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Ideas and insights for today’s people-centered leaders.

The mass exodus of “The Great Resignation” is far from over. August brought the highest quit rates on record and extended a five-month streak of record-breaking walkouts, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent report. Organizations risk continued loss of their most important assets: their people. Fixing this ailment requires diagnosis: why are people jumping ship? Two of the main reasons people left their jobs in the past year were for better pay or better work-life balance, but the third reason may surprise you: people want better skills. 

As the leader in people analytics, Visier surveyed 1,000 U.S.-based full-time employees to better understand some causes of the Great Resignation. We found out that employees place a high value on skills training, and not all employers are meeting these needs. One of the ways employers can keep people from leaving now and in the future is to look into what skills people want and invest in those. (Surprise: it’s not the skills you think!)

People want skills

Nearly one-third of employees who changed jobs within the past year (32%) did so to learn new skills.  More than a quarter of the people who left their previous employer said that they did so for more or better training opportunities. The people most likely to cite a desire for skills were people in IT/Digital departments, HR departments, and remote workers.

Notably, certain groups of employees were more likely to attribute their departure to a desire to learn new skills: 

Top five reasons employees quit their jobs:

  1. Higher salary — 43%
  2. Better work/life balance or mental health situation — 42%
  3. Desire to learn new skills — 32%
  4. Desire for better/more training opportunities — 26%
  5. Change in career direction — 17%

Nearly three-quarters of total respondents said they would absolutely or probably leave their current job for another job that paid the same but offered better or more skills training opportunities. Younger generations (Gen Zers and millennials) were even more hungry for skills. The good news for employers is that investing in upskilling and reskilling can help keep the employees you have and can also make an organization more attractive to potential candidates.

Nearly all respondents believed they had the skills to do their current job well, so it wasn’t role-specific training people lacked. The skills employees want are those which will help them progress in their careers. Even those who did believe that they had the skills needed didn’t always think that their employer did a good job of providing these skills. More than a third–39%–said that they built their own skills without their employer’s support. In other words, the majority of employees have the skills they need today, but what about the skills they’ll need tomorrow? And what exactly were the skills people thought they needed the most?



Why soft skills matter the most

The top skills respondents said they need for career advancement were leadership skills and soft skills, including people management, and time management. Skills such as organizational skills, communication skills, and problem-solving were also high on the list. Surprisingly, technical skills specific to roles or industries were much lower on the list, mentioned by only 15% of respondents. 

The emphasis on soft skills might be a result of so many more people working remotely or with remote colleagues. When employees aren’t sitting next to each other in the office, the ability to self-manage and communicate effectively is even more important for productivity and business continuity. 

Seventy percent of respondents say their team has trouble filling positions because there are so few candidates with the right skills, so it makes sense that employees with an eye towards career growth would prioritize “soft” skills. The top skills teams are looking for are soft skills, like communication, time management, and organization. Technical skills don’t even rank among the top five desired skills, even when looking at Digital/IT teams.

Train future managers too

The last finding is that even when organizations help their people attain the skills they desire, these benefits aren’t granted to everyone equally. To advance their careers, 70% of respondents say a credential from outside their company is necessary. Outside credentials often mean tuition payments, but one-third of respondents say their company doesn’t provide any tuition support. 

However, people managers who took the survey said they had support from their companies for earning credentials necessary for career advancement compared to non-people managers. Additionally, people managers are 48% more likely to strongly agree that their company offers all the skills training they need to advance their careers. It’s harder for an organization to promote new managers from within if it’s not helping internal candidates develop the skills they’ll need for their new roles. 

Developing these skills internally both creates a pipeline for new leaders and gives employees a reason to stay within an organization. It also helps attract prospective candidates. Planned career pathing, combined with skills training, can help employees grow into new roles that are becoming critical to business and help organizations prevent gaps in talent.

Summary: Upskilling is a win-win for everyone

Employees are crying out for more skills, especially soft skills, to help them develop their careers. Skills such as organization and communication may improve everyday life in this new remote-heavy environment. And as organizations compete for talent, building from within can ease the burden on recruiting. People want to learn and giving them support will benefit both employees and their organizations.

Organizations can lean on skills-based people analytics to identify and measure employees’ skill sets, as well as areas for growth, based on individuals and organizational goals. People analytics can help you recognize the skills employees have and who is primed to move into new roles. You can also understand which skills are leaving the organization so you can strategize training and hiring efforts.

Most people have a natural affinity to learn, and by fueling this desire both they and the organization can achieve more. An investment in a data-driven upskilling and reskilling program is the key to knowing where your employees are now and equipping them with the skills they need tomorrow. 

To learn more about using people analytics to address employee skills training, get in touch

About the author: Catherine Cheek

Catherine “Kater” Cheek is an award-winning author with a breadth of writing experience from corporate communications to storytelling. As Senior Copywriter at Visier, she aims to highlight the human stories behind the data and showcase details that make complicated concepts easy to understand.

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