The Job Seeker’s Market is a Learner’s Market

perks of learningThe labor market has undergone a dramatic shift in the last year.

Unemployment is at an historic low, and it’s a job seeker’s market. That also means it’s a learners’ market — learners have long seen training as a perk, so they’ll be shopping around for the best learning experience they can find.

But what learners want and what you need to teach them aren’t always the same thing. How can L&D satisfy learners while meeting your organization’s training objectives?

The workers are in control. What does that mean for learning?

In the last two years, a record number of people left their jobs. Some did so unintentionally — in the first year of the pandemic, unemployment soared to a level not seen since the 1930s — and some did so after burning out during the pandemic, looking for more satisfying or better paying jobs. Some workers, still hard-hit by the pandemic, have been unable to return to work. A recent report found that immigrants, older workers, and mothers are still missing from the labor market due to COVID-related immigration restrictions, millions of early retirements, and childcare issues.

This created a job market that favors the workers who are looking for jobs. The U.S. unemployment rate sank to 3.6 percent in March, and CEOs have cited the labor shortage as a major danger to their businesses.

It’s a job seeker’s market — workers can shop around for the jobs that suit them best, and ask for the perks they want. Those perks are likely to include learning. Take Amazon, for example. The fulfillment giant was recently rated the best place to work in the U.S. by LinkedIn. Chief among its perks is the $1.2 billion the company is investing in its education and training initiatives.

Learning is a perk

Development has long been seen as a perk among younger professionals. A report from Pricewaterhouse Cooper (PwC) found that young professionals value learning and development more than other kinds of benefits, including cash bonuses. They are also interested in moving into leadership positions, and fast; 52 percent of respondents said they’d choose a job that would let them advance through the ranks quickly over one with a higher salary.

It stands to reason that companies offering a strong education program, such as paying college tuition, would be seen as a strong incentive to choose a company. However, although your workers might value training that helps them obtain a degree, they still need development that serves your organization’s needs, makes them good employees, and helps them do their jobs well.

What do learners want (and how can you give it to them)?

  • Development: Learners want to better themselves. In some cases this might mean they’re after development outside of work — such as Amazon’s college tuition program — but it can also mean they’re interested in development opportunities at work as well. Leadership development isn’t always offered by businesses; Harvard Business Review’s State of Leadership Development report found that pre-pandemic just 43 percent of businesses — mostly small businesses without big development budgets — have inconsistent or underperforming leadership training programs.L&D departments are coming around to leadership training, however. LinkedIn’s latest Workplace learning report found that leadership training is a top priority for L&D departments in 2022. Furthermore, companies that have already invested in developing internal talent have fared better in this job market than those that have not invested in internal leadership. “It’s a big source of competitive advantage,” says Byron Auguste, CEO of Opportunity@Work, a nonprofit focused on employment, told Axios. It certainly is. According to LinkedIn, companies that excel at internal mobility can retain employees for an average of 5.4 years, twice as long as companies that struggle with internal mobility.
  • In-person training: It’s not just what they’re learning. Learners also care about how they’re learning. Training Industry’s 2021 What Learners Want report found that learners are unambiguous about one thing: they like to be trained in person. It doesn’t matter what they’re learning. They prefer live instruction — 52 percent of learners say they want live in-person instruction and 31 percent prefer on the job training. Whether this is just a norm learners are clinging to or a reaction to the isolation of the pandemic, providing live training can be a tall order for workplaces that are offering fully remote or hybrid positions post-pandemic.L&D departments can help build out training programs with synchronous training delivered live online for those learners, and learning pros should take a good look at the topics learners prefer to learn live, such as customer service and onboarding.
  • Reskilling: LinkedIn’s latest learning report finds that learners know when their skill set isn’t being used at work — and they don’t like it. Employees who feel that their skills are not being put to good use are 10 times more likely to be looking for a new job than those who feel that their skills are being put to good use. This might seem alarming, but it’s an opportunity for organizations to reskill their current workers rather than looking for brand new employees. In fact, 79% of L&D professionals agree that it’s less expensive to reskill a current employee than to hire and onboard a new learner.

Learners are ambitious

The narrative among learners seems to be that they’re interested in any development that will take them closer to their career goals, and that after the pressures of the pandemic, they’re more interested than ever in making their dreams a reality.

This means that presenting only training your organization needs — compliance, or job-specific training — won’t be enough to keep employees interested. Instead, LinkedIn finds that workers’ big motivations are tied to their ambitions: they’re happy to learn material that helps them stay up to date in their field, information that is personalized to their career paths, if it helps them get another job or a promotion.

Fortunately, these priorities align with the hiring challenges being experienced by organizations. If you invest in developing your people, you’re also investing in the talent and future leadership of your organization.