Employee retention: It’s more about learning than earning

Traditional notions about what makes people tick and what makes them strive to do well at work have been systematically unpicked over the years. The motivational techniques of ‘carrots and sticks’ have routinely failed to take human complexity into account. And contrary to what you’d assume, studies during the 1970s by the psychologist Edward Deci found that financial incentives were often de-motivating. The bigger the sums that were on offer, the more blurred the incentive became. 

The problem is people start to fixate on the financial goal more than the work itself. Looking at Deci’s study now, you’d conclude that people aren’t really motivated by an external factor like cold hard cash. Instead, it’s something that comes from another place much deeper within.

It’s an interesting conundrum when it comes to employee retention. The old school of thought would suggest that money can paper over any cracks to reverse an employee’s desire to leave. Yet employee empowerment can be a far more potent prospect. It’s incredible to witness how an increase in autonomy can make for a much more motivated, happier workforce.  

And that’s where work-based learning comes in. With organizational transparency and pathways that can be dictated by the employees themselves, they have much greater control over their careers.

Pink’s Key Motivators

Successful work-based learning takes human complexity into account, celebrates it, and makes space for it. It understands that true nourishment rarely comes from competition, but more from collaboration and communication. From team building and team bonding. 

At their core, effective work-based learning techniques build on the author Daniel Pink’s Motivation Theory, from his 2009 bestseller, Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us. In the book, Pink outlines the cornerstones of motivation, which are also the cornerstones for a continuous work-based learning culture. Namely:

  • Autonomy – This refers to the basic human desire to make individual choices and to lead your own life. As a concept, it might fly in the face of traditional management practices, but it can be far more effective. Autonomy allows employees to take ownership of their work. And in terms of work-based learning, it enables them to choose the learning pathways that suit them, and they are more engaged as a result.
  • Mastery – Pink sees this as the natural human desire to improve and become better at something. The theory being that if a person feels that they’re progressing, they will become increasingly invested. It’ll enhance their inner drive. Through the lens of work-based learning, this means promoting growth and ensuring progress through the promise of new skills and better performance. 
  • Purpose – People want to feel part of something bigger than themselves. Pink outlines how people have an intrinsic desire to serve a greater purpose than their own. Working together as part of a team and learning together can build this sense of purpose and accomplishment. Not just individually but collectively. And this is what makes employees not just content with their work but excited by it.

Transforming L&D strategy

While employee expectations and workplace learning opportunities are changing, fostering employee growth is the best way organizations can attract and retain the talent they need to thrive. With Emergn’s work-based learning programs and pathways, you’ll benefit from a more engaged workforce empowered with the right skills and capabilities to improve business outcomes. Our aim is two-fold – to give people relevant new skills and to provide the best opportunity for learners to gain the skills needed to support your organization’s growth and success.

Learn more about how our work-based learning solutions foster employee growth and retention, while also growing your organizational capabilities at Learning Skills & Capabilities.