To prepare for the next digital era of work, companies must equip their employees with the right skillset. Because of how quickly and dramatically tech is evolving, the enterprise faces a major skills gap: 70% of executives said current employees lack the tech and computer skills necessary for today’s workforce, according to Daily Infographic’s Tech Skills Gap report.

Whether due to funding or bureaucratic issues, learning and development (L&D) is often overlooked in organizations. This is a disservice to the business, as 94% of employees said they would stay at a company longer if they were offered opportunities to learn and grow, LinkedIn’s 2019 Workforce Learning Report found.

SEE: Technology in education: The latest products and trends (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

“Today’s employee deeply cares about L&D as a key benefit. Millennials are ranking L&D to be more important than a paid vacation, or even cash bonuses,” said Ashish Rangnekar, co-founder and CEO of BenchPrep. “More importantly, what L&D programs do is they are able to upskill and reskill the workforce based on how the labor market is changing.”

More than half (61%) of employees agree that technology would help them deliver a higher quality of work output, but they just aren’t equipped with the proper skills, WestMonroe’s The Upskilling Crisis: Effectively Enabling and Retraining Employees for the Future found. Managers can’t even help the effort, since 65% said they themselves need to be upskilled or reskilled.

Why is L&D important?

“[L&D] leads to a more agile workforce and helps organizations be more flexible with the changes happening around them, leading to much better financial returns,” said Rangnekar. “Companies that invest in L&D are shown to have better financial performance than those that do not.”

Companies that prioritize L&D also have better employee retention rates. Finding new talent is expensive for employers, and it’s even more difficult to hire the right talent, Rangnekar said. As evidenced by the LinkedIn report, employees who that they are learning new skills in their positions have more reasons to stay.

How to companies can successfully prioritize L&D

To help businesses foster a learning culture, Rangnekar outlined the following four key strategies:

1. Align with leadership

“First and foremost, it has to be a top down mandate,” Rangnekar said. “A C-level executive needs to take ownership of transforming the company into more of a L&D driven company. It can’t just be focused on one department or one role.”

2. Encourage manager involvement

Education shouldn’t stop once someone reaches a managerial position. Even if the organization isn’t able to directly provide the learning opportunities, it can still encourage outside development like networking events, courses, or social learning activities.

3. Don’t disregard soft skills

Soft skills are crucial in the enterprise: 67% of HR professionals said they withhold job offers from qualified candidates because they lack soft skills, according to the Closing the Technology Leadership Gap report. These skills include behavior traits such as collaboration, communication, and time management—which are all invaluable in a successful career.

4. Incorporate technology

Digital tools can play a helpful role in developmental training programs. Many learning platforms exist that help companies provide employees with access to learning materials, and they are also able to provide insights in the L&D process for each employee.

For more, check out Impressive professional development benefits from Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and more on TechRepublic.