Offer training and development opportunities to retain quality people.

Recruiting and hiring quality employees is no small task. But in truth, it's only the beginning. Retaining those potentially high performing employees is often an even larger challenge. And, it's a challenge that can easily be overlooked in dealing with the “fires of the day”!

Retaining quality employees actually begins with some of the steps we've already discussed. We'll assume that you have a clear job description, because if not, new employees and those around them will likely have differing perceptions of the job to be done. Many times employment changes are driven by frustrations surrounding a misunderstanding of job responsibilities. For this reason, a clear description of each position's responsibilities is critical. Equally important, every new employee should participate in a thorough orientation program. New employee orientations are management's opportunity to assure that everyone is “on the same page” and that the new employee is being given every chance to succeed. In the absence of job descriptions and quality orientation programs, you may be dooming an otherwise high-caliber employee to failure.

The object of recruiting should be to find the highest quality potential employees possible. If you truly desire the highest caliber employees possible, you should also recognize that there is a price to be paid to keep them, beyond monetary compensation. Many managers overlook the reality that quality people need professional growth in order to remain challenged and engaged. That's part of what makes them desirable - they care about what they do. That means employers need to invest in developing their employees. Training is critical to employee growth, development and ultimately retention. It should be looked at as an investment in the future of the company. Quality employees will be more committed to their jobs as they become more proficient in them. It's always interesting to me that many employers are concerned that if they train their employees and they later decide to leave, the company will have wasted resources. But, the alternative is to retain under-trained employees!

If training is to be looked at as an investment, then the employer has every right to expect a return on that investment. This is an important point. Training for training's sake, without feedback or expectation of the use of new skills, often leads to the feeling that it was a waste of time and money. This disconnect, in my opinion, is the main reason that many managers believe training is a “necessary evil” and not the long-term benefit it should be.

Sidebar: Best Practices

Each month, we'll provide proven Best Practices. Readers are encouraged to send along any successful approaches they may be using in managing employees. We will feature the best of them in upcoming columns.

6. Have an organized plan to invest in your employees' growth through training.

Personal development and growth must be an active part of the management of every employee. Training and development plans should be included in every performance review and an active schedule should be maintained. This does not include just classroom or seminar training sessions, but also cross-training for backup coverage. Likewise, it's good business to expose employees to the aspects of a position that might be in their future career path. This can be done without making promises to the employee and, if nothing else, serves to give them a broadened view of the operation of the company.

Exposure to organized training or cross-training programs can be a great way of determining if a particular career path is appropriate for an employee. It can often make it obvious to both parties that a particular direction is correct or that it isn't.

7. Always measure the success of employee training.

Never train for training's sake or because “it's in the budget.” If you demand a return on your training investment, both the employee and the company will reap the maximum benefit. Measurement can be as simple as a quiz or as complex as an annual evaluation or the necessity to perform new or expanded job functions after training. The important thing is to make sure that the employees recognize that you are investing in their growth and you expect that growth to show some measurable and positive business results.