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ATD Blog

If You Want to Retain Your Workforce, Focus on Building These Skills

Thursday, January 26, 2023

A study from OpenSesame and Lighthouse Research & Advisory underscores the importance of employee belonging in any L&D strategy.

It’s no surprise that having high employee retention makes is extremely beneficial for organizations. When an individual leaves, they take both their unique skills and the institutional knowledge of the company and customers with them. Recruiting and hiring new employees can be costly, and it takes time to equip them with the same institutional knowledge that was lost. Meanwhile, as workplace social dynamics shift and reduced bandwidth slows productivity, team morale may start to decline.

If you want to keep as much of your workforce for as long as possible, then you need to find out why people leave their jobs in the first place. Digging deeper can lead to surprising discoveries.

OpenSesame and Lighthouse Research & Advisory recently surveyed 2,000 individuals about the issues that were top of mind this year regarding their jobs and professional learning and development. After compensation-related reasons, job stress and burnout were the biggest factors causing people to quit during the past year and a half. That’s not exactly a revelatory discovery, but when you look at ways to combat this burnout things get interesting.

Combat Burnout With Employee Belonging

The report summarizing those survey findings— 3 Key Learning Trends for 2023: What Employers Need to Know—outlines a few different solutions for reducing on-the-job stress. Providing specific training on coping strategies, improving manager skills, and creating equitable work environments were all effective options. But the data showed something else that matters tremendously: cultivating employee belonging.


Employee belonging refers to how much an individual feels they are respected, accepted, and appreciated at work. Through our research, we saw just how much this mattered for employee retention. The data showed that workers with a high belonging score were four times less likely to have dealt with mental health declines in the last year and nearly three times less likely to have plans to quit their job. They were also five times more likely to recommend their company as a great place to work.

Cultivate Employee Belonging Through Learning and Development

Employee belonging is linked to mental health and diversity, equity, and inclusion. We found that investing in one area made improvements in the others. So if you want to retain your workforce, dedicating resources to helping them feel valued, understood, and influential at work is well worth the investment.


Many organizations understand the importance of these initiatives. Of those surveyed, employers were six times more likely to say their budget for DEI-related programs had increased, rather than decreased, over the past 18 months. They were also three times more likely to say that DEI and mental health training should be provided in part or in whole by an outside content provider, as opposed to strictly in house, further underscoring the value they see in these kinds of investments.

The key takeaway from all this: If your company wants to keep its top talent, it can’t afford to treat issues like mental health, diversity, and belonging as afterthoughts. You need to make them top priorities.

For more information about the differences mental health, DEI, and employee belonging can make in the workplace, as well as other critical issues to be aware of in 2023, read the full 3 Key Learning Trends for 2023: What Employers Need to Know report.

About the Author

Hannah Wilber is senior content strategist for OpenSesame.

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