What If We Invest in People and They Leave?

Tinward-strategic-consulting-logohis post by Rick DeMarco was published on the Inward Strategic Blog on November 29, 2016. We really like it, agree with what it says, and are pleased to republish it with the permission of Inward Strategic Consulting.

What If We Invest in People and They Leave?

by Rick DeMarco

Recently, in my Linked-In Network, I saw a post with a quote by Peter Baeklund that captured the essence of why Inward Strategic Consulting is passionate about what we do.

A CFO asks a CEO: What happens if we invest in developing our people and then they leave us?

The CEO responds: What happens if we don’t and they stay?

By now, it’s not news that we are facing a crisis of lack of employee engagement. We often talk about the fact that employee engagement has remained at levels of about 30% for the past 15 years. But looking at this from a different perspective, that means that 70% are not engaged and even more alarming, 30% of these are actively disengaged, presenting a risk of purposefully undoing any progress made to convert those on the fence. And it’s also not news that exceptional customer experiences that result in growth and customer loyalty are the direct result of a culture of highly engaged and inspired employees. So why would an organization fail to invest in its employees with training and development, reward and recognition programs, effective communication, and programs and processes that fully engage people?

If the answer is based on a lack of understanding or belief that it really makes no difference, there is plenty of evidence from research and surveys that could convert even the most ardent disbeliever. But if an organization does not invest because of the fear represented by Baeklund’s quote, I would suggest that an assessment of the risk/reward associated with the investment might be in order.

As a former accountant and CPA, I understand the need to consider the return derived from any investment and to carefully assess the risk and benefits associated with that investment. Is it possible that a company may invest in an employee and then lose him/her to a competitor? Absolutely! So that in essence captures the downside. But let’s look at the reasons why it’s worth taking that risk on the upside.

  1. Many surveys have been done over the year to identify the reasons why an employee stays at a company. Although compensation always makes the list, it is never the number one reason. Consistently ranking in the top five is the desire for employees to grow and develop.
  2. When you invest in your employees, you send a strong message that they are valued and make a difference to the organization. Employees who feel valued are much more likely to exert that discretionary effort that leads to a culture of high engagement, which drives growth.
  3. When an organization invests in growth and development of its employees, the effectiveness and efficiency of the organization as a whole increases because after all, an organization is made up of the total of its members.
  4. By 2020, Millennials will comprise over 50% of the workforce. For this group, it isn’t a nice to have, but rather a requirement that in order for them to be committed to an organization, that company MUST develop and grow their skills and capabilities, without fear that they are developing them for some other company.
  5. Even if an employee does leave the organization after you made an investment in them, they leave as supporters and advocates, rather than ex-employees who damage the equity of the company with other potential employees, customers, or partners.
  6. Investing in employees drive higher engagement and engaged employees
    • Generate better and more inviting workplace environments reducing the risk of them leaving and being disloyal.
    • They allocate more commitment and passion to work and contribute incremental efforts and thoughts for solving problems after hours.
    • Engaged employees have more fun at work and serious about getting the job done right than just passing time on a clock.

So what if you invest in employees and they leave? I would suggest that given the upside and significant impact of making that investment, it’s well worth the risk. In the end, the collective impact of a commitment to investing in your employees will drive a culture of high engagement and one that establishes that company as a desirable and best place to work.

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