Why A Strong Learning Culture Is Vital For Engagement

If you want to field your best people, you need to provide plenty of training opportunities to help keep them on top of their game…

Employees are on the hunt for a new breed of employer. They know what they want and they’re not afraid to go and get it.

If you don’t measure up, your staff will soon jump ship and take their hard-won skills with them, leaving you with lost productivity and a nasty talent retention problem to boot.

So, what you do next, matters. 

As Sodexo’s ‘Move, Mould, Motivate: An Essential Guide to Employee Engagement’ points out, “Employees demand real leaders. People who’ll light the way, advocate a culture of constant learning and give them everything they require to do an exceptional job”.

When it comes to providing relevant and absorbing training and career development opportunities, the ball is firmly in your court.

It couldn’t be more important to create a strong learning environment, giving staff the engagement tools they need to carry out their work with autonomy and pride.  

Get it right, and your employees will perform to a high standard. Take the wrong turn and your footwork will be way off.  


We’re often led to believe that it’s junior recruits who are hungry for learning, development and progression. Millennials want to climb the career ladder – although some suggest they’re heading straight for the elevator instead – pursuing alternative destinations if the opportunities are lacking.

Jim Clifton, Gallup, explains, “Millennials care about having managers who can coach them, who value them as both people and employees, and who can help them understand and build their strengths.”

We say, all well and good for millennials. But surely everyone wants a piece of that?  

When you prioritise employee training for all, you’re signalling that you’re invested in your people and want them to succeed. By keeping staff stimulated in this way, you give them the tools for improving performance and play to their sense of self-worth.  

And that creates valuable employee engagement – something that attracts and retains staff like bees on honey.


As Sodexo’s study reveals, growth opportunity is one of the key essentials for grabbing workplace engagement. It highlights that, “Organisations with a strong learning culture have 30-50% higher engagement and retention rates,” (David Mallon).

Yet, an RSA/Populus survey suggests that fewer than half of employees (44%) feel they have progressed in their careers over the last five years. In addition, only 40% feel they have good opportunities to progress in future.

That’s not going to make anyone feel good.

Sodexo’s research explores the ‘undeniable importance of management’ and integral to this is their role as the individuals responsible for training and development within the organisation.

Sodexo’s report says, “Managers account for 70% of variance in employee engagement scores”, according to the Harvard Business Review.

Simply put, if you’re not placing training at the centre of your HR capabilities this year, you may as well down tools now.

So, how can HR departments best approach training and development to score some serious engagement at work?


We’ll start with the obvious. While it’s important to get your new recruits up to speed and fast, training should be a consistent part of the overall employee experience.

A good induction can be powerful and create valuable employee engagement from the outset. It’s also a great way to instil the values of the company into the new employee. We keep hearing that millennials want purpose over pay checks, so this is your chance to show you’re a caring organisation as soon as they step through the door.

Even more than that, word gets around.

It’s the little touches that count. Think about these and you’ll not only look and act like an employer of choice, but you’ll stand out as a business that cares about its people.  

As Sodexo’s report tells us, “67% of engaged employees are happy to act as advocates for their organisation, compared to 3% of disengaged ones” (Gallup).

With talent in short supply, what you do when new staff arrive, pumped full of enthusiasm for their new role, is crucial. It’s safe to say, they’ll be testing your positive workplace culture – you know, the one you went on about at interview – to the limit.

Failure to set out key responsibilities and convey important information beyond where the nearest kettle is, is a gross error of management. After all, nobody likes to feel like they’re going to drop the ball at any minute – it just creates stress and worry, something that most new employees will already be dealing with.

It could also lead to your new recruit hitting the high road before you’ve even got through the initial settling-in period.

After all, ACAS tells us that the first few weeks are critical, with eight out of ten staff who leave their employer being new employees. Don’t let that be you.

Along with new employee orientation, this is your chance to make an amazing first impression and set out all the reasons why your company is the place to be. Whether that’s covering off employee benefits and employee recognition platforms, this is where your organisation can truly shine and, done well, stay positively glowing in staff’s minds.

With good communication and ongoing support, managers can ensure the initial training period goes smoothly, working towards creating that all-important workplace engagement. 

There will be a lot of information to get across, so try to find innovative ways to help your employee settle in – and feel epic – as soon as humanly possible.

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Everyone needs a little bit of extra oomph to help them stay focused on daily tasks.

Without on-the-job training, work engagement may be low and people will become bored and lose focus. Before too long, like a football manager after the transfer window closes, you’ll be wondering where your talent upped and went.

Attracting and retaining staff is going to require some pretty outstanding career development opportunities. It’s not always a case of providing opportunities for promotion, either, although staff do require recognition for a job well done.

It’s about sending the message that you value your people.   

Sodexo’s report also says, “If you can’t promote an employee, the next best thing is to give him or her a thoughtful, personalised reward that sends the message: we recognise how well you’re performing. You’re going places with this company.”

Without doubt, staff recognition schemes certainly have their place in helping employees to go the extra mile, but up-to-date training opportunities are also critical here. When you help people to do better at their job, you’ll have more chance of improving performance and hitting those important targets that really matter.

Shop around for bespoke training, courses and conferences to help develop skills that can bring your business to the next level. New training companies like eLearning start-ups are always popping up, so take time out to see what’s fresh in the world of career development.

Find out what sort of on-the-job training is available in your sector – think outside the box and remember to tailor opportunities so they’re relevant to the individual.

And don’t just stop there.

It’s time to take it to the top – equip your managers with the skills they need to do a better job and everyone stands to benefit.


Make sure your managers have plenty of opportunities so they can learn how to become great leaders (we’re not talking Genghis Khan, but you get the drift). Without good bosses to bring your staff on, on-the-job training can only do so much.

Iain Thomson, Director of Incentive and Recognition at Sodexo, says, “The reality is that effective management requires a specific skillset that doesn’t always come naturally.” After all, you can’t really expect managers to hit the ground running if they’re new to the game.

Fact is, a little bit of management training can go a long way, helping you to field a fully engaged and talented team. This is key to the report from Sodexo, so forgive us if we’re getting a little over enthusiastic here.

As Sodexo’s study notes, “People managers or team leaders are defined by the fact they achieve results through others. So, the most fundamental thing for them to nail is to support their people to do the best they can,” (Johnny Gifford, Senior Advisor, Organisational Behaviour at CIPD).

We’ve also heard that, “61% of employees in teams led by managers who focus on strengths, are engaged” (Gallup). So it’s no wonder that it couldn’t be more important to get your managers fired up with the latest development and training opportunities.

Do that and your whole workforce will feel the benefits of employee engagement and everyone stands to win.  

Employee performance incentives can play a part in helping to drive talent engagement in this area as well. That way, you’ll be improving performance and creating a general feel-good factor that brings about truly brilliant business success stories. And that’s something everyone can get behind.


Ultimately, employee training and career development is more than a nice-to-have. It’s an essential for every member of staff at every level. Play to your staff’s strengths, get them excited about learning new skills or developing ones they already have, and you honestly won’t look back.

It won’t be long before your organisation is feeling the very heady effects of long lasting employee engagement.

When you bring about a strong learning culture, you’ll create motivational success stories that stay front of mind and keep everyone eager to perform to a high standard.  

Trust us, it’s the best home run you’ll ever make.


An un-engaged workforce can be the biggest challenge that faces employers. Not only is it bad for staff retention, it's also the biggest threat to an organisation's bottom line! Discover if poor staff engagement is hitting your company where it hurts - try our free online engagement calculator and get instant results today!

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