Retention Requires Room to Grow

Are you focused on development and retention of your employees?  If not, you should be as a leader and as an organization. 

If you do not retain employees through development, you risk employees taking everything they learned working for you and using it to benefit their next employer. Let that sink in. The ranks of many businesses are replete with weak leaders that have the effect of running off employees that they previously invested in, once, or soon after, they are fully engaged in their jobs. This absurd result may stem from many things, such as inexperience with growth and development planning, fear that a well-developed employee could become a threat to their own career path, or a general lack of awareness of the true cost of employee investment. 

Development and retention of employees go hand in hand if you want to create and sustain a dynamic, high performance organization that obtains returns on its investments in people.  For typical employees, the cost of recruiting, onboarding and basic training and acclimation is substantial, to the point where it easily consumes the value of 6-12 months of productivity and wage equivalent.  Even if the recruiting cost somehow does not directly hit your budget in the business, you should recognize the delays associated with each recruiting evolution, opportunity cost of leaders focused on recruiting instead of running and optimizing the business, other missed opportunities, and morale problems arising from vacancies.  After that 6-12 months of time, or whatever it might be, is paid off, you should not want to just break even with a few months of productivity.  You want to maximize your return on investment in people to the point where the return dwarfs the initial investment. 

How is maximizing your return achieved? It is accomplished with a serious focus on development.  Engaging employees through development discussions and planning is key.  Employees should be given the voice to be heard with respect to their personal goals and objectives. With employees that are clear with their career goals, they should be given every chance to realize those goals.  They should be given opportunities to be promoted in their job families with candid feedback as to what is expected to be promoted up.  Furthermore, employees that want to be in management should be given opportunities to get these experiences through relieving and rotational assignments. 

This same concept applies to employees who do not yet know their personal goals and objectives, as they should be engaged in discussions by their leaders to help facilitate some understanding of what their growth goals are. Without active guidance an employee may look to some of the wrong places for growth, even if they are ill-fitting in the long run, but offer some measure of promotion or growth they can claim.  This is a leadership failure due to not acknowledging and partnering with an employee on their development, resulting in the employee wanting to go anywhere that they perceive might offer them even a small step up. The potential results, including job dissatisfaction, reduced morale, and decreased productivity are all detrimental to the organization as well as the employee.

It is particularly illogical when motivated employees express their development goals and are met with no opportunity by the organization.  Employees that are motivated are also generally smart enough to realize when they are being shut out of growth and development. They will know or will figure out how to market themselves to others. In the end, they will take everything they learned working for you, use it to get promoted somewhere else, and to benefit their next employer. 

If you do not retain employees, it can result in costly waste for the organization.  You must retain your employees through active development with you, or they will be developing off of you, to your detriment.  

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