If you grow them, they will stay

Here’s a not-so-dirty little secret: If you don’t invest in your employees’ skills and development, they’re going to look for it somewhere else.


We recently sat down with Kris Dunn, CHRO of Kinetix, and Ed Nathanson, founder of Red Pill Talent to talk about how organizations with strong learning and development programs are able to recruit, retain and engage talent.


Watch a replay of the L&D Hangout with Fistful of Talent to hear:

  • How learning improves retention and boosts performance
  • What sort of training and development programs you should offer, and
  • Why your employees won’t ditch you for another company after you help them gain valuable skills

Lessons from The Bee Gees: How training can help hiring

Having been in the world of Talent Acquisition for nearly 20 years now, I have certainly seen some great progress in our industry. From better tools, improved processes and the realization (finally!) that we need to embrace employment branding, a lot of good has come along. Yet – along with the good changes some things just never change. One of the biggest problems I saw at the beginning of my career and still see to this day is the complete lack of foresight by most hiring managers around the need for experience as opposed to skills, attitude and aptitude.


The classic scenario:

Hiring Manager has a need on his or her team. Hiring Manager writes job description with several points of experience they need – describing a person – not a job. This list is usually filled with lots of experience requirements that either cost a ton of money to hire for or simply don’t exist in most of the business world. They want a plug and play hire that they don’t need to do much training or on-boarding for – after all, they are busy and need help now. Fast forward a few (several) months. Role still not filled and tensions flare.


So what does this have to do with learning and training? EVERYTHING.


This whole scenario and the countless others like it played out around the world in hiring daily could be solved if companies focused on teaching. How? There are two ways investing time to train will lessen time to fill, increase retention rates and keep costs in check. I was driving to a client this morning and happened to be listening to the sweet sounds of the Bee Gees (not embarrassed to admit it) and was inspired to put this in relation to some of their biggest hits


More than a Woman (or Man)

First – let’s look at training for internal employees. Your current employees are already familiar with your systems, processes and products. They are part of your culture and have both legacy and interpersonal knowledge. In short – they know more than anyone coming in off the street would about your company. Retention is always important, and with the market for talent these days your employees also have more options than ever before to leave for bigger or better opportunities. With these ingredients in place, why would you not look internally to fill your openings first? Sounds logical, but 99.9999% of most companies don’t do this. Oh sure – they say they do – but in reality if the employees don’t have the particular experience in the skill set you seek, even though they may have the core skills to learn it, almost all companies say “well – we tried but we have no one in house who can do this” and then start posting jobs like teens post prom pics on Instagram. Now – what if instead of going out to find that elusive “purple squirrel” that you would need to train anyhow for months on the non “resume experience” pieces of the job you invested the same time on an existing employee who checks all the boxes except a few that he or she can learn?


The payoff here is tremendous in several ways:


  1. Retention – you now keep an employee in your organization that might have gone elsewhere for a similar opportunity. You also send a powerful message to the rest of your employees that you will invest in them and their careers.
  2. Cost – instead of going out an paying “market rates” you get a better value from an existing employee who is eager for the opportunity to learn and grow into a role
  3. Time to fill – this goes from potentially months to zero days. Yes – you will have to back fill the employees role, but what would stop you from using the same method to do that? See point 1 for why this might be a good idea.
  4. No “baggage” –  people who are seasoned experts in a specific skill set or experience often bring with them the ways they think it should be (or always has been) done. With someone new to the skills and the roles, you can often get some fresh new perspectives. Innovation anyone?
  5. Growth vs Lateral move – what is the motivation for someone to take the same position they are currently doing at a different company? Not always – but typically they are money, commute, bad bosses, etc. Call me crazy, but those aren’t necessarily the reasons I want someone joining my team. Not an absolute here – but something to think about. Your internal employee already is part of the fabric of your company, and if they are raising their hand to be considered for a role chances are they want to stay AND grow their skills and career at your organization. Hmmm – I think I like that.



How Deep is your love?

Second – let’s say we went through the process of looking internally and there just wasn’t anyone in house who could step in to the need. If you went through the process dutifully and this is truly the honest outcome, then let’s open that requisition. Now – the classic scenario here is that a hiring manager will list off oodles of experience and requirements that in most cases don’t exist – or if they do are really tough to find and will cost you big bucks. The search usually takes a long time, and more often than not the requirements keep getting lessened and lessened to make the pool deeper as the months tick away. What if – call me crazy here – you go for the candidate who might not have the latest version of the coding tool you are currently using but has some experience in other tools and would love to learn the tool you are using and ticks all the other culture, attitude and aptitude boxes? Now I used a coding example here (because I see this SO often) but insert any skill set here and think the same. If you spent the time after hire to teach these tools and skills you just might be getting a better hire in the long run than you would with the plug and play candidate. How?


Let me count the ways:


  1. Time to Fill – this will lessen considerably if you broaden the skills/experience needed
  2. Deepens the candidate pool – yes – instead of chasing the same candidates your competition is, you now have a much deeper pool of candidates to select from
  3. Growth vs Lateral – see above in example one. Instead of getting someone who is joining you for potentially the wrong reasons, you are hiring someone who sees this as a growth opportunity and not just chasing dollars or a better commute.
  4. Cost – market value for experience is at crazy levels these days. Good for candidates, but tough for employers to keep up and be profitable as a business. Instead of paying “market”, you can go a bit below market and get someone in the role who would love to learn these tools or skills and doesn’t cost what the market dictates you should pay.
  5. Retention – hiring someone who sees this as a growth and career opportunity is a better bet for someone who will stay vs the aforementioned candidate who is just looking for more money. The money motivation (or others in the lateral move category) will rear their head again once the next new shiny role comes knocking. Not to say this couldn’t happen to anyone, but the chances lessen with the growth candidate hire.


This problem is decades old and it seems we never learn. If we can take our learning and development mind set and apply it to hiring methodologies, we might just be able to get ahead of all of this nonsense. Leave it to the Bee Gees to make this clear.


Now, excuse me while I go jam out to “jive talking.”