Investing in employee development is a strategic imperative for most organisations. However, as with any investment, it’s not risk-free. So how do you mitigate the risk, without taking a draconian and short-term approach of viewing people as commodities?
There are 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 requiring an employee to remain with the company for some period of time after receiving tuition reimbursement – a bond.
This contractual provision requires individuals to repay some or all tuition money if they leave before an agreed-upon timeframe. This is typically two to three years. While such agreements are legally enforceable, they serve, more importantly, as a psychological barrier to leaving. Most employees don’t want to be held liable for these expenses.
However, employee development is about much more than school tuition. Three points to maximising your return on investment are:
1) Selection: Select candidates for development carefully and recognise that one size doesn’t fit all. Development is not a process to “fix” poor-performing employees but to upgrade the human capital of your firm. Invest more in your top performers but don’t ignore everyone else. Development must be tailored to the employees function and level. Individual, team and organisational needs must also be factored in.
2) Communication: Communicate effectively to maintain superior employee relations. While the purpose of development is important, don’t neglect the purpose. Communicating the rationale is an important responsibility of the employee’s immediate supervisor. HR professionals should coach line managers and encourage dialogue. The greatest effectiveness results if development can be tied back to career planning, allowing employees to envision their future at the company as a result of the development initiatives.
3) Proactive Operation: If you invest in training & development yet people are still leaving, determine the reasons. Frequently, employees leave a supervisor rather than a company. Poor supervisors cause disengagement and turnover amongst staff, and may unwittingly sabotage company efforts to develop and retain high-performers.
The most important relationship in any organisation is that of the employee and their immediate supervisor. Investing in core management skills training isthe foundation of a great organisation, through upgrading managerial competencies.As a result of the changing relationship between employer and employee, average tenure is lower today, particularly among millennials (i.e. those born between 1980 and the early 2000s).
There is no such thing as lifetime employment from either an employee or company perspective. However, good communication, strengthening the skills of line management and approaching development in the strategic fashion outlined above will lead to retention of the best employees. Greater productivity and success will come along with such investment.