When it comes to retaining employees, think less about pool tables and nap lounges and more about professional development. That’s what Jessica Cortapasso, VP of Human Resources at Digital Remedy, believes, and she makes a good argument.
I recently had the opportunity to ask Cortapasso about what she has learned about employee retention while working at Digital Remedy. Here are her responses.
HR Daily Advisor: Are cutting-edge perks (like yoga and Ping-Pong) helping organizations retain employees?
Cortapasso: Ping-Pong, yoga, in-office manicures, and the like are great, but they alone won’t make a difference in retention—unless, maybe, you own a sporting goods store. Employers need to create a culture where it’s actually OK for your employees to leverage these and other perks. Without a culture that says “taking a break is allowed and encouraged,” Ping-Pong is just an extra table. People scoff at the phrase “work hard/play hard” as a tired cliché, but if it’s something your company truly embodies, it takes on a new light and becomes part of a culture people are excited to participate in.
Engaged employees who feel like they work for a company that invests in their well-being and trusts them to get their work done, even with a midday yoga break, will see retention rates rise—not because of the yoga but because of the currency of trust. As a note, we’d even go so far as to say that yoga and Ping Pong are no longer “cutting-edge” perks.
HR Daily Advisor: Is the cost of developing employees worth the savings in retention?
Cortapasso: Without going deep into defining all the ways you could develop your employees, the short answer here would be absolutely, especially in today’s candidate-driven market. Developing younger employees shows an investment in their future and helps foster loyalty. Developing older employees helps to keep that historic knowledge at the company while refining skills that may be falling behind. Investment in human capital in the short term means that same human capital will be an asset in the future.
HR Daily Advisor: How can HR managers who are not offering enough or any professional development get started?
Cortapasso: Just start! Talk to your employees, and see what topics they are interested in learning more about. Reach out to managers to see if they’ve noticed any skill gaps on their teams. The worst thing an HR/learning and development (L&D) team could do is put out a program that no one asked for or cares about. Listen to your employees so you don’t set your team up for failure. Start doing research—get yourself a Harvard Business membership, and read the trades (not just the HR trades but those of the industry you’re in) to get ideas for what’s important. Make the decision on whether you are going to develop programming internally, seek help from an outside training resource, or purchase an online learning tool. Then set yourself some small, specific goals. Once you start achieving your milestones, send out a calendar invite. Now that you have people invited and aware, you’ve committed yourself to launching a great program!
HR Daily Advisor: How can they get started on a budget?
Cortapasso: Use your resources! You’ll find that everyone in your organization is an expert at something. Ask someone in finance to do a class on Excel® tips and tricks. Work with your marketing team to do a lunch-and-learn on presentation skills. Use all the research you’ve been doing to send out monthly leadership tips. Starting small will drive up interest in taking your programs to the next step.
HR Daily Advisor: How would you recommend an HR manager sell this concept to his or her leaders?
Cortapasso: The importance of employee growth is evident from before an employee even walks in the door or has his or her first performance review—every candidate asks about it in an interview. Make sure your leadership team is aware of these trends, especially with younger employees, and how making this investment will benefit the company. Share feedback from conversations with your employees and business leaders about what topics they are interested in learning more about. If your company is too big to have enough one-on-one time with employees, try running an employee survey. Give employees the opportunity to speak up about what professional development issues are important to them and how having that additional knowledge would help them with their roles and lead to more success for your organization. You could also run a small pilot program with a leader who recognizes the importance of professional development. Take the data collected from your tests, surveys, and conversations, and present them to your leadership team. Then, keep the discussion going.