How do you stop employees leaving after you’ve trained them?

Posted on 8th February 2016

This is a question I am often asked by businesses that I support. There is nothing more frustrating for a business owner than spending time, money and effort training an employee, for them to then leave and take their new found skills to another employer or worse, a competitor.

I have two main issues however with the premise the questions poses:

  1. There is an assumption in the question that training and development ends
  2. The question should be, what do I need to do to make the workplace so good my employees want to stay?

There are a number of ways a business can address these two issues and keep the staff they need for the business to succeed.

  1. Training Agreement – In some businesses, support may be given for staff to complete expensive professional qualifications e.g. AAT, CIMA, CIPD etc. In these cases, it is possible to draw up a training contract or include in a contract of employment, conditions where the employee will have to pay back the fees if they leave before a specified time. At least in these cases, there is an opportunity to recoup some expenditure but ideally you will want to keep them so the following will help.
  2. People leave managers not companies – Although this may be hard to swallow for some people, you may be the problem. Take an interest in your staf; what do they need both in work and out of work to do their jobs properly? Do they feel valued and listened to, and do they feel part of the business and do they know their contribution towards it?
  3. Regular 1-1 meetings – Forget the annual appraisal and yearly objectives, find time for regular, probably weekly, 1-1s. They do not have to be lengthy or time consuming, book time in on a Friday afternoon or Monday for a catch up. Set short term objectives, perhaps quarterly and review progress on these. What support to they need, and what’s going on in their lives?
  4. Have strong company values and live by them – Communicate these as often as you can, when setting objectives, when having 1-1s etc. Have a good induction or on-boarding process to make sure people feel part of the business quickly. Make people want to live them too, by your example.
  5. Training and Development doesn’t stop – When it does people will leave or look to leave. Training and development is not about formal courses, but about continuously learning and growing, both personally and professionally. Set objectives that will stretch people and support them to achieve them.
  6. Say thank you and reward – a simple thank you can go a long way. People like to be recognised for doing a good job, so recognise them. It doesn’t mean spending a lot of money, or any money. The best reward and recognition awards are simple and cheap but mean something. Also, people make mistakes and sometimes fail, if so try and find out why and put in place support and help to make sure it doesn’t happen again. All of our greatest business people have failed at some point.
  7. Work life balance/wellbeing – an issue that is becoming more and more important in the battle to attract and retain staff. Look at ways you might be able to offer flexible working. Can people do some work from home? Can days and time be flexible? Little things matter, take care of them.
  8. Pay and benefits – People stay at companies because in a nutshell, they enjoy working there, and not always for the pay. However, do make sure you are competitive in what you are paying if you can afford it. Do not overlook the non-financial rewards and benefits like Ride to Work scheme, Childcare Vouchers, pension (auto enrolment), gym membership etc. which don’t have to be expensive but are valued by employees. Find out what they do value and put together a package that’s appropriate.

When putting a business plan together, include a section on how you are going to manage your people. It is often overlooked but it should be on a par with your financial plan and cash flow forecast. If you do, you won’t be asking me the question in the title, you’ll have a thriving business and people will be asking: How can I work for that employer?

As always if you need any help putting this in to place in your business give us a call on 01536 215240.

Gateway HR Ashley-01

Ashley Heeley

Senior HR Consultant

Ashley Heeley Character
Written by:
Ashley Heeley
Senior HR Consultant