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Training: Enrichment and Retention in the Post-pandemic Workplace

May 13, 2021 12:02 PM | Scott Rencher (Administrator)

Post written by ATDChi member Steve Matre. This article is part of a series of member written content on Career Development in Talent Development.

Some normalcy is making its way back into our lives as training professionals. I was able to deliver a session in person during April to the annual conference of the Texas Apartment Association in San Antonio. This meant my first flights and in-person gatherings in over a year. The session was called “Coaxing Great Customer Service Out of Already Burned Out Employees.” While the session was warmly received and it was terrific to be with industry friends and colleagues again, the topic seemed to raise many questions about on-going team motivation, effective training delivery, and the long-term outlook for employee moods and retention in general.

…meanwhile, back in my real world at work, two themes continue to creep into my mind: employees’ desire for more learning juxtaposed with their internal voice telling them to make a job or career change . In the runup to the pandemic (2018-2019), quit rates were high. People were leaving their jobs. However, in LinkedIn’s 2019 Workforce Learning Report findings, 94 percent of employees said that they would stay at a company longer if it simply invested in helping them learn.

Fast forward to 2021 and the latest trend is to embrace YOLO; shout out to the New York Times for a terrific article, “Welcome to the YOLO Economy”. The pandemic provided a lot of time for reflection but limited opportunities to socialize and spend. Although some part of this is anecdotal evidence, it seems that many American professionals are comfortable enough with their bank accounts and frustrated enough with their daily grind to take a risk and make a career move to, well, sometimes no job at all. This trend in the making is challenging training professionals to seriously consider the role they play and the value they add to workplaces.

As the amateur sociologist that I am, I don’t want to dig too deep into the data, but this is a moment to reflect on what these trends mean to someone in corporate learning and development.

I find myself in a company swirling with change. In an environment of fast and constant change, anxiety and nervous energy can run high. There is a forced learning of new systems and forced implementation of them in order to succeed. At the end of each day, however, you ask yourself, “did I have any control at all over what I learned, and am I growing in a way that offers any real personal enrichment?”

In the interest of keeping it simple, here are three tips I embraced to balance these trends in a meaningful way:

1. Remember that listening opportunities are important even though curation is tough.
As training professionals, we know that curating and assembling the perfect training program is not possible; it will never be perfect. It is fluid, ever changing. You can go beyond the basics, however, by assembling small clusters of people from various departments, inclusion and diversity are key. Meet with these team members and do a simple vision exercise. Ask them, “Ideally, what additional skills would you like to have in your arsenal 2 years from now?” You may need to provide some conversation starters. People want to learn, but they tend to stick to job responsibilities. Two or 3 of these short brainstorming discussions should get you started on your way to an enriching program that you had not envisioned.

2. Provide deeper dives for those who want to truly master a variety of skill sets.
Internal company training programs tend to be delivered on a set schedule. You know the drill, webinar Wednesdays and on-boarding every Thursday at 9 am. A terrific 1-year goal is to pair some of your line skills training with deeper dives, for example, a few days after. If you do a basic sales class on Wednesday, offer an optional bonus session early on Friday morning to teach “From Manager to Sales Coach,” or “Deeper Dive into Strategy Around Your Sales KPI’s.” The bottom line is just…give….more so that those team members who want to master their skill sets can get that craving satisfied. Of course, sales is just one example.

3. Vary your delivery methods to enhance engagement and enrich the learning experience.
An overwhelming majority of employees want quality training opportunities that teach, engage, and enrich. The goal is to provide training that trumps the desire to make a career move. Making this investment in employee retention requires creative ways to engage and inspire. Try to provide a variety of training delivery methods. You might facilitate collaboration on real projects over Zoom if your company has not returned to work in person. You might teach new procedures through virtual work groups that not only demonstrate new methods but also get the work done. As more people are vaccinated, you may return to additional in-person learning and role play, brainstorming, and group discussions. There is not an exact answer but the key is to provide variety. Pandemic fog, Zoom fatigue, and restlessness are real. No one should dread a training session.

Over the past year, I’ve heard a few times that, “that certainly did not seem like a 2-hour session, it went so fast and we learned so much.” That’s music to my ears as my team and I have tried our best to make the virtual learning space active and engaging.

This past year has been a challenge on many fronts. The virtual world continues to require training professionals to flex their creative muscles. It’s up to us to engage, enrich, and diligently strive to help our companies retain the teams around us. This requires the acceptance that, while many employees are not truly happy in their current roles, they will stay if we provide quality learning and development opportunities. It’s a major challenge but, wow, what an opportunity to add value and make a difference as the world of work evolves. These are big trends. Make sure that you listen to what your teams want. Follow that up with a robust response that demonstrates that their voices were heard. Good luck!

Steve Matre is Vice President of training, marketing, and strategic support for the Mandel Group, a real estate developer and owner in the Midwest. He’s also been in accounting, operations, HR, and revenue management. Steve gives back through committees and boards for the National Apartment Association and Institute of Real Estate Management, and as a writer and speaker. A graduate in Finance and English from the University of Wisconsin, Steve is a CPA, Certified Property Manager, and Professional in Human Resources. Obsessions include books, podcasts, coffee, running, and college football. Reach out to Steve at

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