I saw an interesting post on LinkedIn by a former colleague of mine that reads:
CFO asks CEO: “What happens if we invest in developing our people and then they leave us?”
CEO: “What happens if we don’t, and they stay?”
I’ve heard the first question asked a lot over the years. I’ve rarely heard the second – and that’s the point. If you aren’t investing in your people, how valuable are they going to be to YOU over their tenure?
We’ve all had the highly qualified, well-trained, high potential employee leave for a better opportunity. In today’s workplace when a typical employee will have 3-5 different careers and their average tenure at a firm is less than 5 years, we need to be prepared and expect the exit.
The issue becomes how to leverage the training dollars and manage expectations regarding the investment. So often we put a dollar amount in the budget and hope it gets spent on the right types of training for the future. A better approach might be to have each manager do a mini-SWOT analysis, (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats), for each of their departments. What could be improved through training? What are the best leverage points for the investment? Have the manager make a proposal, find the resources and most importantly, create a goal and a way to track the effectiveness of the training.
Next you need to communicate the “value” of the training to your employees. If you are sending them to a school that has a price tag associated with it, it’s easy to assess the value. Be specific with the employees about how long it will take for the Return of that Investment, and if they leave before that time, be clear about what pay back, if any you will expect. (Tuition reimbursement usually has a 1-2 year stipulation with it.) If the investment is more intangible, still figure out a way to measure and track it so that you can continue to make better and better decisions regarding training in the future.
The last conversation is a harder one. It’s conveying to your employees that it’s okay to take their education elsewhere. This comes down to the core values of the company. Do you believe that investing in your employees’ well-being and development is a good thing? If so, although you would like them to stay, you are going to provide the training whether they do or they don’t. It’s part of your company DNA or culture. I heard about a company that told their employees right up front that they knew they would only be able to keep them for about 3 years so they wanted it to be a mutually beneficial relationship during that time. That’s bold, and it’s how you keep high potentials engaged for the time you have them.
At the end of the day, start asking the second question. What happens if you don’t train your employees and they stay? It might make you change your plans.
Photo credit: By Dan4th Nicholas from Cambridge, MA, USA (Corporate training) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons