Is Training Part of your Retention Strategy

As a newly appointed Training Director for a large organization I was asked to make a presentation of my training plan to senior management.

I presented  them with a three year plan with learning paths for different employee groups. To do this I had consulted with the company’s five year strategic plan, their service vision and the recently announced corporate values. 

I met with a sampling of senior managers, middle management, and different employee groups for their opinions and insights for a solid training program.  I felt this provided me with a picture of the organization”s preferred future. Since I was hired to head up a new training portfolio I made the assumption that a comprehensive program was expected.

I walked into the conference room, excited and optimistic to make my presentation knowing that I had a good plan that would support the future direction of the company.

The room was populated by the executive team who were eerily quiet as I made my presentation. I provided projected budget numbers for my proposed  three  year program and had barely finished when the CEO interrupted and said that this is a very altruistic plan but as soon as we have invested all these resources in our employees they will take their knowledge with them and get a better job somewhere else.  So in essence we are paying to educate our employees for the benefit of the competition.

I have to admit I was stymied. Being new to the organization I didn’t quite know how to respond. Thankfully the Human Resources VP, who had hired me came to my defence. I was told they would get back to me.  But not surprisingly, I didn’t get approval so the program did not go ahead and I was tasked with delivering the status quo with a modest budget. My HR sponsor debriefed with me and said the organization wasn’t ready for what I had prescribed.

Years later I still think about this.  Had this organization created a  training team  simply to create the optics of  being a progressive organization?  Or perhaps I hadn’t done my homework. Had I failed to provide a convincing ROI on my training plan?

I have since worked for other organizations that do not pay lip service to training.  They realize that having a solid training program  and professional development support is a strong incentive to attract new talent who are highly motivated and want to grow and contribute with the organization.  

With the changing demographics, retaining employees is one of the major challenges for many organizations.  A generous salary package might entice them into the company but the opportunity to learn, build their skills and grow their careers is often what keeps them there.  There is little evidence that employees simply take advantage of learning opportunities and then run to the competition. While high performing employees may eventually outgrow their company when they reach their career potential there, they will have provided exemplary service.

If I could go back to that meeting  that occurred years ago, I would have included the  cost of  turnover due to employees looking elsewhere to build their toolkits. 

It is gratifying that today there are so many new organizations that know that a training investment in an employee is an investment in the profitability of the company.  And if an employee leaves after a number of years of exemplary services, the organization will have not only received their money’s worth but helped build a career that will further benefit the  entire industry.

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