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New workforce research shows the direct link between a positive workplace culture and employees’ motivation to learn new skills for long-term career goals, rather than learning only for the sake of meeting employer requirements for their current job.

This was among the findings of The Workforce Learns 2021 report from Degreed, which explored the value of positive workplace learning experiences at a time when employers are grappling with skill shortages and employee turnover.

The study polled 2,400 global workers in 15 countries who worked in retail, healthcare, financial services, technology, travel and hospitality and professional services businesses. Respondents were divided between two groups: those who rated their workplace culture positively (“promoters”) and those who rated their workplace as neutral or negative (“detractors”).

Promoters were 50% more likely to learn in preparation for their next potential role, while 68% of detractors were motivated to learn only to meet minimum employer requirements, highlighting this group’s low level of engagement.

The findings also show there are four key factors that correlate with more continuous and impactful upskilling and career development:

  • Guidance on what and how to learn
  • Diverse and active development experiences
  • Feedback and insights on progress
  • Opportunities to practice, apply, and stretch skills

In a positive workplace culture, opportunities for career growth are readily available and employees feel more in control of their career. The study found that 81% of promoters stated that they have access to easy-to-use tools for their career planning and 73% said it’s easy to find new roles internally.

While promotions are important in a positive culture, the study also showed that opportunities to move laterally or work on collaborative stretch assignments are just as important and boost employee retention. Promoters are 235% more likely to switch to a new function in their organization, 101% more likely to work on temporary projects and 189% more likely to work with a mentor or coach; ensuring all of their skills are used to their full potential.

The role of managers in creating strong workplace cultures is also highlighted by the report, with promoters being 270% more likely to say that their manager supports their development. Conversely, detractors were 92% more likely to feel that their manager has not meaningfully supported their development over the past year.