On Tying Training to Employee Retention


“Ponder this: Do your people have to leave to learn something new?”

This question is the heading for the chapter entitled “Enrich: Energize the Job” in Beverly Kaye’s and Sharon Jordan-Evans’ book Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em: Getting Good People to Stay.  And, as the question implies, providing learning on the job is a powerful way to engage, or re-engage, your valuable employees so that you don’t lose ‘em.

Providing enrichment opportunities at work means either changing “what” your employees do or “how” they do it. Job enrichment could include promotion (and perhaps an associated salary increase), making a lateral career move, or modifying roles and responsibilities, among other methods. At the core, all of these changes involve learning of one kind or another.

Train Me So that I Can Keep My Job, or Get a New One

Most employees want training for one of three basic reasons:

  1. To keep (and get better at) their job.
  2. To position themselves for a promotion.
  3. To position themselves to make the jump to a new company.

In other words, people want to take training if it will help them gain job-related knowledge or skills that are relevant to their current role—or their next role.

If you’re worried that you’ll train your employees only to have them leave you for your competitor, you may have a legitimate concern. But providing subpar training, or no training at all, is not going to improve employee retention either. Excellent training programs help companies to attract and retain employees, but if employees want to leave, the issue is typically bigger than training.

As training requires an investment in people, the goal is to tie training to employee retention.

Learning is a Cornerstone of Enrichment, and Retention

Learning, of course, can happen in many, many different ways. Kaye and Jordan-Evans suggest a simple, yet highly effective approach for determining what type of learning would be considered enriching by each of your employees: Ask them what they want to do and how they want to do it.

Take it a step further and work with each individual to create a learning plan, and help them put that plan into action. While giving employees choices, though, provide guidance during the development of personalized learning plans to ensure that the choices made simultaneously help individuals, their teams, and the organization in general.

When the Choice Involves Online Learning

In their chapter entitled, “Opportunities: Mine Them”, Kaye and Jordan-Evans suggest:

“Ask your employees what opportunities they seek. Help them think broadly and creatively, going beyond some of the first-blush responses such as a promotion. For example, ask what they’d like to learn this year.”

The authors go on to recount the following example:

“Managers in an international hotel chain help their employees find opportunities to learn. One avenue is the company’s internet learning platform. The findings from a recent survey proved that giving employees the chance to build their skills sets via the online learning platform convinced them to stay. Forty percent of respondents believed that the chance to strengthen their skills was the primary factor for continuing their careers with the organization.”

Providing access to targeted online training (one of many avenues for workplace enrichment) can be an enriching experience for individuals because online training can provide choices to employees on what courses to complete, allow for flexibility in terms of when and where the training can be completed, and create a standardized learning experience across multiple geographical locales or internal business silos.

Online Training Can Go Beyond Taking an Online Course

When offering online training to an employee, don’t limit the situation to simply supporting enrollment in online courses. Certainly, taking a relevant and engaging online training course is a clear way to build the skills that lead to enrichment opportunities.

Other ways to support learning via online training could include:

  • Supervisory and Mentorship Experiences: Ask employees to create online training content to share with others. When a promotion is not on the horizon, allowing an employee to share expertise and mentor peers builds managerial skills in the interim.
  • Decision-Making Opportunities: Involve employees in critical decisions when building an online training program, such as determining the content of the training modules, who should take each module, and how to measure organizational success via training. Providing people with the ability to make decisions is empowering and aligns their behaviors more closely to organizational success metrics.
  • Community-Building Skills: Through social collaboration via learning, disparate teams or people within an organization can be brought closer together, breaking down silos and increasing communication.
  • Work with Partners or Customers: Having the ability to work with partners or customers brings employees in closer proximity to revenue generation channels.

The Connection Between Learning and Employee Retention

People want the ability for career growth, whether that growth is vertical or lateral. And growth translates into enriching work experiences, which translates into employee retention.

Enrichment eventually boils down to learning opportunities. However, learning opportunities don’t necessarily need to be solely of the online training variety. Yet, enrichment via online learning opportunities can be so much more than simply enrolling in and completing an online training course.

How do you provide enrichment opportunities in your organization? How do these opportunities translate to employee retention? And what role does training—online or not—play in your spectrum of enrichment opportunities?

Gauri Reyes is a talent developer and learning leader with extensive experience in roles ranging from software management to managing the learning function in organizations. She is Principal Learning Strategist and CEO at Triple Point Advisors and Founder of the YOUth LEAD program. Follow her on Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+.

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