If You Want to Keep Them, Develop Them

In the 20+ years I’ve been in this business, I can’t think of a single employee who has ever told me that she is not interested in making a contribution that makes a business difference and being empowered with more and new opportunities. This is especially true of Millennials, who have identified development as the single differentiator of “employers of choice” versus all others. With Millennials comprising close to 50% of our workforce and that number expected to rise to 70% or more by 2020, there is no doubt that continuous development is requisite for any organization wishing to compete for, and retain, top talent.

Data to Consider

As you reflect upon your talent supply and demand requirements, are you finding it relatively easy to attract new talent to your organization? Or, are you experiencing the same hiring challenges that hundreds of others do: difficulty attracting talent, challenges putting together competitive offers that candidates find attractive, and improving your overall quality of hire?

Today’s Top Hiring Challenges

Challenge Percentage
Attracting Talent 64%
Building Talent Pools 46%
Making Competitive Offers 40%
Improving Quality of Hire 37%

 Source: 2015 Brandon Hall Group Talent Shortage/Hiring Practices Study

What happens after they are on board? Are you developing new hires in meaningful ways? What about the incumbent employees?

Are employee satisfaction and engagement indices trending up? What about your talent retention rate? And how about your revenue?

If not, I’d guess your employment value proposition (EVP) is broken, fractured, or certainly suffering some unhealthy bend. You know all about EVPs. EVPs describe the reasons prospective hires and employees choose you over all other employers and why you want to hire and keep them — because they are top performers.

If you have hiring challenges and your engagement and retention scores are trending down, you are probably looking for some quick and lasting fixes right about now. Well, fortunately, I have one to share with you: Develop your employees.

Most Critical Factors in Deciding to Join/Stay with an Organization

Opportunity for development or gain experience 71%
Cultural fit 49%
Organizational growth and performance 45%
Compensation/Benefits 41%
Collaborative culture 37%

Source: 2015 Brandon Hall Group State of EVP Study

Though employees rated development opportunities first, and more than 30 points above any other attraction or retention strategy, organizational leadership doesn’t always assign the same level of priority. In talking with senior business leaders, HR and talent leaders, and learning professionals, they lament their talent budgets, particularly when it comes to ongoing L&D investment. These three comments reflect the overall tone I heard from these discussions:

“We don’t have the money to sink in to developing employees right now — our revenue was lower last month than expected.”

  • “We hired that new sales guy last month so the budget is a little tight right now.”
  • “We just have so many other priorities right now. We’ve put off the new web site for a few months already and it really has to get done. We do have the online eLearning courses they can take. Anything more is just going to have to wait for now.”

Well, here’s the deal — your employees won’t wait.  If you don’t invest in their development, they will invest their services elsewhere.

The employment value proposition embodies nearly every aspect of the employee’s experience with your organization – not just talent attraction — and development prevails in each element:

  • Vision — Do you sell something that excites others? That solves real problems?  Can employees see how their work is aligned with what and how you service your customer? Are your senior leaders pointing out the clear line of sight for employees? Are you developing your employees’ organizational knowledge, helping them to understand the value proposition of your products and services, and specifically how their daily work contributes to that value?
  • Culture – Are your leaders trustworthy? Do they communicate transparently? Are you actually building and nurturing an inclusive institution where employees feel listened to, valued, cared about, and have access to meaningful choices in their work? In their working arrangements? In their career options? In their development?
  • Alignment — Do you empower your employees to lead meaningful and challenging work? Have you told them how their work has a direct relationship to how you service your customer? Do you regularly coach in the spirit of showing them how to get work done? And point out how their efforts directly align to achieving business goals?
  • Reward/Recognition — Do you acknowledge unique and scarce talents, knowledge, skills, and experiences? Do you reward the contributions of the unique few disproportionately for their disproportionate contributions to your business goals? Do you stand for fair (not equal) pay? Are you rewarding and acknowledging those few who have successfully completed development to accelerate their contributions to your critical few business goals?

The Development to Offer

Assuming you have, or are now, subscribing to the value of development in driving your employees’ productivity, motivation, engagement, and intent to stay, it is helpful to be reminded about learning modalities that are most effective. Brandon Hall Group’s 2015 State of Training Benchmarking Study offers critical insights:

Most Effective (and Under-Used) Learning and Development Modalities

underutilized training methods
Source: Brandon Hall Group, 2015 State of Training Benchmarking Study


Experience is the Greatest Currency for Development

Offering regular access to senior leaders and other coaches who “show how” and share an insider’s insights, embedding learning in the context of one’s normal work responsibilities, encouraging networking – both inside and outside of – the organization, and even offering formal classroom training and on-demand learning tools, are some of the most impactful approaches to building employees’ skills and growing their opportunities. The best development is shaped around the long-standing 70-20-10 learning framework.

70-20-10 means a real blend of learning among all development solutions. It doesn’t mean that blend has to occur in each and every development solution. Further, the percentages are guidelines, not hard and fast rules. And more importantly, by design, it goes well beyond training.

A learn-by-doing learning culture starts with the organization’s leadership. Leaders set the tone, shape the culture, and model the organization’s commitment to developing employees’ capability. Those who execute on the commitment attract and keep top talent. Those who don’t have themselves to blame. They are guilty of giving development lip service, relegating it to words on a dusty learning strategy, and marginalizing its business criticality.  They rely on training programs to take the place of one-to-one relationships. They do not personalize their interactions and conversations. They do not take the time to give their dedicated attention to employees, and they don’t share insights for getting work done. In so doing, they tell employees they don’t matter.

When that message becomes the standard, employees don’t hesitate to affiliate with another organization – perhaps even your competition — and show their allegiance where they find a personal relationship with leaders who are authentically committed to their development and growth opportunities for the mutual advance of employees’ aspirations and businesses’ goals.

Is your organization committed to employee development? How do your leaders show it? Do employees see and feel leaders’ commitment?

Until next time…

Laci Loew
VP and Principal Analyst, Talent Management
Brandon Hall Group

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