How to Use Learning & Development to Attract Talent

More than ever, modern companies rely on the skills, innovations, and creativity of its people—it’s one of the reasons why “talent” has become synonymous with the word “employee.” Most companies experience intense pressure to innovate and demand a rapid pace of change. In fact, the half-life of many skills learned on the job is five years. This means that employers and employees alike have begun to realize that in order to stay ahead of the curve, they have to focus on learning and development (L&D).

In today’s tight labor market, L&D can play an important role in the recruitment process, particularly as candidates increasingly look at the kinds of programs companies offer to help them grow. Based on my experience designing effective HR and L&D programs, here’s why L&D matters in recruitment and some of the key features you should consider offering in your learning programs to attract, retain, and develop your people.

Why L&D matters in the recruiting process

By investing in L&D, you’re making a commitment to your employees’ professional development. This contributes to engagement and retention among your current employees, and it can be a competitive advantage in your approach to recruiting as well. Here’s why.

  • L&D is a priority for millennials

According to Pew research, more than one in three American workers are millennials, which makes this group the largest percentage of the American workforce. And 59% of millennials say that opportunities to learn and grow are extremely important to them when applying for a job. So if you want to reach the largest segment of workers during the recruiting process, it makes sense to focus on what matters most to them.

  • Prioritizing L&D shows candidates you’re invested in their future

Millennials sometimes get a bad rap for job-hopping, but one of the main reasons they choose to leave companies is because they don’t have enough growth opportunities there. By the same token, "opportunities to learn and grow" are one of the top three factors in retaining millennials. Leaving generational differences aside for a moment, all employees can benefit from L&D initiatives. By promoting this aspect of your values during the recruiting process, you’re also more likely to attract candidates who value continued learning and embody a growth mindset--which is an important trait in today’s era of rapid change and innovation. You can offer career development programs that help employees think through their next career move and then help them achieve that goal through learning--whether it’s a horizontal or vertical move. See my blog Forget Career Ladders: 4 Steps to Career Development.

  • L&D can be a competitive advantage for your employer brand

As you develop your employer brand, focusing on L&D opportunities at your company can be a key way to differentiate yourself from other companies. Research from Universum and the DHI Group found that 68% of the world’s most attractive employers already have an employer branding strategy in place and believe that their employer value proposition is clearly linked to their HR/talent development strategy. Plus, Glassdoor found that 60% of candidates strongly consider perks and benefits before evaluating a job offer. For example, leading recruitment agency Robert Half, found that candidates evaluate job offers holistically beyond compensation and specifically look for companies that will invest in their career development.

There are a number of ways to share your L&D offerings with candidates: on your company website, careers page, and even in individual job listings. You can discuss these opportunities with candidates during phone screens or on-site interviews, and even share online courses they might want to take. This shows your commitment to their learning and begins to build a relationship with potential hires.  And, you can get as creative as you’d like—ask current employees to share their L&D stories through your company blog or social media channels. Don’t be shy to get the word out there!

The key features of leading L&D programs

Now that we’ve covered some of the reasons why L&D can be a significant part of your recruiting strategy, let’s look at the features of a next-generation L&D program that will help you attract, develop, and retain your talent.

  • Agile learning that’s accessible

In today’s fast-paced working environment, L&D programs must be available at precisely the right time. Employees need to be able to quickly learn new skills to keep up with rapidly changing roles and project requirements. Millennials also expect that L&D opportunities will be available without needing to “earn them.” Next-generation L&D programs don’t simply reflect millennials’ expectations—they also reflect the agile nature of our workforce. As Jon Younger writes in Harvard Business Review, “training is going to have to be just as agile as the workforce—where speed, flexibility, and innovation are key. It means that more learning will happen in teams, and on platforms where training can be delivered any time, any place, at the user’s convenience.” As a result, organizations will need to offer an on-demand agile learning platform that provides relevant content updated in real-time. Learning should also be easily consumed by employees on the job or on their commute.

  • Personalized learning

Another element of next-generation L&D programs is that they are adapted to the unique needs and learning styles of your employees. Don’t assume that your employees all want the same thing. When people can choose their learning conditions—what they learn, when they learn it, and from whom they’re learning—they’re much more likely to stick with an L&D program and recommend the experience to others. Artificial intelligence and machine learning embedded in digital learning platforms can offer personalized learning recommendations on what to learn next, similar to the way Netflix or Amazon serve up recommendations based on user experiences and previously consumed content.

  • Culture of learning

Creating an organic thirst for learning should be part of your culture. Leverage savvy marketing techniques to promote your upcoming sessions and keep learning top of mind. For example, at our “Feedback is Fuel” training at Udemy, we created witty “mean feedback” videos and posted the on our internal social media channel to build momentum and interest in our training.

You’ll also want to build your learning programs around your employees’ priorities. For example, in a recent Udemy survey, 45% of employees said they wanted an exciting challenge, project, or new role to tackle and as a result, wanted to learn new skills. In order to design an L&D program that’s relevant for these growth-focused employees, you can work with your HR/People team to encourage managers to assign stretch assignments and enable horizontal and vertical growth opportunities within your organization. On the other hand, if you have employees who are more motivated by external change (and potentially more reluctant to pick up new skills), you can create experiences that encourage everyone to make time for learning, like company-wide “Learning Hours” every month. At Udemy, we schedule a monthly “Drop Everything and Learn” or DEAL hour every Wednesday at 3:00pm on everyone’s calendars and we give out prizes and recognition to the teams and individuals that learn the most. See my blog 9 Steps to Overcome the Biggest Obstacle to Learning: Time.

  • Executive support

The good news is executives are beginning to understand the importance of learning & development not just for recruitment and retention, but more importantly to keep their workforce and business competitive. As technology innovation and automation disrupt jobs and businesses, L&D’s role is to train employees for jobs that don’t exist yet. L&D must become a well-oiled “reskilling machine” and provide the tools to constantly help employees grow.  

Tying it all together

Next-generation L&D programs are not just a nice thing to have—they’re the key to attracting, developing, and retaining your talent. By building programs that help current employees learn, you’re strengthening your existing workforce and laying the foundation to attract candidates who also value continued development. It’s a win-win!

How do you build a next-generation L&D program? Learn more about it in our latest report: 5 Workplace Learning Trends & 5 Predictions for 2018.

Shelley Osborne

Shelley Osborne is Head of Learning & Development at Udemy. She has 14 years of experience in the education sector and corporate learning and development. Previously, she was VP of Learning & Development at Farside HR Solutions, specializing in talent leadership, management training, and soft skills development in the startup space in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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