opportunities.
  • Employees expect their companies to help them build the skills they will need to find another job or transition to another role: Nearly three-quarters of employees (73%) think it is very or somewhat important employers provide these opportunities.
  • The job development and retraining opportunities that companies offer to employees the most are resources such as books, videos, online courses (47%) and classes and workshops to learn new skills (46%). Still, 20% of employees are not offered any job development/retraining programs, indicating that businesses do not meet employee job development expectations.
  • Employees are most likely to wish their company offered tuition assistance for classes outside the company (19%) and intracompany classes and workshops to learn new skills (19%). While companies should consider employee preferences, they must also ensure that their skill development offerings yield sufficient returns.
  • Half of employees (50%) have not been offered any form of job retraining in the past year, which experts attribute to companies’ outdated views about job tenure.
  • Employees value retraining opportunities. Among people whose companies don’t offer retraining, 7 in 10 (70%) say they would be likely to participate if afforded the opportunity.
  • Most employees provided job retraining opportunities (70%) are satisfied or very satisfied with their employers’ offerings. Experts say that job retraining opportunities can help improve both employee performance and morale.

Most Companies Offer Job Development, But Not All Employees Are Given the Same Opportunities

A substantial number of businesses (23%) offer job development opportunities only to select employees and risk failing to develop their workforce fully.

23% of companies offer job development opportunities to only a few employees or none at all

More than three-quarters of companies (77%) offer job development opportunities to some, most, or all of their employees.Experts say that businesses should offer job development opportunities to their entire staff, regardless of rank.

“Companies should offer retraining to everyone,” said Ira Wolfe, president of Success Performance Solutions, an employee recruitment consultancy. “There’s not a position out there that doesn’t need improvement.”

Wolfe believes companies that offer job development only to senior level staff or those being groomed for managerial positions may fail to develop the talents of their employees fully and risk breeding resentment in their workplace.

Employees rely on job development offerings to improve their skills and determine if the company they work for is invested in their work. To commit to worker improvement and satisfaction, companies should offer job development opportunities to all employees.

Employees Expect Companies to Offer Skill Development

Employees value and expect their companies to provide opportunities to grow and improve at their jobs, and will leave jobs when they feel they aren’t acquiring new skills.

Nearly all employees (93%) say it is somewhat or very important that the company they work for help them build the skills needed to complete their jobs successfully.

93% of employees say it's important for their company to help them build skills needed to complete their job successfully.

Business owners believe that the reason employees value job development opportunities is simple – they want to grow professionally.

Sean Pour is the co-founder and marketing manager of SellMax, a nationwide cash-for-used cars selling service. In his experience, giving employees the opportunity to improve is an important part of any human resources strategy.

“Most employees don’t want to be complacent,” Pour said. “They want to keep growing. People feel bad when they feel like their skills aren’t advancing.”

Pour said that the torrid pace of the current economy magnifies the importance of offering employees the opportunity to grow. With so many open positions, Pour believes workers have leverage: They can and will leave jobs when they feel they’re not learning, and companies will be forced to spend money and resources to train their replacements.

"Most employees don’t want to be complacent. People feel bad when they feel like their skills aren’t advancing."

To meet employee expectations and retain talent, companies must help their employees build the skills necessary to do their jobs well.

Employees Think Companies Should Help Them Develop Skills for Other Jobs

Employees think it is important for their companies to help them build the skills needed to find another job or transition to another role and expect open access to resources that they can use for professional development.

Nearly three-quarters of employees (73%) say it is somewhat or very important for their companies to provide opportunities to build skills for different jobs and roles.

73% of employees think it's important for employers to help them build skills for other jobs.

Businesses should remember that workers are accustomed to accessing resources that teach them new skills when they are off-the-clock. This expectation extends to the workplace.

Rather than submit requests for training, many employees want instant access to an array of programs they can choose from, Wolfe said. This way, retraining can happen in the flow of a normal workday.

In general, companies should be enthusiastic about helping workers develop new skills: A dedicated, intelligent, and curious workforce is an asset. Providing a variety of skill-building opportunities for employees helps them build skills they can use to the company’s benefit.

Companies Most Frequently Offer Access to Learning Courses and Classes, But Some Offer No Employee Development

There are many types of programs and opportunities that help employees improve their skills, but not all companies invest in them, suggesting that businesses have not met employee expectations about job development.

The job development opportunities businesses most frequently provide to their employees are access to learning resources (47%) and classes and workshops to learn new skills (46%).

Job development opportunities companies offer

Other offerings include tuition assistance (35%), co-worker shadowing (31%), and professional book clubs (9%).

Despite the range of offerings many companies provide, 20% of employees report not having access to any programs for job development or retraining.

Experts say that employees are right to expect job development opportunities.

“You have to offer them the time to learn,” Pour said. “[Companies] have an obligation to keep training employees and not just give the same task over and over again.”

By failing to offer any sort of job development, Pour says, businesses also fail to meet employee expectations.

Overall, most companies provide a variety of professional development offerings, but a substantial minority do not provide their employees the opportunities they expect.

Employers Balance Worker Preferences With Company Priorities When Deciding Which Job Retraining Opportunities to Offer

Employers and employees do not share the same preferences and priorities for job development opportunities. This puts pressure on companies to balance their strategic objectives and employee desires when designing a job development program.

For example, companies are most likely to provide employees access to learning resources such as books, videos, and online courses (47%). Only 7% of employees, though, most wish their company offered this opportunity.        

job development opportunities employees desire

Meanwhile, employees are most likely to desire tuition assistance for classes outside the company (19%).

