There’s a secret clue your employee is about to quit

January 20, 2022, 1:00 PM UTC

Companies nationwide have been left scrambling as millions of workers have walked off the job in recent months. But there’s at least one sign that could help managers predict when an employee is looking to jump ship.

About 78% of employees who quit in the last six months took an online course, according to a new report from global education company Cengage Group that surveyed 1,200 U.S. workers who recently left their jobs. Nearly two-thirds of respondents, 64%, said this training was integral to landing their next job.

“There is a clear message that today’s workers really demand career growth—and if they don’t find it within their employer, they will quit the job and get it themselves and then get onto the next job,” says Cengage CEO Michael Hansen. 

Since the start of the pandemic, online training and education courses have seen a massive surge in participation. And that hasn’t waned even as the COVID lockdowns and restrictions lifted. 

LinkedIn reported in September that over 4.6 million consumers watched one of the online trainings featured in the site’s 20 Most Popular Courses list last year. Overall, LinkedIn saw a 53% annual increase in the number of hours members globally spent learning. 

Udemy, another online course platform, reported it had 46 million paid and free subscribers as of the end of September 2021, adding 2.4 million new learners globally during the third quarter of 2021. At that point, Udemy had grown its monthly unique visitor levels roughly 1.5x since February 2020. 

“The balance of power between the workers and companies has shifted, both based on that [worker] reassessment as well as on that skills gap,” Hansen says. “It’s just hard to find the right people with the right skills for jobs.” 

Why reskill? More than half of those who quit were looking to change fields, Cengage found. And while workers are willing to put in the work, they are generally looking for short-term commitments, with 72% of those surveyed by Cengage enrolling in a course that lasted six months or less. 

The types of courses most popular with workers who quit were in the fields of health care, technology, or finance and insurance, Cengage found. These are sectors, Hansen says, where there is a much greater prevalence of jobs that require certificates and nondegree skill requirements so workers can actually get new opportunities and potentially pay raises. In health care, for example, workers can train to be a phlebotomist without having to go back to get a four-year degree. 

Traditional degrees might not be as relevant for the employers in these sectors, he adds. In many cases, employers need more up-to-date skills to keep pace with things like coding language and regulation changes. 

The underlying demand continues to be really robust in the health care, technology, and financial sectors, Hansen says. That means it’s easier for reskilled workers to get a job.

While most of the workers who resigned do so out of the desire to earn more, many are willing to make financial sacrifices in the short term. About 71% of those surveyed by Cengage said they expected to be out of work in between jobs, with just over a third planning to be jobless for at least three to six months. And 74% reported they were willing to take a pay cut for an entry-level job in a new field, as long as there was room for long-term growth. 

The fact that so many workers are willing to reskill is a “a real big wake-up call” to employers, Hansen says. Companies need to give their workers an opportunity to train and learn and then move them into jobs that utilize those new skills so they can continue to grow within the company, he adds. 

“Why do you have to wait for people to resign, to recognize that you actually, as an employer, have an opportunity to retain them and retrain them?” Hansen says.

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