A Q&A with Learning Expert Arun Prakash

We all know that building a strong talent bench is a top competitive differentiator. But with plenty of jobs on the market for employees to choose from and the unpredictably fast pace of business today, it has become increasingly hard to find and keep good people.

We sat down with our Chief Learning Architect Arun Prakash to get to the bottom all of this and learned how HR practitioners can keep their talent on track with a strategy rooted in learning.

Q: Why do you think more candidates have been ghosting offers, or long-time employees have been leaving without notice?

Arun Prakash: “I think ghosting – whether it’s a candidate or even a long-time employee – is less of a new trend, and more a sign of the times. With unemployment at its lowest in nearly two decades, we are in an employees’ market. Talented workers know that they are in demand. And, during the bounce back from the economic downturn, what motivates people to work and how they work has changed.

Just a decade or two ago a person might enter the workforce thinking they would be at the same organization for their entire career. In exchange for their loyalty, they’d be given a definitive position, a fair salary and a standard benefits package. Fast forward to today – things have totally changed.

A recent Gallup study says that more than half of workers are actively looking for new jobs.

Now, it is common for folks to move from one company to the other every couple of years. Rapidly-changing business challenges often result in ambiguous job roles and performance benchmarks, skill gaps and touch-and-go career paths. People remain up for the challenge, but under these circumstances, employees place more value on opportunities to grow professionally and personally.”

Q: How can an organization retain our top talent?

Arun Prakash: “If you want to maintain a competitive advantage by attracting and retaining top talent, your organization must take this paradigm shift seriously and evolve its values and processes to meet modern workers where they’re at.

So, what do workers want?

Examine both the written and unwritten contracts between employee and employer and you’ll find that what people want is pretty simple. They want 1) a job that they have the skills for and are enabled to do well, 2) to be part of a community at work, and 3) a sense of purpose and alignment between personal and organizational values. These elements are the fuel for discretionary effort and the coveted employee engagement.

Q: What’s my role as an HR practitioner?

Arun Prakash: When you take a 30,000 foot-view, you can see how HR is really in the pilot’s seat. I think most HR leaders are surprised to learn that their function is so mission critical. They’re not just fulfilling an acute business need (like backfilling a role); they’re the front lines of what your organization stands for.

We know that the first 90 days are critical to an employees’ success. (Remember when LinkedIn had folks share their #First90 stories a few years back?) I would go as far to say that this time period begins with their that first touch from your organizations’ recruiter.

Onboarding has long been an administrative process that commences when an employee signs an offer. And it’s insurmountably varied after that. While most companies recognize the need for an onboarding process for all new hires, most are focused on ticking boxes and satisfying compliance requirements. HR practitioners need to take a close look at their onboarding program to ensure that the employees understand how the business will fulfill its side of the contract. The onboarding program must define what success will look like for both the individual and the organization, explain where the new employee fits in at the organization, and showcase how this individual’s contributions feed into the success of the company at large.

And that’s just for new hires. The same processes in your onboarding programs can be modified and extended across your workforce to manage other worker transitions – whether it’s a promotion, transfer, or when a cultural shift occurs (like M&A activity, downsizing or even a company rebrand.)

What’s more – the same Gallup study that said the majority of your workforce is actively seeking new jobs, shows that lack of development and career growth is the number one reason employees leave a job. (I’d speculate it’s a big reason job candidates’ flake, too.) Learning is inherently part of a broader onboarding-style process, and, while it’s universally valued, it is often executed as a measure of compliance. By ramping up your development plans to include career growth plans, self-directed learning and two-way continuous feedback, HR leaders can make a measurable difference in building and maintaining their talent bench.

Arun Prakash

With more than two decades of learning industry experience, Arun Prakash is a seasoned learning architect, and an expert in envisaging and implementing effective, out-of-the-box training solutions, collaborative learning networks, and knowledge management systems. Arun has experience consulting large corporations and diverse audience, as well as setting up and managing learning organizations. He has undertaken P&L responsibilities, planning, and financial analysis for many learning organizations, and has been able to successfully connect learning effectiveness to business goals and establishing training ROI. As the Chief Learning Architect at InfoPro Learning, Arun is responsible for working closely with key and large accounts in understanding their business goals, and subsequently aligning the goals with measurable learning outcomes and learning solutions.

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