Make Employee Training Central to Your Talent Acquisition Strategy

Every organization experiences some employee turnover. Company growth and shifting dynamics often prompt the need for new talent, but it’s important to keep your best and brightest. Meanwhile, recruiting employees is expensive, time-consuming, and doesn’t always work out. The global skills gap only compounds matters by making the search for the right employees, particularly for tech-related positions, extremely competitive.  

However, there’s a better approach to staffing than simply plugging holes with new hires as needs arise. Instead of stop-gap tactics, what you really need is a long-term strategy. What if the right person already works for you but just needs to learn some new skills? Or, from a broader perspective, are you sure you’re targeting the right skills and characteristics in your search for (and retention of) talent? 

It’s important to recognize the attributes that are common among your highest performers—soft skills such as adaptability, emotional maturity, and the drive to grow within the company—instead of simply considering what’s on their resume. Technical skills are important, of course, but forward-thinking employers offer growth opportunities to current and prospective employees to both attract and retain top performers.

We’ll take a look at the trends driving this approach, the value of investing in employee training, and why you should make employee training a key feature of your talent acquisition strategy. 

Talent Acquisition is Much More Than Just Recruitment

First, let’s discuss “talent acquisition,” a commonly uttered (and often misused) term. While it’s not synonymous with recruitment, it does encompass recruitment efforts. If the recruitment is the process of finding candidates for a particular position in your company, then think of talent acquisition as a broader, ongoing strategy for attracting and retaining talent.

Talent acquisition is still focused on the end goal of putting the right people into open positions, but it also encompasses:

  • Sourcing 

    Determine where the top talent congregates (networking forums, professional organizations, etc.) and cultivate relationships.
  • Maintaining a Talent Pipeline 

    Tracking candidates and checking in periodically, regardless of your needs or their availability, could pay off down the road.
  • Company Branding 

    Make your company a coveted workplace through year-round branding efforts. 
  • Forecasting 

    Identify which types of positions are the most difficult to fill and prioritize accordingly. 
  • Succession Planning 

    Who’s next in line when your senior-level talent moves on? You don’t want to scramble for their replacements after the fact.

These talent acquisition efforts often result in recruiting new hires, but they also may be addressed through training or upskilling options in many cases. How you fill these positions and address the skills gap in your organization will vary, but training options provide a compelling and cost-effective alternative to simply hiring anew.

What’s Driving the Employee Upskilling Trend?

Several factors are driving the need for companies to provide their staff with upskilling and other professional development opportunities. These include the dearth of candidates in the job market who have the necessary technical skills, the rapid progression of technology (i.e., new skills are needed at an accelerating pace), and increased employee demand for professional development opportunities.

Employee Demand 

Eighty-three percent of North American workers said that access to training contributes positively to job happiness, according to Ceridian’s 2018-2019 Pulse of Talent report. Other surveys show similarly high (and increasing) support for training options among employees. So before you install that foosball table or craft beer tap, you may want to consider investing in a training program instead. 

If investing in your employees’ skills helps you retain them, then surely it also will help attract top talent to your company in the first place. There are many ways an employer can leverage these training options as part of their talent acquisition strategy, such as making it part of the company culture and branding through social media.

The Skills Gap

Organizations have had a difficult time finding candidates with the specific skills needed for a given role, especially in the current cycle of low unemployment. The key is to hire for potential, not specific technical skills, according to a review of 2019 talent trends published by HR Dive (which, by the way, named “upskilling” as the #1 talent trend). By looking for candidates who are on the right skills trajectory and adaptable to change, you’re able to field a much larger pool of quality applicants. 

Perhaps you’ve identified a candidate with project management experience who would be a great cultural fit, but who lacks the technical skills to adapt to your organization’s specific processes. Hiring and then upskilling that individual could give you an edge as opposed to limiting your options to those with a particular certification on their resumes.  

The trend in hiring has turned toward the prioritization of soft skills, which usually can't be taught. These include the ability to work as part of a team, adaptability to change, creativity, a penchant for problem-solving, the ability to multitask, and so on. An employee who’s strong in soft skills will be more amenable to training for technical skills, and in most cases will end up being one of your top performers.

The Rapid Pace of Technological Change

Just because a recent graduate doesn’t have specific training in the latest machine learning technologies or project management methodologies doesn’t mean they’re not a fit with your company. The pace of technological change is so rapid that no one can afford to rest on their laurels. 

The reality for any professional endeavor, especially in tech-related fields, is the need to regularly update your skill set. Those who don’t will get left behind. In fact, the majority of companies surveyed for McKinsey & Co.’s 2018 Future of the Workforce survey agreed that a key to their future success will be “providing continuous learning options and instilling a culture of lifelong learning throughout the organization.”

And when you offer training options, you also position them for your organization’s future needs (see forecasting and succession planning above). Since they’re already a part of the company, they can hit the ground running when transitioning to a new role made possible through upskilling.  

The Bottom Line: Employee Training vs. Hiring 

The old adage “it takes money to make money” holds true across most aspects of running a successful business, including training and hiring. Whether you hire new employees or train existing ones for new roles depends on several factors unique to your situation. Sometimes you need to look outside the organization, but reskilling (where it makes sense) can help you save money, increase productivity, and retain top performers.

Quality training programs that adequately prepare your staff for certification exams and transitions into challenging new roles aren’t cheap, but neither is the cost of recruiting new employees. Expenditures related to hiring include:

  • Job ads or third-party recruiters
  • Recruiting software
  • Time spent internally to assess applicants
  • Lost productivity while positions remain unfilled
  • Background checks
  • Onboarding and ramp-up time

All of this adds up to more than $4,000, according to an estimate from Glassdoor. It can cost as much as 50 to 60 percent of an employee’s annual salary to find a direct replacement, according to research from the Society for Human Resource Management. An article published by Dice, a career site for IT and engineering professionals, cites research suggesting that it costs about $4,425 to hire a new employee, but only $1,300 (on average) to upskill an existing one. 

Plan on using a third-party recruiter? They’re good at finding the diamonds in the rough, but they’ll take 15 to 25 percent of the new hire’s salary as payment for their efforts.

These estimates vary quite a bit, but you get the idea. Hiring is expensive. If you can avoid hiring someone new by upskilling an existing employee, you’re potentially saving your company thousands while removing the uncertainty that comes with hiring.

Add Employee Training to Your Talent Acquisition Toolbox

As you can see, a comprehensive talent acquisition strategy is key to organizational success. Simply waiting around until you need to fill a position just doesn’t cut it in today’s highly competitive job market. However, hiring for potential—and bridging any skills gaps in-house—can give you leverage in a number of ways. 

Simplilearn offers training in a wide variety of technical and project management skills through a unique combination of online self-learning (OSL), live instructor-led classes from industry experts, and practice exams. Check out our online corporate training programs and find out how Simplilearn can be your valued partner in keeping the skills of your best and brightest up to date. Our free resources section will help you get up to speed on the roles in which we offer training and certifications.

About the Author

Steve TannerSteve Tanner

Steve has worked as a reporter, editor, researcher, and web content writer for more than 20 years, covering law, business, technology, and finance. His career spans journalism, online content, and marketing. A lifelong learner, Steve enjoys reading and honing his skills as a cook and homebrewer.

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