Plugging leaky talent pipelines: How reskilling can help you attract and retain top talent

Recruitment and retention are two sides of the same coin. A more integrated approach to talent development and training can help to resolve both.

The work of recruiting and retaining talent often feels like watching over two different doors: one that brings talent in, and one where talent exits. Each door has its own set of challenges and solutions, and requires continuous resource investment and management. For many business leaders and hiring managers, it often seems that an increased focus on recruitment can lead to decreased focus on retention, meaning more people leaving out the exit door — and vice versa. Simply put, focusing on only one half of the struggle for talent all but ensures that you’ll lose ground on the other. 

This siloed approach to talent management is taking its toll and slows the hiring process. A recent international survey conducted by General Assembly found that 91 percent of HR leaders are “very or extremely concerned” that their current recruitment methods will not be enough to fill their open software engineering, data analytics, data science and UX design positions. Existing hiring strategies for these roles can take on average about seven weeks to complete and one in four companies spend nine or more weeks recruiting and hiring for open tech roles. 

But just because the two-pronged approach is common doesn’t mean it’s the only way. Savvy talent leaders are recognizing that it’s possible to simultaneously boost recruitment and retention — essentially combining the two doors into one. And it doesn’t require doubling resources. The truth is that the work of bringing in new workers and retaining existing talent often relies on the same set of training and culture-building principles.

Consider the way in which a growing number of businesses are implementing new approaches to training and upskilling. One large global media company hosts a six-week full-time bootcamp to mentor, train and connect women to technology roles within the company – filling in-demand positions, while also bringing more women into the otherwise male-dominated tech field. And the program is supporting retention efforts too: three years post-graduation, 80 percent of the initial cohort continues to advance their careers within the company, primarily as software engineers. 

Through a different, but equally effective approach, Adobe has adopted a modern apprenticeship model to help nontraditional entry-level candidates gain new digital skills to pursue and succeed in technical careers. As part of its commitment to digital and creative literacy, as well as diversity and inclusion, the Adobe Digital Academy offers career changers subsidized training to gain the experience and skills they need to enter careers in digital marketing, user experience design, software engineering or data science. 

Participants that complete the program are immediately eligible to be considered for apprenticeships and full-time roles at Adobe and receive personalized career support to connect them to local job opportunities. Since the program began in 2015, 130 trainees – roughly 50 percent of all participants in the program – have stayed on as apprentices, and one-third of those apprentices transitioned to full-time roles at Adobe. 

These models recognize the impact of training and upskilling on both sides of the recruitment-retention challenge. Training programs, particularly those focused on specific tech skills, can boost recruitment by enabling talent leaders to look outside the typical recruiting pool, while also prioritizing candidates who may not yet have the skills for the job but know they can grow their skill set within the company. And the data suggest that helping motivated candidates and early-career workers learn those skills makes jobs “stickier:” across all General Assembly’s reskilling programs, organizations retain the workers they train through those programs an average of two to three times longer than talent from other sources, with 91 percent of program graduates retained two years post-hire. 

At the same time, employers can boost retention by enabling incumbent workers to keep their skills sharp or offer reskilling opportunities for emerging roles that face growing need. According to LinkedIn’s most recent Workplace Learning Report, one of the five key factors employees keep in mind when considering a new job is access to opportunities to learn and develop new skills. Companies that invest in continued learning can build pathways to advancement that are appealing to current workers and prospective talent. In the long-run, upskilling and reskilling workers enables businesses to create a stronger pipeline for internal promotion into the tech-focused roles they will need to fill in the years to come.

Treating recruitment and retention as separate challenges has led too many businesses to struggle with both, particularly as they manage tight resources in an increasingly volatile economy. The truth is that recruitment and retention are two sides of the same coin, and a more integrated approach to talent development and training can help to resolve both. Businesses that recognize this fact are already reaping the rewards twofold: they’re investing in internal and external talent pipelines while also reducing costly and labor-intensive churn. This strategy is incredibly promising, but building a stronger and more resilient economy will depend on more companies following their lead. Those who do will find that instead of having to manage entryways and exit doors at the same time, they’re keeping more people not just in the building, but on an upward trajectory in their careers.