Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Afraid of Improving Your Employees

Are you afraid of improving your employees skills out of fear that they might leave?

The above question is one that has been pondered by many organizations. Some organizations have minimized training all together in order to keep their employees skill sets limited and thus minimizing their potential to leave for greener pastures. While other organizations have maximized training and the development of their employees while understanding the risks.

This is a discussion that needs to be had within every organization. What is the correct answer? There are four key points that will help any organization formulate the answer for their own situation.

Not All Employees Are the Same

When an employee is hired, nobody knows that employees true potential. When additional responsibilities are given to that employee, an organization is able to begin to see what the employee can offer. When an employee develops new skills through training and professional development, an employer is able to observe the true character and potential of that employee. When some employees are given new skills, they rise to the challenge and embrace the exciting change. These employees are looking to utilize their new found skills. While other employees who are given new skills do nothing with them and go right back to where they were before the new skills were learned. Giving employees new skills is an opportunity for an organization to identify employees with potential and possible future leaders. Not all employees will react to receiving new skills the same way. In regards to their potential, each employee is an individual and should be treated as such.

Resources or Cogs?

Every organization has a different mindset when it comes to their employees. Neither mindset is good or bad. Each mindset is derived from the business goals of the organization.
  • Resource - Your employees are the greatest resource within the organization. Identifying, guiding, and developing employees with great potential and placing those employees into the areas of the organization where they can have the biggest impact. This is a process that takes time and some serious investment from the organization. As a resource to the organization, employees are developed and given new skills. Once those new skills are fully utilized, then that employee becomes more valuable to the organization.
  • Cog - Your employees have been hired to do a job and it is expect that they will do that job well. Minimal amount of training or investment will be made by the organization as the employee only needs to know what is required for their particular job. Each employee is a cog working within a larger machine. If that cog is no longer effective and productive, then it will be quickly replaced by a new cog. All cogs are replaceable and are expected to burnout after a given amount of time.
Some people may object to employees being treated as a cog in a machine while others may object to investing too much into an expendable resource. As stated earlier, neither mindset is good or bad, but rather how a particular business operates.

Employee Value

Jack has just completed a week long training course. He is excited to begin implementing what he has learned into his job. There is a lack of enthusiasm from his supervisor about Jack's newly acquired skills. Nevertheless, Jack begins utilizing his newly learned skills and sees an increase in his productivity. Jack's confidence grows as he becomes a bigger contributor to the organization. However, as time passes, nothing changes with his job, responsibilities and perceived value. His supervisor did not appear to value the additional training Jack received nor the increased value of Jack himself. By this point, Jack has begun to feel frustrated and under valued. He got hired at a different company where Jack feels they value his skills, talents, and true value. After receiving Jack's two-week-notice, Jack's supervisor says to him, "I don't understand what happened. I thought everything was going as it always has." Jack then turned and said to his supervisor, "if that is what you think, then you don't know me."

When an employee receives training that adds to their professional skill set, they perceive that they become more valuable to the organization. If the organization sees that the added skill set did indeed make the employee more valuable, then that perceived value has become a reality and must be recognized. Recognition could come in many forms, including, but not limited to, increased responsibility of a leadership nature, monetary bonus, raise in salary, or a promotion. If the employee perceives their increased value, but the organization does not, then that employee-employer relationship will sour quickly and the employee will look for value validation elsewhere.

Succession Plan

What are your organizations future plans for leadership roles? Will those roles be filled with new employees outside of the organization or will those future roles be filled by developing talent within the organization? If an organization plans on filling future leadership roles with in-house talent, then giving employees new skills and knowledge is a critical component. As stated earlier, when you give employees new skills and knowledge through training and professional development, the true character and potential of that employee begins to surface. Once those potential future leaders are identified, then they must be valued and placed on a track of continued development. An organization's in-house talent will already have an understanding of your organization's culture and will be an example to other employees. There is a risk to developing in-house talent as some of that talent the organization has invested in will leave for another opportunity elsewhere. Should an organization only develop in-house talent? No, this tends to create group think and does not lead to new ideas or a fresh approach. It is important to fill some of the leadership roles with outside talent.


Deciding weather to give employees professional development and add to their skill set is a business decision that needs to be made by every organization. This decision should be based on the organizations' business goals and expected outcomes. There is no right or wrong answer to this question. Take a moment to think about this and ask yourself, "am I afraid of improving my employees?"

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