By now you’ve heard of the “gig economy,” in which workers and organizations contract for short-term projects – based on the need of the employer and the availability of individual workers. You may have heard the term “protean career” a term used to describe a career path that is managed by the individual, not the organization. If so, you might be imagining an employment world that looks like the old New York Stock Exchange – employers holding up cards with jot titles, job seekers shouting “I’ll take it.” If so, you might also be surprised to learn I recommend you zig when others zag. Specifically, I am suggesting that you build loyalty by investing in employee development.
Smart employers understand that one of the best ways to maximize performance and reduce turnover is by developing talent from within. You’ve heard about the “War for Talent?” With an effective employee development program, you are better able to keep the talent that you have. A 2015 CEB study found that a lack of career opportunities is the main reason employees leave an organization. Not surprising, offering more career development and training opportunities have emerged as a top strategy large employers use to keep their current workforce.
Think about training as what you do for your workforce to help them perform better at what they do now. Then, think about development as what you do to help them find and perform well in what they do next. As a research psychologist, I’ve written plenty about the positive impact of well-designed training and the benefits of training to individuals, organizations, and society. When effectively trained, individuals work harder, perform their jobs better, and remain loyal to their employers.
Many of the same benefits accrue when organizations invest in their employees through career development. If our workforce, in fact, is heavily comprised of individuals “seeking gigs” while they manage the next steps in their “protean careers,” doesn’t it make sense to build loyalty and retain your top talent by helping them find their next gig in your organization? Don’t we believe the devil we know is better than the devil we don’t?
In a future column, I’ll lay out what an effective employee-based career development program looks like. My goal here is to convince you to join the majority of employers who believe a strong internal development program is a strategic investment in your company’s human capital. Here are five reasons why you should join employers with benefits.
- Attract new talent. Employers that offer benefits packages that include career development are often perceived to be the most attractive to job seekers. A talented job seeker may take a role in your company in which she is over-qualified on the anticipation of finding and moving into a better career opportunity later.
- Reduce turnover. Organizational support for career development is negatively related to turnover intentions, meaning that the more support there is, the less likely your employees will think about leaving.
- Water finds its own level. Once on a field research project, I tried to explain what I-O psychology does to my “subject,” an assistant manager in a McDonalds. She got it and smiled “Oh, we do that all the time – we call it ‘put your aces in their places.’” If you have high-performing employees who value your organization and it’s mission, and you can hold on to them long enough, they will likely gravitate towards the roles in which they can have the most impact on that mission.
- Cross-training. As employees identify future career opportunities and partner with HR to prepare themselves for those roles, they are likely to seek out training opportunities inside and outside the organization. Through that training, they will gain new technical and soft skills which not only prepare them for the next gig but will make them far more valuable in their current roles.