Employee Development as a Retention Tool

Christine Johnson, Cued Forward on

The belief that leaders are born and not made is dead.  If this was true, recruiters would have even a greater challenge trying to fill leadership roles. With the fast-paced, ever-changing workplace of today, employee development in organizations is key to developing a pipeline of internal candidates and reducing turnover.  As discussed in a previous blog, the importance of employee development conversations and programs continue to grow in importance in organizations.

With lower unemployment rates, new types of roles emerging, and employees changing jobs more quickly than ever, the need to keep employees in an organization is key to that organization’s continued growth.  Employee development is an important retention tool.

What the #’s say

The numbers about employee development needs and wants say more now than possibly at any other in the past ten years.

  • One in five employees plan to change jobs in 2017, up 16% from two years ago. (CareerBuilder)
  • In Crain’s Chicago Business Survey of 650 employees in the Chicago-area of varying organizational sizes, some metrics that stood out:
    • Almost 62% of respondents felt that changing jobs was necessary for advancement.
    • Nearly 55% of those surveyed say their employer does nothing to promote advancement in their organization. This means organizations are not talking about employees growing within the organization, promoting a culture of support, or offering programs to develop their employees (ie: incentives, training, mentoring)
    • Of those surveyed, 85% say they have voiced interest in a promotion. Why do we continue to let employees who want to stay walk out the door?
  • In a Wzyant/Recruiter.com survey, 48% of respondents left because they were unable to progress in their careers due to a lack of training or certification. 67% felt opportunities were passing them by.

While it sounds bleak for employers, there is hope.

What organizations can do

Have “the talk” earlier rather than later

However employee growth and development discussions are handled in your organization, have them early and often.  Knowing where an employee wants to go with her career is as important as her performance.  If development is not discussed with high-caliber employees, they may think the organization does not care even though this is far from the truth.  Organizations who do not have these conversations often find this out after it is too late.

Answer two related questions

What are the employees’ expectations as far as growth opportunities?

I have read numerous articles recently where employees talk openly about why they left their former employers – – – the employers moved too slow in position growth and promotions.  Since the corporate career ladder has changed to more of a maze looking like a Donkey Kong game screen, understanding what employees anticipate from a career perspective should direct HR and the leadership team to create or adjust employee development processes.

What does “growth” really look like?

In a world with creative job titles and flattened job hierarchies, employees may not see certain job changes or additional project work as promotions because they are not supervising more employees, attending C- Suite meetings, etc.  Your employees need to know what growth actually looks like in your organization.  Growth could be cross-training in several functional areas in preparation for an operational role.  It could mean extra direct reports.  It could mean more client-facing time.  If the employee’s view of growth is different than how the organization views it, the employee will be more likely to leave for another organization that better matches his growth needs

The double edge sword of training

Many employers are hesitant to offer development programs in fear their ROI will walk out the door once employees have new skills under their belts.  The truth is that employees are leaving because employers fail to provide development opportunities.  Employees they feel they need to go elsewhere to learn these skills.

Do education programs make sense? Learning and development programs standing in isolation could lead to the perceived idea that employees are taking what they learned and running.  Used in conjunction with other development tools, training then solidifies the organization’s commitment to their employees’ growth and development.

Not going away

According to a SHRM survey, nearly 60% of respondents to their 2016 Strategic Benefits report career and professional development as one of four key employee benefits that will increase in importance to retain employees in the next three to five years. As organizations continue to face this retention problem, businesses large and small are beginning to see the rewards of strong employee development programs.

While no one wants to be forced into doing something, the labor market and the nature of business today are nudging, pushing organizations to seriously take a look at employee development as a retention tool.

What is something your organization does to promote employee development in your organization?

Image credit: Pixabay

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