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Electrical Testing

Training vs. Retaining: It Needn’t be a Choice

Providing training shows employees that a company wants them to have the skills to succeed.

Being careful with the budget is a core function of good managers. The training budget is no exception. Is your care because you are trying to get the most bang for your training buck? Or do you restrict training out of fear of losing trained employees?

You may have heard the joke about the latter. A business owner says he doesn’t want to train his people because then they will leave. A consultant then asks him why he’d want the untrained ones to stay.

People do change jobs. The more marketable a person’s skill set is, the more options that person has for seeking employment elsewhere. But it does not follow from this that increasing training increases the risk a person will leave.

Nobody wakes up and says: “I really hate my job because my company has invested training dollars in me. I want to leave there and work for a company that won’t help me be better in my chosen line of work.”

When you don’t invest in training, you are sending a clear message that you don’t value your people. So the lack of training tends to increase, not decrease, flight to another employer.

But what if you do invest in training someone, and that person leaves? Have you not lost that entire investment? What you don’t know is how much longer that person had stayed with you because of the training you offered, thus lowering turnover and annualized hiring costs.

Remind yourself that people do not leave because they are somehow insulted that you cared enough to invest training dollars into them. They leave for other reasons. Some of the reasons people leave may be beyond your control.

But many reasons are within your control. The biggest reason people leave an employer is that they don’t feel appreciated. So you send Chuck to training, and though he correctly performs the work he was trained for, you never seem to notice. What message is your lack of communication sending to Chuck? That what he does isn’t worthy of your notice?

A helpful exercise is to pause for a while each day and ask yourself, “What have I done today to make someone in my company feel appreciated?”

This doesn’t mean going around flattering everyone or continually thanking people just for doing what they are expected to do. It can mean (among other methods) making a point of taking the time to show interest in what a specific person is doing. This attention shows that you value that person and the work that person is doing. It’s a way of showing, rather than saying, “You matter to this organization, and so does the work you do.” Remember, actions speak louder than words. Show you care.

Each manager and supervisor must accept and adopt this attitude as well. If you are the CEO or owner, lead your managers and supervisors by example. But also explicitly express expectations so they clearly understand it’s not optional.

Other controllable factors also get people in the mood to leave. Let’s look at some.

  • Vague instructions. Instructions that are concise and clear require some effort to provide. Think it through before issuing instructions. Vague instructions set people up for failure, and nobody likes being set up that way.
  • Not taking people’s concerns seriously. If someone complains about anything within your power to address, don’t brush off the comment. Instead, seek more information. Ask questions and show you care. Have a discussion with the employee about what kind of solution would be appropriate.
  • Poor organization. If your operation isn’t running like a well-oiled machine, it’s leaving people frustrated. Wherever there is disorganization, make sure it’s addressed.
  • Poor leadership. Many times, the best technician or electrician is promoted to crew leader or foreman. And then a crew leader or foreman is promoted into (middle) management. Although this may reward people for their high competence, it often puts them into a role for which they are ill-equipped. As they flail around, they can easily cause their subordinates to be unhappy enough to seek employment elsewhere. The promoted ones also become unhappy, because they just are not good at their jobs. So train people for these roles before promoting them into such roles. Management training and leadership training are available from many sources. What other training might they need to succeed?
  • Negativity. Once negativity takes hold in an organization, worker satisfaction plummets. The best way to prevent this is to actively promote a positive environment. Look for what is good in people. Praise publicly, criticize privately.
  • Chronic safety issues. To this point, we’ve been looking at reasons people leave voluntarily. If someone leaves voluntarily because of chronic safety issues, that is a major wake-up call. Such issues may result in an involuntary cessation of more than just employment with your company.

And let’s not forget amateur hour issues. Do you run a professional outfit? Or do people have cause to refer to their time working for you as “amateur hour?” Do your policies and practices support professionalism? Have you even thought this over, or are you leaving it up to chance?

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