4 ways to bake continuous development into your employee retention strategy
Employees who are “coasting”, who aren’t being challenged - and who aren’t developing and progressing represent a significant retention risk. In fact, in one study, 70% of people who wanted to leave their organisation were ready to move on because of progression/development reasons.
From the point of view of your employees, development (or lack of it) has a big impact on their decisions to stay or go - so it follows that continuous development should be hardwired into your retention strategy. Here’s how to approach it…
Start the development conversation early
When it comes to employee retention, the first six months are crucial - as around 40% of people who leave will typically do so in this period.
This doesn’t mean that you have to necessarily sign up your employees to formal development initiatives from day one. But it is worth starting a conversation about development - and starting it early!
Discuss the employee’s goals, areas of interest and existing skills and experience as part of the initial induction process.
Incorporate personal and professional development into your appraisal process; i.e. as well as evaluating performance, make sure you assess whether the job is meeting the employee’s expectations from a developmental perspective - and identify any extra support the organisation could be providing.
Implement a dedicated “development induction”
In your job advert and interview, you showcased the opportunities on offer for growth and development. It’s just that now that the employee has started, there seems to be little or no sign of these opportunities - or how to access them.
As part of the onboarding process, a personal development induction (separate from the primary induction/appraisal process) could be just what’s needed to address this. It could consist of the following:
Employees telling their stories - e.g. the progression routes they have followed, courses they’ve taken, experiences they’ve had within the organisation.
An explanation of possible career progression routes.
An overview of what each department does (useful if you want to encourage employees to pick up cross-departmental skills and experience).
Showcasing non-professional developmental opportunities: this might include your corporate social responsibility initiatives and how to get involved with them.
How to access these opportunities - e.g. a walkthrough on how to access internal development resources and who to contact if the employee wants to undertake an external training course.
Make developmental resources more accessible
Externally-run training courses may be necessary for some forms of development (e.g. where employees are seeking to pick up formal accreditations). But alongside this, consider establishing your own internal bank of training and development resources such as short courses, webinars and self-assessment tools.
You can tailor this resource bank to your organisation’s specific culture, ways of working and employer brand, and once you’ve put in the groundwork of setting it up, it can help reduce your reliance on costly external training. Make this as open and accessible as possible - e.g. via an intranet for employees to dip into whenever it’s convenient for them.
Allow roles to evolve and expand organically
If employees are stuck with very tightly defined job roles that seem to be set in stone, it can reinforce the feeling of “going nowhere”.
Build flexibility into job roles with a focus on the following:
Where possible, assign higher levels of responsibility
Invite participation in higher-level meetings and decision-making processes
Reassign routine tasks and introduce new responsibilities to reflect new skills and experiences the employee has picked up.
An early emphasis on development - and opportunities for employees to develop organically - without waiting for a formal promotion could be just what’s needed to stem unnecessary employee churn.