The transition from one calendar year to another is when you see all the “trend” articles predicting what are going to be the hot developments to watch in 2019, whether the trends are about learning, training, development, HR or other related fields. Buried within many of these articles is one trend that I think is the most important of all: Learning opportunities are becoming as or more important than just salary as job seekers look for their next place of employment. That’s why I call it learning vs earning. It’s not that money isn’t important – it obviously is – but the desire to continue learning has become much stronger than anyone could have foreseen in previous times.

Companies have realized that one way to get a hiring edge is to train and upskill new hires.

Buried but Bubbling to the Top: Learning vs Earning

In an article about the top 5 HR innovation trends for 2019, G2 Crowd author Courtney Moran identified employee engagement, but explained it this way: “Furthermore, there are a variety of solutions to help engage employees beyond employee engagement software. These include solutions that provide continual training and education, career development, employee recognition, as well as creating programs around topics like wellness—physical, mental, and financial” (source). You can see what I mean by it being a little buried, but it’s in there: “continual training and education” and “career development.”

Here’s how Culture Amp CEO Didier Elzinga puts it: “In all the data that we see at Culture Amp, an employee feedback and analytics platform, L&D is one factor that comes up time and time again as a key driver of engagement, retention and productivity” (source) In other words, given two job opportunities where the compensation isn’t hugely different, opportunities for learning and development have bubbled to the top as a decisive factor for which position to accept, even if it means less money.

There is also a level of urgency here that is also driving the trend. The corporate landscape is struggling with a perceived lack of skilled talent to fill needed positions. An increasing number of companies have realized that one way to get a hiring edge is to show how they are willing to invest the time and resources needed to train new hires. When you think about it, the options available for improving your business really boil down to just two: You can either hire better employees or invest in the growth of employees.

Learning vs Earning: The Generational Effect

Part of what’s happening here has to do with a generational trend. Millennials became the largest percentage of the workforce back in 2016. As of 2017 Millennial made up more than third (35%) of the workforce at 56 million strong, whereas Gen Xers had 53 million and Boomers only 41 million workers. When you then hone in on what Millennials want, learning and growth make a strong appearance. “According to Qualtrics, 80% of Millennials say a culture that emphasizes personal growth is highly important. That means finding a place where learning is a long-term philosophy and comes from peers as well” (source). Even more to the point, another study from EdAssist revealed that Millennials value tangible learning opportunities over salary when pursuing a new job (source).

If your company has yet to specifically target Millennials for your next round of hiring opportunities, now is the time to do it – and the learning vs earning trend means offering robust opportunities for learning and development is the key to making it happen. Just keep in mind it’s about more than extra training or busywork. Leveraging the opportunity involves making it meaningful to both the employee and the company, as well as presenting pathways for career growth and development. The Gallup report, How Millennials Want to Work and Live, notes that 59% of Millennials rank opportunities to learn and grow as “extremely important” when looking at employment opportunities, and 87% rate “professional or career growth and development opportunities” as important (source). Investing in these opportunities now will pay dividends for years in terms of boosting hiring, engagement and retention.

The takeaway here is that the days when people worked the same position until retirement are long gone. What people are looking for these days are jobs with significant opportunities to learn and grow. If your employees ask themselves, “Is this company investing in my growth?” What would the answer be? In the learning vs earning game, if your company can show it is committed to offering job seekers robust L&D opportunities, you will undoubtedly reap the benefits for years to come. Learning professionals will have a key role to play in helping companies take advantage of the new desire for learning, training, development and growth that is rising among the Millennial workers that make up the largest share of the workforce today.