Labour shortage in the Asia-Pacific region will hit a whopping 12.3 million by next year, according to a Future of Skills report released by LinkedIn recently. Apart from an opportunity cost of US$4.2 trillion, the major reason for this shortfall is lack of skills, the report added, citing Korn Ferry’s 2018 research on Future of Work.

This means two things. One, there are employment opportunities galore for those graduating from the university and entering the workforce in the next few years.

It also means that retaining talent will become even tougher going forward.

When a company invests in training an employee, it is in its interests to see that the worker stays. And the worker will stay if he or she finds new challenges, feels appreciated and, most important, gets constant training and development.

In almost all the companies that I have worked at, whenever an employee engagement survey was carried out, most people asked for more training and development. It was always promised and was even spoken about in the boardroom, but unfortunately rarely came into being.

Often it would take the form of self-motivated training. This is just another way of paying lip service because employees are so busy trying to get through the day that they have little time to spend on self-learning. This only works if there is a scheduled slot allotted in each employee’s time-table for training.

As a result, I would take the initiative to find some sort of learning or training programmes for my team members outside the company and send them for it. Maybe this is why I rarely had any resignations.

Self-driven training has to be instilled in individuals from the university itself if it has to work. This is where liberal arts universities are good training grounds as students are given the chance to choose what they would like to study, getting them to take responsibility for their education, their careers.

Employees want money, but training takes precedence when it comes to the crunch. Learning has to be lifelong if an employee has to grow, especially in the fast-changing world of today. Technology is the biggest disruptor with the rise of automation and artificial intelligence, but changing markets and industries are also challenges. Add big data to the mix and it is not difficult to understand the growing nervousness among employees.

Formal training is good, but that is not the only type of training that can be imparted. A good leader will take any opportunity to train the team. I do not believe in a one-size-fits-all sort of training. So I needed to know what motivated each member of my team. If I would ask at a team meeting I got few ideas. So I changed tack.

I started taking out each member of my team for lunch at least once a quarter. This meant I spoke to them in a less threatening environment and nothing mellows a person like good food and drink. They also got my undivided attention with no danger of me being called away for an urgent meeting or phone call. This was when they would tell me what they wanted, where they would like to be five years hence, and what drove them to perform at the top of their calibre. This helped me design learning for them according to their individual needs.

One and all, they spoke about the importance of training. They were even willing to give up a lunch hour if it meant getting additional training. So every Wednesday, I would order lunch for the team and got one of them to carry out a training session. The results were great. And no one complained that the lunch hour was used for work. They also learnt presentation skills.

The difference between a good leader and a great leader is in the lessons they impart, according to Sydney Finkelstein’s article in the Harvard Business Review early last year called The Best Leaders are Great Teachers.

“Teaching is not merely an ‘extra’ for good managers; it’s an integral responsibility. If you’re not teaching, you’re not really leading,” he said.

Think back to your best managers. What did they do that stands out? Often, it is what they taught you while in the course of daily work.