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Boost employee engagement through learning and development 

Ongoing learning and development programs can enhance employee engagement by giving them the new skills they crave, writes Kathy Gersch.

4 min read


employee engagement

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While the first quarter of the year is often a time when individuals and organizations consider potential areas of growth for the new year, today’s economic environment also presents a critical case for using learning and development programs — not just as a resolution or “nice-to-have” — but as a critical driver for the business. Ongoing digital transformation, evolving business practices and an increasingly hybrid workforce demand that leaders bring their teams up to speed by empowering them for new initiatives and solutions to achieve goals. When employees are properly skilled, they are more likely to be engaged and actively contributing toward a shared vision. This will ultimately increase their satisfaction and connection to the company amid turbulent times for attracting and retaining talent. 

Kathy Gersch

Expand roles beyond the day-to-day

Leaders and employees alike are receiving an influx of information, which can make it difficult to see the forest from the trees, creating blinders to the big picture and long-term vision. When people feel like they are doing the same thing on repeat, but without reward or feel overwhelmed by what’s going on in the market around them, it can become easy to disengage and go into autopilot. Herein lies the opportunity: leaders can shift the sentiment from complacent to all-in through learning and development efforts. Employers who create room for their teams to build knowledge and apply it right away it are expanding opportunities within the day-to-day, but also improving longer-term outlooks. When employees are engaged, companies experience 18% less turnover, according to Gallup. This learning experience enables employees to grow within their roles and find new areas for professional success, which can boost confidence and retention. 

Embrace the notion that learning drives employee engagement

As the economic environment and talent trends continue to shift, proactively making space for learning and development by providing individual- or department-specific upskilling can enhance your employee value proposition. A 2021 study found that 71% of workers surveyed felt job training and development increased their job satisfaction, with 61% saying upskilling opportunities are an important reason to stay at their job. Employees who begin to recognize and participate in the investment a company makes into their development often become interested in expanding their current scope of work and expanding their role. The availability of individualized growth opportunities can be a key motivator and a way to build loyalty toward the employer brand. This tactical approach to engaging employees through learning experiences and skills building courses ensures companies retain their best people in a volatile talent management environment.  Creating opportunities for employees to leverage their new skills in action will be critical to truly unlocking the potential of their development.  

Consider a variety of skills

Based on data from Preply and search trends, the three most desired skills for which professionals are seeking training are data science and visualization (76%), digital marketing (35%) and data management (34%). Ironically, the abundance of software and technology in the workplace places an even greater emphasis on “soft” skills — non-technical skills that are vital for collaboration, planning and interpersonal relationship building. At every level within an organization, upskilling and new critical thinking opportunities can bring renewed energy and practical progress. 

In addition to data-based and tactical skill trainings, consider leadership and change management certifications or learning opportunities for employees at all levels. The landscape will only become murkier when it comes to how organizations operate. Having the knowledge, strategic context and communication skills to navigate change effectively will increase the trustworthiness and respect a professional already possesses. This allows their teams to grow and become as effective as possible. In a world full of ambiguity, change management skills are now front and center as organizations weather supply chain disruptions, market shifts, mergers and acquisition activity, leadership changes and economic pressures. 

While one seminar or workshop may not create an immediate ripple of change, regular skill-building and in-depth courses can really broaden a teams’ horizons. When people are doing things they are interested in and equipped to do well, the confidence and autonomy to produce great work can spark a movement that drives innovation every day and unleashes new energy across the organization. With so much changing and feeling uncertain, creating a culture that values engaging in new skills and opportunities will benefit the organization and its people into the future. 


Kathy Gersch is Chief Commercial Officer at strategy execution and change management firm Kotter. She works across numerous industries to help lead transformation and business development efforts. Her most recent project was developing and launching the Kotter Change Certification Program.

Opinions expressed by SmartBrief contributors are their own. 


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