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Upskilling and Internships: 2 impactful employee retention strategies

by | May 18, 2022

Hey, Google: “What’s the toughest task in the world?”

Google: “A quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson: What is the hardest task in the world? To think.”

But you as a talent leader might be facing an even greater challenge today – retaining employees. Nearly 3.48 million American workers quit their jobs in April 2021 alone, which was almost double the number of those who left a year earlier in 2020. What can you do to attract and retain talent? 

Two ways to help develop talent and build durable professional relationships are by incorporating internship programs and upskilling into your employee retention strategies. 

What makes an internship program a solid employee retention strategy?

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, full-time employees hired following internships are up to 20% more likely to stick with their hiring organization when compared to non-intern hires. The numbers are strongest in Year 1 and continue to show double-digit retention impact in Year 5. These numbers make it clear that the long-term effects and ROI of an internship program could strengthen retention rates!

The development of future employees through internships is a low-risk high-reward strategy for retention:

  • From their early stages, internships are opportunities to proactively combine personal and organizational missions, helping managers understand their interns’ deepest motivations. Studies shared by Health Careers show that 81% of the surveyed workers do not feel support from their company in their personal lives. Discovering who the intern is as a person and involving their personal values in their roles can create long-term benefits such as overall satisfaction, leading to higher chances of retention.
  • Internships are also a trial period and an opportunity to see an applicant in action beyond how they presented themselves in an interview. As an employer, encourage interns to consider whether the company is a good fit for them as well. Again, employee retention involves a proactive approach and transparency in goals and values. 
  • Interns with mentors in a company can improve or create an interdependent and collaborative work environment. By recruiting current employees into mentorship positions, internal engagement and retention chances increase by 50% and collaborative relationships by 37%. Thus, internship and mentorship gains have the ability to reach all corners of an organization to increase overall employee retention.
  • Looking at it financially, investing in interns geared towards sustainable employment, saves resources. On average, an employer spends 33% of an employee’s yearly salary on their leave and replacement. Save valuable time, energy, and money with initiatives like training and hiring interns.
Internships as employee retention strategies

What makes upskilling a solid employee retention strategy?

According to national surveys, 70% of US employees would stay with their current employer if career development opportunities were available to them. Organizations looking to improve retention rates need to invest in employee retention strategies that show their current workforce opportunity for professional growth. One approach that has effectively increased employee engagement and retention is upskilling. Upskilling is a long-term investment that expands an employee’s existing skillset and competencies to advance in their careers. Ninety-three percent (93%) of CEOs who introduced upskilling into their employee retention strategies saw increased productivity, improved retention and talent acquisition, and an overall more resilient workforce.  

Upskilling benefits both the employer and employee in many ways:

  • Sixty percent of global workers are worried that automation puts many jobs at risk. When organizations help future-proof employees’ careers by teaching them skills that won’t become obsolete, employees can see a direct path to career advancement. 
  • Upskilling efforts boost morale and empower employees to set and reach career goals by identifying concrete opportunities for professional growth
  • A digitally literate workforce fuels innovation by quickly identifying pain points and actionable insights through technology. Productivity increases as companies employ more technology to streamline and improve business processes. 
  • According to the Association for Talent Development, companies that offer comprehensive L&D programs see a 218% increase in revenue per employee.
  • According to SHRM’s skills gap research, 75% of HR professionals say there is a shortage of skilled candidates for job openings. Upskilling opens up your organization’s job pool to employees who may not have the correct job experience but are eager to learn new concepts and skills. 

Do internships and upskilling initiatives work?

As you think about integrating internships and upskilling initiatives into your talent acquisition and employee retention strategies, take a look at Medicus and how they leveraged upskilling initiatives to increase retention. Offering upskilling options needs to start with first identifying the recurring themes in employee feedback and surveys, gathering that data, and then determining when and how to offer these upskilling options that may apply to employees’ operational and talent development goals. At Medicus, a $200 million company with only 215 employees, “turnover is detrimental to our operations,” said Erin Posnick, Team lead of corporate training and development at Medicus Healthcare Solutions. When an uptick in resignations was noticed in a job category, the L&D team gathered employee feedback on why employees were leaving, then, they acted. Posnick’s team collaborated with operators to identify barriers and opportunities to enhance the upskilling experience at key moments in the employee lifecycle. The result was a layered, four-week program that, when designed and implemented, improved retention by 50%.

The best skills strategies allow all employees to advance their careers by identifying and participating in learning paths aligned with personal goals and business objectives. For these programs to help your workforce thrive, it’s critical to choose a program that has a “learner-centered” approach. This means treating students as whole people whose complex motivations, backgrounds, and strengths should be acknowledged as part of the learning process. At Pathstream and Symba, we incorporate compelling content, internships, mentoring programs, and project work to enable your workforce to acquire the skills and knowledge to grow. 

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