HLB Chief People Officer Marina Kooijmans looks at how employers can better retain staff by supporting them through Learning and Development.

Retaining talent is becoming more and more of a challenge in today’s difficult labour market. Good talent is hard to find and extremely painful to lose. Besides that, the accountancy profession is changing, due to technology developments and changing requests from clients. Many firms today are facing skill gaps and talent shortages. Retaining and strengthening the workforce is a cumbersome job. Investing in the learning and development of your people will however, almost certainly, improve the ability to attract, advance, and retain talent. 

Organisations need to change how they think about talent, from attraction to hiring for potential, rather than fit or experience. Learning and Development (L&D) is often overlooked and underused, but it is critical to attracting talent and driving lasting market advantage. 

An important start is an understanding that learning benefits your people and your firm at the same time, “learning is driving talent, and talent is driving the business”. Highly effective learning organisations have higher levels of talent retention. McKinsey research found that the top reason (41%) employees cited for quitting previous jobs was a lack of career development and learning opportunities. The organisations that prioritise people development become talent magnets for employees who want to build their skills and networks.

In the new ‘war for talent’ skills-based organisations are the future. Skills are a better gauge of true workforce potential and capabilities than university degrees or high-calibre job titles ever will be. Business leaders now see rapid upskilling and reskilling training as a key initiative to continue to be competitive in a volatile and ever-changing marketplace.

Currently the accounting industry is facing the problem that the innovation rate in technology is outpacing their employees’ knowledge and experience. The rate at which technology is changing has become so rapid that many roles are becoming obsolete before people can gain more relevant skills to replace what is being lost. 
Fully embracing skills is a new, innovative way of working which you can use to keep up with technology, improve efficiency and respond quickly to change and innovation to attract and retain top talent. And at the same time service your clients better. A skills-based organisation puts skills at the heart of work for increased agility and more efficiency. However, you cannot make the shift to a skills-based organisation, or even to a skills-based mindset, without learning and skills data. You need to know which skills are already in your organisation and which you need to develop. This is what we call an organisation’s skills gap. When you understand this, you can grow and better leverage the talent in your workforce, which will benefit employee retention hugely. 

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By investing in the development of your employees, not only will they benefit, but your organisation will also experience tangible results. Moreover, a culture of learning will motivate your workforce to pursue further L&D opportunities beyond the mandatory training they may perceive as merely fulfilling a requirement. 

Ultimately, creating an impactful L&D culture in the workplace is crucial to making learning part of people’s everyday flow of work. Learning platforms today offer personalised learning paths and microlearning which allows you to learn and to absorb material much faster, making learning more accessible and relevant. Learning and development platforms are offering easy and intelligent skills mapping and dashboards, giving recommendations for courses, mentorship, and development opportunities. Technology can help make skills building more user-friendly, customisable, and flexible via AI-powered personalised learning paths, automated nudges in the flow of work, or even full metaverse learning and development platforms. These technologies help put the employee in the driver’s seat of their own development journey and can help provide the right L&D intervention at the right time, place, and pace. 

By nourishing a learning culture that inspires and enables people to achieve their potential you will encourage growth and retain top talent. L&D plays a significant role in delivering a work culture that encourages your employees to grow, and stay, within your firm.  

Another critical element that plays a role is employee engagement because engaged employees are more likely to stick around. From evidence it shows that engagement and retention go hand in hand. L&D can boost employee engagement in three key-ways:  personal growth, internal mobility, and teamwork. 

  • Learning opportunities help employees feel both personally and professionally challenged. New skills are not just advancing the company’s interests, but their own as well. And people continually feel like they are building valuable skills for their career. 
  • Internal mobility is rising as an important element of employee retention, and it is one that L&D can play a pivotal role in supporting. Research shows that among the many workers who made a career transition during the pandemic, 26% said the change was spurred by a desire to try something new. LinkedIn-Learning-Skills-Advantage-Report.pdf Meanwhile, they ranked “mobility opportunities” as the second-most key factor in deciding to stay with their current employer. L&D programmes help people understand and grow the skills that can help them make moves within an organisation, either vertically or laterally. This, in turn, helps satisfy that innate human need to try something new without needing to switch companies.  
  • With the rise of remote work, business leaders are seeking new ways to support collaboration for their teams. It is difficult to cultivate a magnetic work culture when people feel isolated. That is why social learning is valuable. When an organisation provides opportunities for employees to learn together, a feeling of belonging is created.  

Belonging, success, and social connection fuel culture. The LinkedIn Employee Well-Being Report  LinkedIn Employee Well-Being Report found that people at highly rated work cultures are 31% more likely to recommend working there, and 25% more likely to report being happy there. 

They also found that people who felt they had access to the L&D they needed were 21% more engaged than those who were not, leading to increased employee retention. By providing people with opportunities to further their learning and professional development it does more than just expand organisational skill set; the current evidence shows that it is good for business and good for employee retention. 

Investing in HLB People 

At HLB we invest in our people to allow them to thrive and progress. We are aware of the learning and development needs of our employees. That is why last year we launched the HLB Skills Hub, powered by education technology company Degreed, which complements our member firm’s existing technical training programmes. The skills hub contains a wealth of learning opportunities for upskilling and reskilling of our people’s digital, leadership, advisory and – very important – ‘human’ skills. It is a skill-based platform that will offer both learning as well as internal mobility opportunities so we can empower our people to thrive in their current roles and to prepare them for future ones. 

In addition to the e-learning opportunities from the skills hub we have two outstanding leadership programmes.  

HLB Engage 

HLB has teamed up with The Rainmaker Companies to provide this management development program to future leaders, ambitious and driven people at pre-partner level, focused on creating collaborative international proposals, while forging stronger relationships and partnerships with HLB colleagues. 

The programme will expose our professionals to the consultative approach in working together and help them understand the power in using fellow HLB members to create opportunities. 

The programme is a hybrid set up which utilises both virtual meetings and live instructors provided by the Rainmaker Companies. The content is developed for HLB based on the strategy objectives and four pillars (marketing, talent, technology and ESG). 

Building the Future 

The second is the HLB executive leadership programme, Building the Future. This is designed for more advanced professionals at partner level who wish to enhance their leadership and management skills. Led by University of Cambridge professors, this programme focuses on the most challenging aspects of leadership. 

Participants gain insights into building long-lasting innovation across their organisations. Through the programme, they will learn how to blend corporate and entrepreneurial innovation, how to understand and implement new business models, and explore the principles of service design. Additionally, the programme offers up-to-date frameworks for creating a high-performance culture, maximising organisational effectiveness, and supporting ESG initiatives. This programme aims to help professionals develop the skills they need to become successful leaders and managers in today’s fast-paced business world and create lasting value for their organisation. 


In the new world of work, the rise of automation in accountancy and tax functions means more and more of the repetitive transactional tasks of a traditional accountant’s job will disappear. But while skillsets will be expected to keep up with those technology advances, the ability to interpret data in a way that non-finance people understand and provide insights to help manage and grow a business, will increasingly be required. 

With technical skills and professional qualifications as a given, firms in the accounting industry today want their people to demonstrate greater ‘human’ skills, such as communication, empathy, leadership and listening. This illustrates how our people are embedded in all parts of every organisation, with an expectation that they can explain finance to non-financial clients with ease and empathy.  

A reputation for a strong culture of people development and internal mobility can make all the difference for firms in a tight labour market. Organisations like HLB that make learning and development a priority and a part of their purpose can improve their success in attracting and retaining talent.