Monetary bonuses are always welcome, but this holiday season, business leaders should also consider education as a gift. Actively reskilling and upskilling your workforce can help offset the current labor shortage through professional training and development. What’s more, the opportunity for growth within your organization can offer an advantage over competitors when it comes to recruiting new talent.

Company programs that foster new skills are an investment of time and money, but in this climate of the Great Resignation, these adaptations can make up for a shrinking labor pool and help retain your current roster. Heidi Brooks, a professor at the Yale School of Management, told CNBC’s Mikaela Cohen in a recent article that learning opportunities can also boost morale and commitment among workers during the pandemic:

There’s a lot of concern about people switching jobs and having some sense of agency in their work. There’s a question of how organizations and leaders can reasonably respond to that sense of pressure. … One of the ways to respond is by offering educational opportunities through upskilling.

A company can address the questions and concerns that have inspired a burnt-out workforce to resign, retire, change jobs, or resume schooling by offering workers the chance to explore their career assets while they work for you. Meaningful programs that upskill employees communicate that you are invested in the people who work for you and lead to greater loyalty and retention, as Henry Albrecht of the Limeade Institute asserts in the same article, citing his organization’s 2019 report on “the science of care” in the workplace:

If companies can invest in people learning and growing, their best people will stay longer and part of that is not burning out their best people. … When people perceive that their organization cares about them, they’re seven times more likely to want to stay three or more years, and they’re four times less likely to burn out and feel that they can’t participate.

This is true with any industry, because every industry has been affected by the labor shortage. A great client of mine based in South Carolina manufactures spunmelt nonwoven materials for hygiene, medical, and industrial markets. I have collaborated with them to build programs that provide individuals at all levels of the organization opportunities to learn and grow in support of their career trajectory in the company. It is part of an overall eighteen-month commitment to support and enhance the employee experience at each of their North American facilities. They understand that being hired is not the endpoint of an employee’s ambition, and in the long run, any support an organization provides for individual workers as they develop skills and knowledge will ultimately serve the organization with greater loyalty, advantages in recruitment, and higher productivity.

I would encourage any organization to initiate internal programs like these or refurbish existing ones that may not have received the resources required to attract and retain talent. Upskilling is not a freebie at the organization’s expense, nor does it educate the worker to a point where their growth mindset will lead them to abandon their position. Average retention at any organization, even prior to the pandemic, is just over four years, regardless of the quality of the work experience. Organizations need to use what may be a relatively short amount of time to build goodwill and deliver the message that they value and invest in the workers who execute on the overarching mission. Such an approach delivers an ROI far exceeding any individual employee’s time at the company.