Five decades ago, a newly hired employee expected to spend his entire career with an employer. Once the new employee was "shown the ropes," usually neither employee nor employer gave much thought to continuing the person’s education.
It was common for an employee to remain in the same job from hiring to retirement; if promotions occurred, rudimentary on-the-job training would be provided.
My, how times have changed:
- Technology continues to advance, requiring people to master an array of new skills just to keep doing the same job.
- Competition among companies is fierce for employees who already have the training and experience needed.
- Dual-income families give many employees more options to change jobs.
- Employers began to question the costs of retirement benefits, health insurance and other expenses associated with retaining employees long term.
- All these issues contribute to employees being less loyal to employers.
The biggest changes, however, are in generations entering the workforce after the Baby Boomers. These younger groups tend to be far more interested in acquiring new skills and furthering their career growth than their parents or grandparents were. They expect to climb the corporate ladder as quickly as possible, and want to be agile so they can move up at a moment's notice.
Most employees now embrace the concept of lifelong learning, and they view educational opportunities and additional training as key to financial reward.Opportunity for ongoing development ranks in the top 5 on virtually all lists of what employees want from an employer.
Providing educational opportunities and additional training is not just a perk for employees. These types of investments in employees pay dividends to employers as well:
- Employees feel the company cares about them and is interested in their futures, inspiring greater loyalty.
- Employees are more satisfied with their jobs, making them more productive and reducing absenteeism.
- Employees are more likely to praise the company to friends, family and even casual acquaintances, enhancing the company's public image.
It is also critical to remember that employees who are satisfied in their jobs and who feel valued by their employers are less likely to actively pursue other job opportunities. Retaining the most valuable employees can save the company money; replacing an experienced employee costs the company thousands of dollars.
And, there are costs more difficult to quantify: decreased productivity, reduced morale among employees who remain, and more.
The departing employee also may have knowledge about clients, projects or vendors that has never been communicated to anyone else in the company.
Given these factors, it only makes sense to include educational opportunities when planning a retention strategy. The importance is only going to increase as more retiring Baby Boomers are replaced by Millennials.