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When Training Leads to Turnover

Companies spend billions on training for workers, but could developing their skills help drive them away?

It might, say the authors of a new study on training and worker retention who found that employee turnover can increase after training if a company fails to also provide career development and opportunities to get ahead.

The researchers, from the University of Iowa, University of Illinois-Chicago and Arizona State University, surveyed 246 employee and supervisor pairs at a large manufacturing company, asking whether the company provided sufficient professional development programs and if respondents believed the firm offered future career opportunities that interested them.

Workers who took part in training were more likely to stay only if they saw attractive advancement opportunities. If not, they felt little loyalty to their company—and their new skills made them more attractive to other firms.

“Only those employees who can see a way forward in their careers will stay with an employer,” said co-author Scott Seibert, associate professor of management and organizations at the University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business. “Otherwise, professional development opportunities might simply make their workers more employable by other firms.”

Promotions and raises weren’t the only ways to increase employee loyalty, the researchers found. Job rotations and mentoring were also considered career opportunities to some respondents. “It has to be something that matches what the employee’s career goals and interests are. It could be a lateral move or new assignments,” adds co-author and University of Iowa associate professor Maria Kraimer.

The study, “Antecedents and Outcomes of Organizational Support for Development,” was published recently in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

Readers, what does your company do to keep employees around? Have you felt particular loyalty to a company after receiving training? What else has made you want to stick around? Or not?


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