In an inflationary environment with limited labor supply, many small and midsize employers simply can’t afford to keep salaries and bonuses in step with their larger competitors for talent. Indeed, even major corporations may struggle to keep payroll costs down while recruiting and retaining top talent.
Companies across a variety of industries are being forced to do more with less, but one solution may be to leverage their training and development programs as a recruitment and retention tool.
Training Can Be an Efficient Win-Win Opportunity
Salary is a one-way benefit: The employee earns the salary, and the company has to pay for it. Other benefits are similarly “one-sided,” like health insurance or paid time off. Of course, employers do benefit from happy, healthy, and well-rested staff, but using broad strokes, the value of salaries and traditional benefits flows from employer to employee.
Training, on the other hand, can be a win-win, making it an efficient option as an employee perk. When employers train staff, those employees get the benefit of industry- and/or job-specific skills and knowledge that make those employees and their labor more valuable. By the same token, well-trained employees are a better value for employers, all else being equal. For example, an employer might pay employees $100,000/year upon hiring and the same $100,000/year after the employees have gone through an extensive training program. While the employees’ salary remains the same, their productivity, competency, and efficiency have all hopefully increased thanks to that training.
Accept the Reality of Modern Employee Tenure
As an initial matter, it’s important to address valid concerns that are sure to emerge among some company leaders about turnover and the loss of staff the company has invested significant resources in.
The implicit “catch” in the above example is that while an employer might create more valuable employees through its training efforts, the employer is certainly not guaranteed the benefit of that increased value indefinitely.
Employees making a starting salary of $100,000/year may feel that, after extensive employer-sponsored training, they are now worth closer to $150,000/year. Those employees may demand higher pay from their current employer or take their new skills elsewhere.
Employers have developed various strategies for mitigating these risks, such as training reimbursement agreement programs (TRAPs) or noncompete agreements, but the fact is, turnover is a fact of life in the modern economy. Employees simply don’t stay with a single company for their entire careers like they may have several decades ago.
While companies may try to swim against this current, they run the risk of wasting significant effort fighting a losing fight and tarnishing their employer brand in the process.
Promote Training Programs in Recruitment Marketing
Investing in training and development is obviously a necessary first step in leveraging that training and development as a job perk, but employers also need to make sure prospective and even current staff are made aware of the training opportunities being offered, as well as how those opportunities compare with alternative employers. Existing employees may take even best-in-class training programs for granted if they aren’t aware of what other companies offer by comparison, and prospective employees, particularly those new to the job market or a particular industry, may also not have a solid idea of what baseline and exceptional training and development opportunities are.
Employee Training and Development as a Path to Advancement
One way to retain newly trained staff is to link participation in training and development programs to advancement opportunities within the organization.
For example, those hypothetical employees earning $100,000/year may feel like they are worth more than $100,000/year after all the training they’ve completed, but they don’t necessarily have to leave the company to find better opportunities. The company providing the training could offer pathways to finding jobs in new departments or to move up the organizational chart for employees who demonstrate a commitment to continuous learning and development.
Solicit Employee Feedback to Increase Engagement
Employee training is necessarily focused on the needs of the business rather than on the wants of the employees. But employee feedback is still useful in helping to guide company decisions on training content and especially delivery formats.
While an accounting firm may insist all its accountants learn new accounting rules, for example, it may have the ability to offer flexible training programs that allow employees to choose whether they learn through self-study, attending live lectures, watching recorded lectures, etc.
Or, an employer may consider employee recommendations for new subject matter. For example, employees who stay up to date on their industry through individual research or networking may identify hot topics in the industry that would be both useful to the employer and interesting to the employees.
“I can advise you to listen to your employees more often and ask them what they lack in training,” says Julia Voloshchenko, PR manager at Usertech. “For example, maybe they want to learn a second foreign language,” she says. Usertech has conversation clubs to help them do that. “Some people like to study offline, and some like to study online. It’s necessary to take these desires into account and organize several training formats to make everyone in the company feel comfortable.”
Employers in today’s environment of high inflation and short labor supply can find themselves in a tight spot with respect to employee compensation. But employers can also leverage the training and development opportunities they offer employees in the compensation discussion.
Today’s workforce craves opportunities for personal growth and development, and to the extent those opportunities align with an employer’s needed skills and competencies, that can be an efficient win-win for all involved.
Lin Grensing-Pophal is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.