Jan 12, 2009

The Grass is Greener Where you Water it

I recently had coffee with the MD of a significant fine jewellery company and we were discussing the retention of Generation Y and the costs of training this group. Although keen to leverage the skills of Generation Y, he repeated a line which I’ve often heard from older generations: “train them and they’ll leave”. Indeed, if an employee is well trained, they become more valuable and so more employable. And many businesses have suffered the blow of up-skilling graduates on training schemes, only for them to take their skills elsewhere shortly after.

There are two things going on here. Generation Y sees learning as a lifelong process[1], so if training stops, they will seek it somewhere else. Indeed, PwC’s 2008 Generation Y report revealed that training was three times more important to this population than cash bonuses, with 98% believing that mentors were an important part of their development. On top of this, the training will cause Generation Y to seek trust from the company to allow them apply what they have learned to their daily work.

Unfortunately, too often Generation Y is given a whiff of what they can have, such as increased responsibility and the opportunity to make a significant contribution, but are then informed it will be a number of years before this can happen. This is training for the sake of training, which serves no purpose in business. It’s like learning to drive and then being told you will have to wait five years before you can get behind the wheel of a car. What would this motivate you to do? Leave.

The moral of the story: keep them challenged, fulfil expectations created by the training, and in return they will give you loyalty, improved productivity, and a great return on your investment.

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