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Why Training Matters More than Raises

A lot of people spend a lot of time thinking about how to get and keep great talent, but it turns out that common wisdom doesn’t always provide the best answers. Anecdotally, it feels right that the only way to attract and hold on to workers is through their paychecks. But in reality, that’s not the case. Think about your own experiences.

Think about someone changing jobs (maybe it was you). Was it about money? Maybe. But studies have shown bigger paychecks only matter up to a certain point. There’s a plateau at the mid- to high-tier levels where the money doesn’t matter (as much). If it wasn’t the money, then what’s the draw?

A recent study by Glassdoor found that if a job change isn’t about money, then it’s probably about either the culture, values, or leadership. And that’s where a funny contradiction comes in. When we think about our personal situations, it’s easy to see that it’s more complicated than just money. So why do we assume that everyone else chooses jobs based only on the paycheck?

Demand a culture that encourages self-improvement

Harvard Business Review reported that “across all income levels, the top predictor of workplace satisfaction is not pay: It is the culture and values of the organization, followed closely by… career opportunities at the company.”

Think about that. Does your organization boast a culture of career-furthering opportunities? Workplace satisfaction — an obvious predictor of whether key talent stays — depends mostly on two things: Future responsibilities and company values.

These two predictors can be addressed with a company-sponsored training program. The first predictor takes into consideration whether an employee thinks they have a bright future in the organization. When you’re training your employees, you’re investing in them. Whether they stay or go, they’re improving — and that’s what they’re really after. (More likely they’ll stay, though.)

Train them to take on those greater responsibilities. It also means the company has developed values that fall in line with their own. A culture of self-improvement (and a well-defined training program) puts the values of self-improvement into practice.

For instance, maybe your newest IT technician is itching to do something more, perhaps advancing into a cybersecurity specialization. It’s a hot career field that you’re probably hiring for, anyway. Show your commitment to them by offering security training and maybe even lateral advancement. Training demonstrates your commitment to your employees and your desire to see them advance.

Show them there’s a roadmap

It’s not enough to throw training at your employees. If the training isn’t connected to something the person actually wants, why would they be interested? The organization needs to have clear metrics and aspirational milestones. Set up dominoes for your employees and be sure they see that they lead somewhere.

Maybe another IT technician feels hemmed in with all the tech work, and they want to move sideways into a project management role. If it’s easy to discover that the job requires project management certification training, and you offer it, now you’ve given that tech a goal, a purpose, and the resources to get there. And importantly for you, you’ve given them a reason to stick around.

Lead with progress in mind

Of course, we’re advocating training your people. (After all, we’re an IT training company.) But retention is an important, individualized issue — and training is only one part. The biggest complaint about leadership teams is that they’re distant, removed, and disconnected.

It’s not enough to know that training will keep employees around longer. Leadership has to embrace why training matters. Employees thrive in environments where they can expand their interests and bolster their strengths. Retaining talent lies in wanting your employees to move upward, encouraging them to reach heights they want and providing the right training for the right opportunities.

If you can create a culture and organization that targets and identifies where your employees want to go with their careers and provide training to match it, you’ll have better-trained, harder-working team members who stick around.

Final thoughts about training and retention

Cultivating a culture of self-improvement means actively trying to keep your talent, which means encouraging them to aspire to greater heights. Hiring curious people isn’t enough. You’ll need to develop a system of progress that sponsors and champions training for your employees — whether it’s offering training in soft skills or training to achieve specific certifications.

Remember that culture, values, leadership, and opportunities within the organization matter more to employees than compensation. If you’re trying to retain talent, demonstrate your commitment to them with training opportunities — and they’ll reciprocate with a commitment to you.


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