What Are the Chances We Could Get Ex-Employees to Repay Us for Their Training?

January 16, 2013

Dear Doubts About Training:

Without a legal agreement that is authorized by your counsel, you have little chance of collecting money when employees quit. And enforcing such an agreement would require asking new hires to sign the agreement before they accept your job offer—which doesn't seem like the healthiest way to begin your relationship. You would be better served to adopt better retention practices instead. Rather than worrying about getting paid back, focus on improved hiring, training and leadership.


• Set a goal that a high percentage of new hires stay for six months or longer, depending on the job, and then track their success. This moves them from filling seats to focusing on retention.

• Give human resources professionals the tools to achieve their retention goals. Before offering jobs, ask applicants a series of questions to screen out "short-termers" by inviting them to "please say no" to the offer. For example, these questions address whether the applicant is unsure about the pay and benefits, is waiting for an offer from another organization, or is unwilling to work all of the schedules they might be assigned.

• During exit interviews, ask those who leave if they plan to continue working in the same industry and in the same type of job. A pattern of "yes" answers tells you good things about your hiring practices, whereas a "no" pattern likely means that employees who leave were poor matches to your job.


• Do the trainees learn the material? If no, they might be leaving because they know they will fail in their jobs. Check the quality of your training processes and also your trainers to make sure the training you offer is perfect.

• Make sure, too, that only those who learn are retained. For example, we find that many call centers set a training goal that 85 percent or so of new trainees will graduate, which influences trainers to "pass" trainees who cannot succeed. The worst outcome is for good employees to lose faith in the organization and take their talents elsewhere.


  1. Take an objective look at the leaders whom your newly hired people work with during training. Employees join organizations for reasons of pay, benefits and schedules, but those who stay do so because of the people. The most influential people by far are immediate supervisors. (For trainees, supervisors might include classroom trainers as well.)
  2. Leaders need to possess retention talents such as flexibility, retention monitoring, esteem building, and—most important—trust. Leaders build trust by keeping commitments, telling the truth, sharing credit versus blame, avoiding misrepresenting themselves, admitting mistakes and supporting company policies. Those who build trust will contribute to your retention, and those who don't will contribute to your turnover.

Asking quitters to repay money is the easy way out, and it doesn't really solve your problem. There are retention solutions. Work hard to make them happen.

SOURCE: Dick Finnegan, The Retention Institute, Longwood, Florida

LEARN MORE: Even companies that can identify top performers may struggle to retain them.

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.