The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave, is not training them and having them stay.”  Henry Ford

Many companies have a goal of retaining their employees.  They can be expensive to replace – especially for those key performers who you really don’t want to lose – the regrettable losses.  Turnover can hobble the execution of any plan or project with key performer turnover being devastating.  But a retention strategy, without training and development, can drag the organization into mediocrity.  It can leave the organization full of bodies but not the skills that are needed to accomplish the job and deliver the next big sustainable results.

While retention has two sides to it, the organizational side and the employee side, the organization has a greater ability to influence the discussion.  The decision to stay or leave, for an employee, is usually complicated – with items being listed on both sides of the balance sheet.  Stability may be on the side of staying, while flexibility may be on the side of leaving.  So how does an organization tip the scales in their favor?  How does it create an atmosphere that has more items on the ‘stay side’ vs. the ‘go side’?  How does an organization use training and development, as part of its retention strategy, and give employees a ‘reason to stay’?

Some options are:

  1. Simply ask – Reasons for staying may have some general themes across an organization, but individuals have individual reasons and individual needs. It is folly for an organization to believe that all individuals just ‘want more life balance’ – some do, some don’t.  Determine what reward capabilities are available in the organization – comp time, remote work, special skills development, pay increase, etc.  Then, ask each individual what works for them.  Asking also sends the message that you are interested in each individual and respect what matters to them.
  2. Consider the differences between generations – Baby Boomers generally valued security and were more likely to stay with one company for an entire career. Not so for Millennials and Generation Z.  Skills development is highly valued with these last two generations.  They are lifelong learners and want to add all of the skills and tools that they can to their ‘life toolbox’.  And, while they don’t expect to be with an organization for an entire career, they can be retained, especially if you provide continual development.  Organizations that provide ongoing development and not just an annual training event have an advantage.  They can also provide practical, usable skills that can be implanted as quickly as the skills are mastered.  This age demographic is the future of the workforce so setting up ongoing training and development as part of a retention strategy will be of benefit now and in the future.
  3. Consider the differences between genders – There is a distinct difference between how much ‘work outside of work’ men and women have to do. Women work roughly twice as much time outside of work vs. men.  These greater responsibilities in their personal lives require quite a bit of juggling to make things work.  If a woman doesn’t believe it is possible to be successful in both her personal and professional life simultaneously, she likely will consider quitting her job.  It feels like an entirely binary decision where the only options are staying (and gutting it out miserably) or quitting.  Organizations can provide development that supports women in seeing additional options.  They also can provide the skills and environment that supports women in the asking for what they need after they have discovered those additional options.

If increasing retention is a goal for your organization, provide ongoing skills training and development.  Put money in the budget for this retention strategy!  It will be much cheaper than replacing the employees who leave and allow those who stay to be more effective.  It doesn’t take many replacements, or employees underperforming, to create big costs, short term and long term.  By providing ongoing training and development opportunities and support, the losses will be reduced, the performance of the entire organization will be elevated, and the results better and sustainable.  You will give your employees a reason to stay.  It is a worthy investment!

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