It costs more to replace staff than to develop them

Posted in : HR Updates on 11 May 2017
Olga Pollock
firmus energy
Issues covered:

‘But if we train them then they’ll just leave and go somewhere else.’ And, ‘we don’t have time to train.’ These are concerns that I have heard managers raise recently and it has prompted me to explore the area of learning and development and whether or not these fears are justified.

It costs more to replace someone than develop them

According to the Get Abstract online blog, the cost of losing an employee is more than developing a new one. Too often, employees who feel that their employer is not investing in their professional development simply move in pursuit of better opportunities, increasing staff turnover.

Managers’ fear of staff leaving and taking their new knowledge elsewhere would not appear to be completely baseless. Get Abstract outlines how ‘Young high achievers job hop frequently to earn a higher salary, and on average, leave their jobs after only 28 months.’

And even despite some organisations realising the importance of employee development some worry that they will not be able to accommodate their employees’ goals and that there will be a mass exodus, leaving the company in shambles.

The University of Vermont ( tackle this issue by pointing out that ‘most employees have fairly modest professional development ideas.’  And even where staff have unrealistic expectations of their own abilities, does not mean that the organisation have to finance elaborate requests such as MBAs or degrees. In reality most employees will seek opportunities to say, lead on an upcoming project or join a professional network.

The University highlight that where some employees do reveal that they want to leave this can also be an ‘opportunity to redefine a position or reposition the company.’

If you don’t develop staff; they’ll leave.

The advice therefore, according to get abstract, is not to withhold learning considering ‘employees seek professional development to achieve successful careers, and when companies don’t invest in this development, employees leave.’ Continuous training also keeps your employees on the cutting edge of industry developments according to Chron. ‘Employees who are competent and on top of changing industry standards help your company hold a position as a leader and strong competitor within the industry.’

Development promotes engagement

The training search engine, ( describes how employee development is extremely important to employees and their engagement levels. Worryingly though, too many do not feel that development is important to their managers. Research indicates that employee engagement is linked to ‘strong relationships within the workplace, interest in employee happiness, and a strong emphasis on employee development.’

It would seem, therefore, that there is a strong body of evidence to suggest that employee development is too important to ignore or fear. Clearly, employers need their employees to be engaged, and a great way to do this is to provide opportunities for professional development. An engaged workforce leads to higher productivity, profitability, and customer satisfaction ratings. And get abstract highlight how ‘engagement levels play a bigger role in employee satisfaction than corporate perks like vacation days and flex time.’ It is important to ensure that employees have the necessary educational tools to be able to help the organisation meet its corporate goals which should be well communicated to staff who know the part they play in this success.

What are the right development interventions?

So how do we ensure that employees receive the right development interventions? Get abstract recommends that we initially factor in the range of learning styles. The more flexibility offered to employees the better. Some employees may prefer to catch up on reading materials on their mobile phone on their commute to work while others may prefer working in small groups.

Building on people’s strengths is also seen to be more effective than trying to rectify weaknesses. This ‘strength-based’ approach as it is known, is seen to reduce stress levels and increase productivity. Furthermore, allowing staff to take charge of their own learning and avoiding long, drawn-out meetings which could easily have taken a fraction of the time are some of the other suggestions for making learning worthwhile. also suggest that employees understand the benefits of the development and why it is important. Managers should take time to explain to employees how it will impact them and the organisation while also allowing for opportunities for staff to develop their own learning plans. Learning should also be available in short bursts which should also reduce managers concerns over time-constraints. An hour during the working day may be broken down further through so-called ‘micro-learning’ whereby learning is delivered in small bursts when the employee has time to access it. Employees shouldn’t have to go looking for development opportunities either. Employers should promote these widely.

Digital learning

An easily accessible learning environment is ideal in today’s digital world. Employees should have the option to access learning on their mobile at times that are convenient to them and ideally in short bursts. ( address the rise of mobile learning through mobile devices. Employees are using their own internet-enabled phones, laptops and tablets to connect to corporate networks and access work files directly from their device of choice. This enables learning to become anytime, anywhere which again should elevate employers concerns around the time taken to train.

Feeling valued through development

So to wrap it all up, the body of evidence in favour of employee development far outweighs the common misconceptions around training people up to simply leave, or concerns around the time it takes to develop staff. Get abstract sums it up perfectly: ‘The fastest way to capture the hearts and minds of employees is to make them feel valued and, thus, motivated in their jobs. While it may seem counter-intuitive to train employees to advance beyond their current roles, investing in employee development will increase their loyalty to the company, help them stay longer, and allow the employee to build bench strength at the same time. As a result, you’ll have a highly engaged team of productive employees working to advance the company as a whole.’

This article is correct at 11/05/2017

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Olga Pollock
firmus energy

The main content of this article was provided by Olga Pollock. Contact telephone number is +44 (0)79 7389 3448 or email

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