Upskilling Study

Study finds that 74% of Millennial and Gen Z employees are likely to quit within the next year due to a lack of skills development opportunities

The external market study by research firm Workplace Intelligence, conducted in partnership with Amazon, finds that the vast majority of employees are highly motivated to improve their skillset and grow their careers, and many plan to leave their company for a more supportive employer.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 27, 2022 – The nature of work continues to evolve, and so do the needs and wants of employees. Now, in many ways, employees have the upper hand as companies experience labor shortages and competition for top talent. Employers seeking to recruit and engage employees during these labor market shifts need to offer top-quality learning and development programs to entice potential candidates and engage their employees who are looking to develop their skills, advance in their jobs, and grow in their careers.

To learn more about the current industry sentiment, Amazon commissioned research firm Workplace Intelligence to conduct a blind survey of 3,000 U.S. employees from a variety of industries and companies. The study revealed that most employees are concerned they lack the skills (78%) and education (71%) required to advance their career, and the pandemic is at least partly to blame. In fact, 58% of employees are afraid that their skills have gone stale since the onset of the pandemic, and 70% feel unprepared for the future of work. 

Moving into 2023, however, employees surveyed are laser-focused on remedying this situation: 89% said they’re “extremely” or “somewhat” motivated to improve their skills this year, with 76% noting that the pandemic increased their motivation. And with 83% of employees reporting that improving their skills is one of their top priorities, it’s no surprise that 88% are already putting a significant amount of time and effort toward this endeavor.

What’s driving the motivation

For employees, developing their skills and climbing the career ladder is about much more than getting a salary boost or enjoying greater status and recognition. In addition to higher pay (cited by 59% of employees), people hope that advancing their career will lead to better work-life balance (48%) and a sense of purpose (41%). Among employees with leadership ambitions, 47% are drawn to the idea that they could create a better work experience for the next generation and inspire others to follow their dreams.

And while 78% of employees say that their company’s learning & development programs have “significantly” or “somewhat” benefited them over the past 2 years, many people don’t have access to the programs they want the most. For example, just over half of employees say their employer offers free or partially covered college tuition (51%), training programs in other areas of the business (55%), and networking opportunities (55%). However, more than 8 out of 10 employees say it’s important for their employer to offer these benefits.

Corporate initiatives like Amazon’s $1.2 billion commitment to skills training programs called Amazon’s Upskilling 2025 pledge are the clear call to action that employees are looking for. The Upskilling 2025 pledge, launched in 2021, committed to providing 300,000 employees with access to education and skills training programs, including college tuition. Additionally, Amazon currently has ten upskilling and skills-based training programs that offer corporate and operations employees opportunities to expand and learn new skills, ultimately helping them move into in-demand, higher-paying technical and non-technical jobs at Amazon or elsewhere.

The survey also showed that well over half of professionals surveyed feel it will be difficult to advance their career (56%) or transition into another type of job or a different industry (57%). Of those surveyed, around 2 out of 3 employees said it’s “extremely” or “somewhat” likely they’ll leave their employer within the next year because there aren’t enough opportunities for skills development (64%) or career advancement (66%), or because there’s no way for them to transition to a different job or a new career path (65%). Notably, Gen Z and Millennial employees were more likely to say they’ll jump ship: 74% are ready to move on due to subpar skills-building support or a lack of career mobility options.

“In today’s employee-driven job market, employees feel empowered to seek out an employer that truly supports their long-term career goals and ambitions,” said Dan Schawbel, Managing Partner, Workplace Intelligence. “Companies who recognize this and provide a high level of support—from more time for skills development during the workday, to better learning benefits and programs—are going to stay one step ahead in the ongoing war for talent.”

Amazon’s Career Choice program is a leading education benefits program that launched ten years ago. Today, the program works with more than 200 education providers across the U.S., which includes colleges and universities, partners providing industry certifications, English-language proficiency, and high school completion programs, and has helped more than 90,000 employees. Julio Martinez, Datacenter Technician at Amazon, is one example of someone who has grown his career at Amazon. He obtained his bachelor’s degree through the Career Choice program. “Access to pre-paid college tuition through Amazon’s Career Choice removed the financial barriers that previously prevented me from furthering my education,” said Martinez. “As I seek the next steps in my career, I’m confident that my degree and the certifications I gained will provide additional opportunities for me to advance professionally at Amazon.”

“We know our employees value the opportunities to grow and expand their skillsets, and ultimately advance their careers at Amazon and in their respective industries,” said Eric Adams, Vice President of Talent Management and Compensation at Amazon. “The past few years have shown that skills development, career advancement and professional mobility are no longer nice-to-haves but are the key to recruiting and retaining top talent across our workforce. We continue to innovate on our many upskilling and development programs, and provide new opportunities for our employees and potential employees who are looking to build their careers at Amazon.”

As a leader in the career advancement and technical training space, Amazon has prioritized employee’s mobility and development. The Workplace survey findings should present a strong impetus to other companies to ramp up their learning & development programs – and quickly. Those who don’t, risk losing their top talent, including younger team members driving the future of work, at a time when few can afford to do so. And it’s not just retention that’s at stake. Nearly 9 out of 10 employees said that if there were looking for a new job, it would be important for their potential employer to offer a strong skills development program (87%), an abundance of career advancement opportunities (88%), and ways for them to progress toward a different job or career track (87%).

Methodology

Research findings are based on a survey conducted by Amazon and Workplace Intelligence in the U.S. between August 12 – August 22, 2022. For this survey, 3,000 hourly and salaried employees were asked questions about their career and skills development goals and the importance of learning & development at work. The study targeted people working at least 30 hours/week and between 18 and 74 years of age. Respondents were invited to take part via email and were provided with a small monetary incentive for doing so.

About Amazon

Amazon is guided by four principles: customer obsession rather than competitor focus, passion for invention, commitment to operational excellence, and long-term thinking. Amazon strives to be Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company, Earth’s Best Employer, and Earth’s Safest Place to Work. Customer reviews, 1-Click shopping, personalized recommendations, Prime, Fulfillment by Amazon, AWS, Kindle Direct Publishing, Kindle, Career Choice, Fire tablets, Fire TV, Amazon Echo, Alexa, Just Walk Out technology, Amazon Studios, and The Climate Pledge are some of the things pioneered by Amazon. For more information, visit amazon.com/about and follow @AmazonNews. To learn more about Amazon’s commitment to upskilling go to: https://aboutamazon.com/upskilling2025

About Workplace Intelligence

Workplace Intelligence, LLC is an HR research and advisory firm helping leaders adapt to trends, drive performance, and prepare for the future. Our mission is to create more intelligent workplaces using data-based insights. For more information go to our website and subscribe to our LinkedIn newsletter.

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