Wolfe says that businesses have reason to be wary of blindly following employee preferences, such as tuition assistance for classes outside the company.

To him, the most sensible way for employers to provide worker development is to focus on “microlearning,” which allows workers to consistently ingest short, specific bursts of information consistently, stay on the job, and gradually build new skills.

“From the time the curriculum is developed until the time you get [employees] enrolled and actually applying the skills, it could be a year or two,” Wolfe said. “It’s getting away from microlearning.”

For example, SellMax automated aspects of its call center system and introduced interactive voice response (IVR) technology. Instead of sending developers to costly conferences or technical courses, SellMax purchased a set of how-to videos and provided employees time during the workday to review and master new skills.

SellMax, which has 30 full-time employees, saved roughly $68,000 per year through automation – all courtesy of a $250 investment in retraining videos.

Deciding which job development opportunities to offer is not easy, and simply abiding by employee preferences may seem convenient to companies. While employers should acknowledge which programs employees most desire, they must also consider company priorities and evaluate if and how an offering can improve employee output.

Companies Fail to Offer Job Retraining Because of Outdated Ideas About Job Tenure

Many companies offer job retraining irregularly, which experts attribute to outdated conceptions of employee job tenure.

Less than one-third of employees (27%) have been offered job retraining in the past six months.

Half of employees (50%) have not been offered job retraining in the past year.

when companies last offered employees job retraining

Experts believe that many businesses offer job retraining irregularly due to concerns that their employees will capitalize on the opportunity to build news skills and then leave the company.

“Companies are going to have to reskill people, retrain people, and they’re going to have to look at it differently,” Wolfe said. “If I train someone or I reskill someone, what’s a reasonable life expectancy to keep them employed? What’s a reasonable tenure?”

Wolfe says that many employers have not yet realized that in the current economy an employee who stays at a company for two years is worth substantial investment. Young workers in particular are comfortable job hopping: The median job tenure of workers 25 to 34 years old is 2.8 years.

More broadly, Wolfe believes that companies need to reevaluate how they judge the loyalty of an employee.

“Loyalty is no longer, hey, they left us,” Wolfe said. “Loyalty is: Do they have high respect for you? Would they refer other people to your company and would they come back?”

By acknowledging changing norms around job tenure, companies can offer retraining programs that improve worker output and garner long-term loyalty.

Employees Value Retraining and Will Participate in Retraining Programs

When businesses provide retraining programs, employees are likely to participate.

Seventy percent of employees (70%) whose companies do not provide job retraining say they would be very or somewhat likely to participate if programs were available.

Only 14% of those not currently offered job retraining say they would be unlikely to take advantage of programs if offered.

70% of employees would participate in job retraining if it was available.

Such heavy employee interest in retraining opportunities does not surprise experts.

“It’s clear that workers value the opportunity to increase their skills and grow in their careers,” said Rob Garcia, manager of the National Skill Coalition’s Business Leaders United, which advocates for public and private investment in employee skill development. “Business leaders should ensure that training opportunities are more accessible for workers in order to advance in their careers and drive greater value to the companies they work for.”

The knowledge that employees value opportunities to get better at their jobs and expand their career potential should allay any company concerns about whether employees would take advantage of retraining programs.

Companies Can Boost Employee Morale by Offering Retraining Programs

Job retraining provides companies the opportunity to do more than simply boost employee performance. A well-executed job retraining program can boost employee morale.

Of employees whose companies offer job retraining, 7 in 10 (70%) are satisfied or very satisfied with the options provided.

70% of employees provided job retraining are satisfied with their company's offerings

Meanwhile, only 9% of people are dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their employer’s offerings.

Experts say that companies have long treated job training as a transactional relationship: Companies provide the training, employees do the work, and the benefits are specific, narrow, and measurable.

Joe Carella, assistant dean of the Eller College of Management at the University of Arizona, believes that employers must broaden their thinking about the benefits that job retraining provides and consider how retraining can improve employee buy-in about a company’s larger strategy.

“[Companies] have not been able to say why people stay, why people go, what makes them succeed,” Carella said. “Job retraining is an opportunity for companies to think about their larger strategy as an organization and can bridge two priorities: the future of the company and the future of the people who work for it.”

Employees, Carella believes, are attuned to the attitudes of their employers. If a company shows interest in their workers’ future, employees will show more interest in the company’s future. Job retraining is an opportunity for companies to think about their larger strategy as an organization and can bridge two priorities: the future of the company and the future of the people who work for it.

Offering job retraining raises employee morale and can increase their excitement about the organization’s larger mission.

Businesses That Offer Job Development and Retraining Meet Employee Expectations

Employees expect help from their companies to build skills and develop professionally. People also often want assistance in developing the skills and capabilities necessary to transition to a new role or career.

Currently, companies offer job development and retraining to most, but not all, employees.

Businesses that offer job development and retraining to employees meet worker expectations and will more competitively recruit and retain top talent.

For companies, a robust job development and retraining program provide a means of improving worker output, investment, and morale for all employees.

By balancing employee desires with business priorities, companies can offer effective job development and retraining programs.

About the Survey

Clutch surveyed 510 full-time employees in the U.S.

Twenty percent (20%) work at organizations with 1 to 50 employees; 34% with 51 to 500 employees; 24% with 501 to 5,000 employees; and 22% with more than 5,000 employees.

Almost two-thirds of respondents (65%) are female, and 35% are male.

Thirty-six percent (36%) of respondents are ages 18-34; 47% are ages 35-54, and 16% are 55 years old and above.