Winning The Employee Retention Race

Leveraging a knowledge and learning ecosystem to keep employees engaged

With all the changes coming about with the fourth industrial revolution, there is a constant theme I hear among business leaders that employees are changing jobs at a faster pace than ever before.

It is true, that the average person changes jobs ten to fifteen times during their career. However, would it surprise you to know that in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average tenure of employees went up from 3.5 years back in 1983 to 4.2 in 2016? Similar stats are available for other countries as well.

So why all the panic among companies looking to provide better learning programs as a means to keep employees? It is not so much because the employees are leaving. It is because, with the digital transformation and the fourth industrial revolution, the knowledge and skills required keep changing.With all those changes, the cost of replacing employees is believed to range from tens of thousands of dollars to 1.5 – 2.0 xthe employees annual salary.

What can companies do to retain their employees longer while also keeping them productive in an ever-changing workplace? They need to ensure that their learning programs are continuous so people do not stagnate. They need to go beyond onboarding to provide performance support and continuous learning. This allows employees to stay at their desired performance as they mature in their job lifecycle.


Typical onboarding lasts anywhere from 90 days to 6 months with the goal being that the employee achieves competence in their job. From an employer perspective, onboarding is necessary to get employees productive as fast as possible. From an employee perspective, a recent survey showed that 33% of employees know whether they want to stay long-term at a company within one week on the job.

Below are some strategies which will help with you when you think about the learning content and systems for your onboarding program.

1. Role – based – The content needs to be available specific to an employee’s role and job.

2. Self-paced learning – Onboarding needs to scale to the masses and also commence as soon as an employee starts, if not before.

3. Face to face –You cannot rely on just self-paced learning alone.There are some skills and knowledge which are best obtained through live time doing high impact exercises like role playing and live simulations.

Continuous Learning

After onboarding, a typical employee takes at least 3 years before they achieve mastery.To support employees on this journey, companies should create a culture of continuous learning for their them. Training is not a one-time event, nor a once-a-year event.Research has shown using an integrated approach, orchestrating knowledge, skills and attitudes around a competency-based learning program establish functional standards to promote future growth.

What is challenging is the supports that work for onboarding, do not work for continuous learning.For continuous learning, users should be able to explore materials organized by related topics, skills or disciplines as aligned to behavioral competencies. This allows them to venture off and explore what is available.They should not be restricted to see a list or topics they need to cover in order that are required.

To foster development of competencies over time, you need a learning system that shows the employee visually everything that there is to see, ideally aligned to these competencies. Imagine a grocery store map that shows you were everything is, except the map is based on learning competencies.

Performance Support

There are going to be situations where employees need to perform a job task, either that they already learned but forgot, or that they have not learned yet.To complement learning solutions, companies should have a robust performance support tool. Similar to continuous learning, the supports that work for onboarding, do not work for performance support.

Performance support systems provide employees with help just-in-time on their job tasks, right at the moment of need. To do this, the system needs to be designed to provide only relevant information to the employee and task at hand.That information should be easily retrieved and displayed as close to the work as possible. That information should be available in multiple formats to support various types of needs including instructions, advice, and job aides. The system should be user friendly and not require any training to use.

A Knowledge and Learning Ecosystem

Companies that use more adaptive systems for their employees that provide the right environment for the right part of the employee’s job lifecycle will achieve higher productivity and profit levels.Onboarding is just one part of a larger ecosystem that high performing companies should utilize to support continuous learning in the workplace.Once a new employee has the knowledge and confidence to become more independent, they should be able to use the company’s knowledge management, learning, and performance support systems to complete job specific tasks and search for and consume self-directed learning.

Want to keep your employees from walking out the door? Our Kevin Hanegan shares approaches you may not have considered!


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