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How Do We Keep From Developing People Who Leave?

What can employers do when they have invested heavily in their employees’ development and then the employees resign some time later?

— Losing Talent and Money, HR service director, staffing, Barbados

August 25, 2014
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Related Topics: Employee Career Development, Management Skills and Development, Organizational Development, The Latest, Dear Workforce, Training
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Dear Losing Talent:

Investing in employee development is a strategic imperative for most organizations but, as with any investment, it’s not risk-free. So, how can one mitigate the risk without taking a draconian and short-sighted approach of viewing people as commodities?

There are a number of ways to develop people including internal and external training, coaching, 360-degree feedback, job expansion, promotion and tuition assistance. A common feature of many tuition assistance policies is a repayment agreement that requires an employee to remain with the company for some period of time after receiving tuition reimbursement. The contractual provision requires the individual to repay some or all of the tuition money if he or she leaves before an agreed-upon timeframe, typically two to three years. While the agreements are legally enforceable, they serve more importantly as a psychological barrier to leaving as employees don’t want to be held liable for these expenses.

However, employee development is about much more than school tuition. Here are three points worthy of consideration to maximize your return on investment:

1. Select candidates for development carefully and recognize that one size doesn’t fit all. Development is not a process to “fix” poor-performing employees. Invest more money in your top performers but don’t ignore everyone else. Tailor development to the employee’s function and level as well as individual, team and organizational needs.

2. Communicate effectively to maintain superior employee relations. While the “what” — development— is important, don’t neglect the “why.” Communicating the why is an important responsibility of the employee’s immediate supervisor. As an HR professional, your role should be to coach line managers and encourage this type of dialogue. It’s most effective if you can tie development back to career planning and allow employees to envision their future at the company as a result of the development initiatives.

3. Operate proactively. You seem progressive enough to invest in employee development, but if you’re following the above guidelines and people are still leaving, you should determine the reasons. Frequently, employees leave a supervisor rather than a company. Poor supervisors cause disengagement and turnover and may unwittingly besabotaging your company’s efforts to develop and retain high-performing people. The most important relationship in any organization is that of the employee and his or her immediate supervisor. Invest in core management skills training. It is the foundation of a great organization.

As a result of the changing relationship between employer and employee, average tenure is much lower today, particularly among millennials. There is no such thing as lifetime employment from either the employee or company perspective. However, if you communicate well, strengthen the skills of your line management and approach development in the strategic fashion outlined above, you will retain more of your best employees and enjoy greater productivity and success.

SOURCE: Jeffrey Husserl, CoralBridge Partners, Chicago, Aug. 12, 2014

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 The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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