Free snacks won’t cut it. Why you need to think beyond perks to attract and retain the best talent

Forbes recently released a report which revealed that more than 55 per cent of UK employees consider career growth and opportunity more important than salary. 

It’s fair to say that this news doesn’t come as a massive surprise. At Instructure, we’ve long known that concentrating on learning as currency is a valuable way to keep employees happy. We also know that, in the face of a well-documented skills shortage and intense competition, the majority of businesses now recognise that it’s vital to offer learning and development opportunities in order to effectively attract, engage, and retain staff.

But despite these clear drivers, a significant number of employers simply aren’t getting it right. While many organisations have good intentions, our own research shows that only 15 per cent of employees say that they’re “very confident” in their progress toward a long-term career vision – and more than 70 per cent of workers would consider leaving their current position for one with a better continued professional development (CPD) offering. 

So, why are so many participants are dissatisfied with their employer’s learning and development programmes? And what do they need instead?

The first, and potentially most pressing issue is that some companies still view perks and employee development as the same thing. But, while free lunches, extra holidays, and gym memberships are good to have, they won’t help employers bridge the gap between their CPD provision and the needs of their workforce.

Instead, senior leaders, together with their HR teams, should champion a longer-term employee development strategy. What’s needed is a flexible, collaborative, and tech-powered learning environment that will create more engaged and productive employees, who are clearly aligned with their employer’s ambitions and who can see their ongoing career potential. 

More than just ‘training courses’ or discrete initiatives, organisations need to prioritise a broader learning culture which helps employees uncover their career drivers and uses those motivators to guide objective setting and skill development. And, delivery matters. Traditional classroom teaching, without an emphasis on application, transfer and real-world impact is often a source of frustration for employees. In contrast, businesses that emphasise more sophisticated forms of adult education, experiential learning, and executive interaction tend to have healthier, more productive cultures, with a workforce that’s more adaptable, agile, and engaged. 

Indeed, the most successful employee development programmes prioritise ongoing mentoring and coaching, moving away from the staid ‘annual review’ towards a more fluid, collaborative approach. They also help employees foster ‘transferable’ skills like judgement, empathy, social skills, and teamwork – which many say are at risk of diminishing in an age of digitisation. 

And that’s just the start. There’s much more that goes into effective development. The best organisations strive to proactively engage and align people with the company vision whilst providing the tools employees need to work towards achieving their own career goals and allowing them to take ownership of their development. 

The  right  technology can help businesses to bring it all together; ultimately helping employers put their people first. We believe that the strategic use of collaborative technology can help to kick-start a more effective employee development drive, providing the tools to enable conversations and which can help formulate company-wide plans and programmes to help employees find meaning in their work and achieve long and short-term growth.