CFO: What if we invest in training our employees and they leave?
CEO: What if we don’t and they stay?
I’ve heard this quote many times in various different forms (unfortunately no idea of the original source) and I always enjoyed the insight it gives.
It’s interesting how it affects different people in different ways. For example, perhaps you give someone all the training they need to do their job well as well as giving them the skills to progress to the next level, but there are no vacancies at that level so they start looking to move on. Once they do, you’re left with vacant position to fill and the expenses that incurs, as well as needing to train the next person to the same standard.
From the other side, once you’ve trained someone to a high standard for their current role, they will be delivering so much more value than when they started! Not only that, but once they do get to that higher level where they are able to step up to the next role, as long as they stay they are providing invaluable support and are able to fill any vacancies at that level almost as soon as they open up!
Another example from the CEO side, what if you don’t give your employees further training and they stay? This can be a desirable outcome if they are already more than capable of carrying out their current role, as they won’t feel like they have gained skills that are going to waste and aren’t going to be as likely to want to move on. On the other hand, if there is an opportunity for them to be doing their job much better and you aren’t addressing that skills gap, they aren’t bringing the amount of value to the company that they could be. From a payroll perspective on its own this may look fine, even preferable, but if you imagine each employee as an investment, you could be plugging in the same cash every year and getting a low ROI from them, or plug in a little extra cash and watch the ROI shoot up.
I often think about my own skills when I consider this quote, because over the last few years I have spent hundreds, perhaps even thousands, on developing my skills and knowledge. Some training I’ve had was free, or on the job, but everything that wasn’t free came out of my pocket, and it has paid for itself many times over.
In my current role, my predecessors did their jobs well. They ran all the reports on time and maintained everything to a good standard before moving on and leaving the reporting for the next guy. Then I came along and after the initial learning curve of figuring out how everything worked and beginning to understand the commercial side of things, I massively improved all of the reports.
Some of them I had automated enough steps, so that what had been a day of work was turned into half an hour. Other reports I completely rebuilt with checks and balances that made it incredibly difficult to make errors or mistakes. That was all from the skills and training I had gained over the years by myself, but the most interesting part isn’t how I did all of that, it was why. Nobody asked me to make those improvements, I wasn’t promised any bonuses or pay rises, I could have just carried on doing everything the same way. The reason I made the improvements was because not only could I see opportunities for improvement, but I also had the skills to make those improvements myself. Because I had the skills to do a better job than I needed to, I couldn’t help doing a better job, and that’s the point I’m trying to make in this post.
If you give someone the skills to do a good job and the environment to use them, they will, it’s almost irresistible.