Tips for Retaining Employees and Promoting a Culture of Learning

Many factors contribute to a workplace culture that attracts and retains the right employees. In nearly every industry, employees are looking for an encouraging environment and opportunities for advancement. People want the room to learn and grow professionally. You’ll want to work on tips for retaining employees while promoting a culture of learning.

Tips for Retaining Employees and Promoting a Culture of Learning

A key element in any organization’s strategy for employee retention and business growth must be ongoing learning and development. However, for many organizations that are facing competing priorities and razor-thin budgets, making sure employees are trained on the latest business-related technologies often takes a backseat.

Cloud Services Imperative to Business Growth and Learning

With cloud services becoming imperative to business growth and enterprise cloud spending rapidly increasing, de-prioritizing employee skills development is not an option.

Between 2019 and 2020 alone, organizations as a whole doubled the workload that they shifted to the cloud, and over 20 percent expect to move 80–100 percent of their workloads to the cloud sometime this year.

However, the number of trained staff to manage those cloud environments is severely lacking, with only 1 in 3 organizations indicating they have a formal process and resources in place to address this skills gap.

Are There Enough Professional With Cloud Skills? Your Employees can Learn

There simply aren’t enough professionals with cloud skills to make up for the rapid growth in organizations that need professionals with those skills. As such, organizations must be intentional about investing in and nurturing a culture that places cloud skills learning at the forefront of their priorities to attract and retain high-quality cloud talent.

Skill Development for Business Growth and Learning

Throughout my career, I’ve worked with organizations that encouraged skills development in various ways and saw increased confidence among employees as a result, which led to a more innovative and agile work environment.

Developing a culture that prioritizes skills development can include various forms of formal and informal training and motivation.

The Value of Hands-On Learning

There are many ways to create a skills development culture that makes the most of your organization’s cloud investment—whether it’s through affirming the value of hands-on experience, encouraging experimentation, or emphasizing the importance of achieving industry certifications.

Strategies to Gain Needed Cloud Skills and Business Growth

  • Institutionalize Your Skilling Culture

    Incorporate employee skills development into your organization’s annual goals—tied to leadership performance metrics and individual employees’ goals—to establish operational rigor that substantiates your desired culture.

    Consider specific strategic and operational imperatives that align to skilling gaps, such as encouraging industry certification achievements in specific cloud skills that are lacking within your company. In addition, managers should have an open and continuous dialogue with employees to align skills development and industry credentials to the individual’s current role and their short- and long-term career path.

    Institutionalizing skills building from the very top of the organization ensures the culture is intentional about creating a culture that values ongoing learning and curiosity.

  • Stay Future-Focused for Cloud Initiatives

    Organizations need to ask themselves, “What cloud initiatives are coming in the next 12 to 24 months, and what cloud skills do we lack now to be successful with them?”You need to think beyond the IT teams within your organization and arm both IT and non-IT (such as finance, sales, marketing, and administrative) staff with cloud knowledge to increase your organization’s ability to deliver more quickly and collaboratively.

    Think holistically to determine the expertise and cloud competencies that your organization needs, formulate a future-focused skills-development plan, and start energizing teams to lean into these development areas.

  • Identify Champions

    Acknowledge the skilled professionals in your organization and encourage them to act as mentors and coaches to others. Then, create a process and structure to empower these champions to drive employee learning programs.

    This helps build leadership opportunities for your champions—while creating additional mechanisms for employee growth—creating a flywheel. Before long, once-new learners will step up as emerging champions.

  • Encourage Employees to Take Dedicated Time for Skills Development

    For a learning culture to take hold, leaders and managers need to bake in skills development time into their timelines and milestones. Likewise, empower employees to dedicate time during the workweek to prioritize learning and build their skills.

    For example, on my team, we set time aside—one day per month without meetings or other deadlines—for learning. While it may take time for this practice to take hold, consistently dedicating time for employees to learn new skills will encourage them to take advantage of it.

  • Create Sprint-Style Learning

    Think about creating an agile—and repeatable—approach to learning in short timeframes or sprints. Establish the desired timeframe and design a learning program that includes a team or multi-team challenge (e.g., earn 50 certifications in 50 days).

    This compressed approach helps organizations skill up or gain certifications quickly in a particular job function or domain, but it must balance business demands. In addition, employees need to feel the organization’s commitment to making space for learning, so they feel confident setting daily responsibilities aside to pursue their skills development.

  • Incorporate Peer Connection and Learning

    Take advantage of interactive and gamified learning approaches in order to create peer connections and cross-functional synergies. Fun, hands-on, and risk-free learning scenarios can motivate employees to learn a new skill or enhance a current one while increasing expertise and collaboration among participants.

    Encourage friendly competition by splitting employees into small groups and assigning them a cloud project to complete within a certain timeframe. Once a winning team is determined, invite them to present their project and key learnings during a company meeting.

  • Recognize and Reward Achievement

    Don’t forget to acknowledge, reward, and create incentives for all employees who are putting in the effort toward creating a culture where learning new skills is the norm. This can include advancement opportunities, a leadership role in a new business venture or project, managing employees, and more.

    Ensure skills development is part of regular manager check-ins with employees to encourage a two-way dialogue about ongoing skill milestones.


Building a skills development culture can help you attract and retain valued talent, help employees stay more engaged and innovative at work, and increase your overall business prosperity.

With a little creativity and a lot of enthusiasm, you can realize tremendous organizational benefits by cultivating a culture of continuous skills development.

By Scott Barneson

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