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University of Phoenix leadership joins SHRM conference to share insights from the University of Phoenix Career Institute® and workforce research  

By Michele Mitchum

Provost John Woods to discuss findings and strategy indicated by Career Optimism Index® on Talent Retention in a Free Agent Labor Market

University of Phoenix is participating this week in the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Conference, Booth #3852, and John Woods, Ph.D., provost and chief academic officer, will deliver opening remarks during a featured session of the event. The opening remarks from Woods will take place at the SHRM Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Monday, June 12, at 10:30 a.m. PDT. Woods will share insights, findings and strategies on talent retention indicated by workforce research conducted through the University of Phoenix Career Institute® Career Optimism Index® study.

“The Career Optimism Index helps us see and better understand how the free agent labor market is impacting American workers and employers,” states Woods. “Now, with the research findings presented in this year’s Career Optimism Index® study, we are able to offer employers insights and practical strategies which can be adopted to help companies retain talent and support workers looking to establish a sustainable path for career growth. We are pleased to share these findings to help drive the success of companies, and to support those looking to achieve their educational and career goals.”

This year’s study reveals 80 percent of American workers remain hopeful for the future. However, workers’ optimism does not lie with their current job or employer, but rather lies within them in their resilience, sense of personal fulfillment, and adaptability. As a result, the study indicates that 53 percent of workers are actively looking for a new job or expect to be looking for a new job in the next six months. Because of these attitudinal shifts, many employers are facing a “free agent” labor market, with 74 percent of employers reporting concerns regarding employee turnover. According to the study, a free agent labor market is one where employees feel confident in the opportunities available to them and are willing to peruse alternative job prospects unless employers invest in foundational career support.

“This year’s study findings suggest employers face some real challenges attracting and retaining talent, and this data offers solutions to these issues,” states Woods. “For example, employers can prioritize actionable retention strategies focused on opportunities to learn new skills, mentorship, and workplace wellness.”

Despite significant challenges facing workers, the Career Optimism Index® study found that 70 percent of Americans would be likely to stay at their current company throughout their career if their company gave them more opportunities to develop and apply new skills. At the same time, 40 percent of workers surveyed said their company did not provide these reskilling opportunities.

In addition to providing opportunities for upskilling and reskilling of workers, the study highlights the need for employers to increase resources for mental health and support workplace advocacy in the form of mentorship programs. The majority of American workers say they do not have a mentor, and nearly a fifth of those surveyed feel the lack of a mentor has held them back in their career. Concerns around career sustainability and burnout are also prevalent, with 40 percent of American workers reporting they have been less engaged at work recently and 74 percent saying they feel stressed about their job.

Woods will also share insights from related workforce research on the role of focusing on skills and talent mobility, and the potential of digital talent marketplaces to offer contextualized skill assessment and individual opportunities to upskill.

This is the third year of the Career Optimism Index®, a comprehensive study conducted by the University of Phoenix Career Institute® and based on an annual survey of employees and employers across the country.  More details on the findings and strategies, along with past versions of the study, are available here.

The theme of this year’s SHRM Conference is “Drive Change,” and will offer peer-to-peer networking, inspiring addresses from top business and HR leaders, competency-based HR seminars, hands-on workshops, plus curated content focused on some of the most pressing issues facing HR: DE&I, workplace culture, talent acquisition, and retention.

More information about the SHRM Conference may be found here.

University of Phoenix is continually innovating to help working adults enhance their careers in a rapidly changing world. Flexible schedules, relevant courses, interactive learning, and Career Services for Life® help students more effectively pursue career and personal aspirations while balancing their busy lives. For more information, visit