Employee Retention 901- Training & Development

Shawnee Love   •  
May 31, 2010

Nothing says we believe in you like further training and development designed to help your employee grow. I often recommend it above raises as a way to reward employees. It is a win-win, because employees know you value them enough to invest in them, and they learn something that should help them do a better job, which helps your business. What’s not to love?

Many employers, while they see the win, are afraid of the potential costs because we’ve all heard the horror stories of the company that paid for a Master’s degree for an employee who promptly left as soon as it was done and went to a competitor. It does happen, but a way to mitigate that risk is to put a clause in your education policy (and the agreement you sign with your employee who is getting her degree paid) to the effect that if she leaves within a year of completing her degree, she must pay back 100% of the education costs. And if she leaves after a year but within two years, she must pay back 50% of the education costs (example only as you will want to build the pay back schedule and percentages to fit your own organization). Sometimes, having this clause and following through if needed causes those who are considering leaving to avoid applying for the opportunity. For those who have no intent of leaving; this clause isn’t even a factor.

There are also plenty of ways to train and develop employees without paying for expensive university programs. Consider:

  • Mentorship programs which not only benefit the mentee, but also recognize the mentor as a respected colleague in her field not to mention the opportunity to develop her own leadership skills.
  • Train the Trainer opportunities where an employee goes external to learn to be the expert for the company and then is responsible for educating his peers upon returning.
  • Opportunities to participate in key projects or cross functional task forces with access to Executives which are great chances to learn about other areas of the business as well as learn leadership behaviours from the leaders in the business.
  • Lunch & learns which can be wonderful if the topic is “hot”/interesting for your employees.
  • Sharing company resources such as the company library, business books, etc. I often hear of CEOs buying books for the executive team, which is great, but what about all those future leaders? Make sure they have access too!
  • Career path conversations. These discussions should happen at least once per year and are focused on where the employee wants to go in the company and how the company can help them get there. Again, not necessarily by expensive education, but also by options to job shadow, connections to colleagues from other areas of the business to learn more about their job, chances to lead meetings and chair a project, etc. The critical part of these conversations is to follow through and put the system in place to develop the employee accordingly. (And in some cases, you may have to recognize that the best development opportunity you can give a person is to help them realize they need to leave to grow.)

The potential to move up in a company is a powerful retention tool. Use it wisely and reap the benefits of a happy and motivated workforce.