“Better to train people and risk them leaving than do nothing and risk them staying.”
Or so they say. And it’s certainly a nasty paradox. So here are some practical steps towards ensuring that training is a worthwhile investment?
Firstly, you can minimise the negative effects:
- Realise that this is a fact of business life. Your best employees will be looking for the best place to work. Your worst employees will be in no hurry to leave!
- But by giving training, you make your organisation a better place to work, which will delay your best people’s departure. A couple of training courses a year is surely a price worth paying. It’s fraction of their overall cost, and the return is handsome.
But how can you get a positive return out of training? Well…
- Make sure all training is justified by specific work needs. Don’t just allow people to go on courses they just fancy. Know exactly what benefits your organisation will get out of the training too. Training isn’t a kind of substitute holiday.
- Agree with the trainee that they will become your local expert on the topic they’ve trained on, and make their new skills available to others through internal training, coaching and mentoring.
- If possible, negotiate with the trainers to adapt the training to your organisation and projects’ specific needs. Not always possible, but worth a try.
- Schedule the training for just before when the new skills will be needed – use JIT here too, not just a vague expectation that it would somehow be ‘useful’ to have them around one day…
- When the trainee returns to work, have them present what they’ve learned to everyone who might benefit from their new knowledge. ‘Train-the-trainer’ is a weak strategy, but the alternative here is no additional benefit at all.
- Make sure that any training materials are stored and catalogued in a central library and communicated to potential users. Circulate the catalogue regularly.
- Track how effectively the new knowledge is used in the work it was intended to support, and try to measure the real benefit it brings. If good, then encourage repeats; if not, adopt a different approach next time.
None of this will stop good people leaving for greener pastures. But it may make it harder for them to drag themselves away, and raise the return you get on your investment.