Employment levels have surpassed pre-pandemic levels for the first time, the UK Parliament reveals, when comparing both the quarter and on-the-year figures from January to March 2023 and January to March 2020. 

So, with 33 million people in employment in the first quarter of this year, according to the same report, the labour market is as booming as it has been in the past decade.

But, the pandemic prompted a change of mind, and heart, for most workers, with over 60 percent opting for career changes after the event. And, for others, it prompted a revaluation of priorities, whether this be wanting increased compensation, improved work conditions, or learning and development (L&D) opportunities, in the longer term.

Further research found that nearly all (92%) of candidates will consider L&D opportunities as a deciding factor when choosing between roles, and that over four in five employees would stay in their current position with their current employer if they were offered regular L&D opportunities.

What about quitting?

In fact, further research highlights that more than four-fifths of employees are likely to choose their employers based on the L&D opportunities that they offer and that two-thirds would even quit their current jobs if they felt that this was not sufficient.

According to Graeme Tucker, HR Manager at Virtual College by Netex “whilst the ‘great resignation’ is a challenge for all organisations, we really need to consider the ‘great retention’ and how we can keep our people engaged, motivated and developing within their roles.”

And so, it appears that offering L&D opportunities is one of the most critical ways that employers can retain current employees and even compel new employees to work for them.

This is why employers, now more than ever, need to prioritise their L&D opportunities for their company to be in the best position possible.

Whilst it can be difficult to create a development strategy that works best for one particular business, there are a number of ways in which employers can leverage their L&D opportunities whilst satisfying current employees, and placing themselves in the best stead for recruiting employees in the future:

Acknowledge The Importance Of Soft Skills 

report by Deloitte revealed that by 2030 soft skill-intensive roles will account for two-thirds of all jobs, compared to only half of all jobs over two decades ago in 2000.

In light of this, employers need to acknowledge that this is an aspect of their workforce’s skillset that they need to focus on developing and that workers will undoubtedly be looking for opportunities to improve this in both their current, and future, roles.

Soft skills are also known as people or interpersonal skills, and involve being able to work and interact more effectively with individuals, whether within teams or externally with other organisations or customers.

Graeme advises that the most common interpersonal skills include time management, leadership, and communication skills and that these are three of the most important soft skills that a workforce should possess to a high standard.

Other, more nuanced skills that employers may overlook include creativity and cultural awareness, the former of which is said to increase problem-solving, and the latter of which is becoming increasingly important as cultural diversity in workplaces is increasingly prevalent.

Virtual College by Netex states that businesses that successfully prioritise soft skills in their workforce can anticipate a return on investment of up to 250 percent.

Bridge The Digital Skills Gap

Recent research revealed that nearly three in four workers felt ill-equipped with their digital skillsets and that over 3 in 4 didn’t feel equipped in this for the future.

Despite this, the same research highlighted that less than 3 in 10 individuals were involved with digital skills learning. In fact, this digital skills gap is so significant that it has been predicted to cost G20 countries as much as $11.5 trillion in GDP growth if it is not addressed.

This highlights that employers need to do all that they can to bridge this digital skills gap amongst their employees to help not only their specific workforce but also to contribute to and benefit the larger economic workforce.

Improving digital literacy within organisations, according to Graeme, is best done by providing the necessary programmes and resources to support specific digital areas that have been identified to need improvement.

Graeme emphasises that employers must bear in mind that their workforce may not pick up new digital skills right away and that it is equally critical to provide support structures to help assist employees in their digital advancement alongside learning these new abilities.

Be Bespoke: Offering Individual Employee Development Plans

Whilst it is good and well having one standard employee development plan which can be applied to all of a workforce, it is important to acknowledge that the individuality of workers will influence what they most need, and least need, in their own developments.

Because of this, different workers’ learning experiences should be tailored to their individual career paths, pain points, and learning priorities, which is why employers need to create an effective and individualised learning programme for each member of their team.

Graeme advises that prioritising technology is a critical way in which employers can most effectively tailor their employees’ learning development plans. With online learning on the rise, employers are best able to pick and choose different topics and content in accordance with an employee’s needs and ambitions and build their skill sets.

The online learning provider states that a ‘one size fits all’ approach is no longer acceptable in an employer’s development strategy for its employees. So, the sooner an employer is able to identify where its workers’ skill gaps are and consult with them on this, the sooner both the company’s and individual’s development will be benefited from these learning paths.

Make Your Employee Development Opportunities Measurable

Graeme explains that, alongside enforcing an improved employee development strategy, it is critical to ensure that you are both tracking and measuring the value of these changes.

This way, employers will be able to see whether the changes that have been made to employees’ development are translating to improvements in performance, productivity, and employee satisfaction, to benefit the overall company performance and success.

The online learning provider advises that employers must first identify relevant success metrics, as well as the desired outcomes that they want to achieve from their employee development initiatives.

Equally, enforcing regular review and monitoring processes means that, over time, employers will be able to see whether their desired outcomes are being achieved, which creates a broader picture of how they can alter and improve these development programmes, if necessary.






Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.