Top Four Ways to Increase Employee Retention and Company Profits with Leadership Training Programs

Collaboration. Shared vision. Work-life balance. Helping others. Variety. Culture. Autonomy. Contrary to what employers may believe, these are actually some of the top reasons workers give for loving their job. And what if they don’t find the right fit?

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Collaboration. Shared vision. Work-life balance. Helping others. Variety. Culture. Autonomy.

Contrary to what employers may believe, these are actually some of the top reasons workers give for loving their job. And if they don’t find the right fit? You can bet they will move on, because today’s workforce is more mobile than ever with 51 percent of employees looking to leave their current jobs, according to a Gallup survey. That’s why employers need to understand and act to retain great employees by providing them more than just a paycheck.

“I think developing transferable skills is arguably more important than it has ever been,” said Lee Stuart, leadership programs manager at the KU Edwards Campus (KUEC), located in Overland Park, Kansas. “I think that’s one reason all kinds of employees are looking for additional training opportunities from their organizations.”

After more than 30 years working with all types and sizes of businesses in the private sector, Stuart said Kansas City businesses are beginning to understand that improving soft skills needs to be a top priority for managing their multi-generational workforce.

One of those businesses is Arvest Bank, a financial institution with 17 branch sites in the Greater Kansas City area. Barbara Christ, the executive vice-president of sales with Arvest, utilizes several of KUEC’s leadership training programs for her employees and offers them the opportunity to complete The University of Kansas Professional Leadership Certificate.

“We are looking for relevant programs that keep our associates motivated to learn, and can provide useful skills to the organization,” Christ said in a press release. “Leadership competencies that transcend industry are always excellent topics.”

Stuart said not all companies are embracing the need for training.

“Some organizations have a view like, ‘I’d rather not make Susie good at this, that and the other thing because she might take those skills elsewhere,’” Stuart said. “That’s a rather short-sighted view. I’d say that I would do it because that increases the opportunity that Susie will stay with us and so, guess what? If she does select another employer then godspeed, she’s going to be a better employer for those other organizations.”

The chances your employees will stick around are far higher with a strategic leadership training program. According to a Bridge study, offering career training and development would keep 86 percent of millennials from leaving their current position.

Increasing Profits through Strategic Employee Investment

Many successful Kansas City companies are utilizing leadership skills training and professional development to build a strong work culture, increase employee retention, increase productivity and innovation, and support employee promotions to prepare for the next generation of workers. All of these outcomes can contribute to your company’s bottom line.

Here are four ways investing in professional development can increase your company’s success.

1. Promotes Your Company to Potential Employees

Investing in professional development for your employees is often considered an additional benefit to accompany insurance and 401k plans. Especially for hourly employees who don’t usually get the benefits salaried workers receive, this training can make your overall benefits package look much more inviting than your competition. In fact, 42 percent of employees say learning and development is the most significant benefit when deciding where to work followed by health insurance, according to the “Udemy in Depth: 2018 Millennials at Work” report. And employees who think professional development is essential are the ones you want to hire.

Companies who have a powerful professional development strategy also build a reputation and brand as a company who cares. And that reputation reaches potential employees, whether graduating college or looking for a mid-career change, catapulting your organization to the top of the application list and helping offset some of the high costs of recruiting.

“Associates like that we encourage promotional opportunities and talk about it openly throughout their career,” Christ said in a press release. “They like the idea that we have IDPs (Individual Development Plans) which include ongoing discussions with their manager every year.  They enjoy the chance to apply and complete our year-long leadership programs for both emerging and high potential leaders. The survey results are very positive.”

Christ’s company also offers job shadowing and a mentoring program, which pairs employees based on interest regardless of location.

“Our programs build credibility for Arvest Bank, and they build both internal and external social capital,” Christ said.

Offering training from a top-rated research university increases that social capital by bringing even more credibility to employee programs, Stuart said.

“The company recruiter can say, ‘If you choose us, we’ll make sure you can use your training dollars with KU, or we’ll provide you professional development that never ends,’” Stuart said. “That can help them lock in that employee.”

Locking in the best employees for your company results in increased productivity and profits.

2. Boosts Your Employee Retention Plan

Once you’ve landed the most qualified employees for your business, you certainly want to keep them. One estimate from a study by the Society for Human Resource Management adds up the average cost of recruiting, hiring and training a new employee at more than $4,000.

Moreover, 67 percent of millennials say they would leave a job that lacks growth opportunities and avenues of leadership skills development, according to a 2018 survey by Bridge. Investing in professional development for your employees can build loyalty, according to the Bridge survey, make them feel appreciated, create employee “buy-in” and make it less likely that they will want to leave.

“We have developed several levels of leadership programs either by developing them internally or coordinating with outside learning partners,” Christ said. “We believe this shows a commitment to supporting our associates in their growth and it has increased retention as shown by our review of monthly turnover data.”

Stuart said he believes training, like the KU Leadership Certificate that Arvest Bank employees complete, encompasses several programs aimed at retaining middle to upper management staff, directors, and mid-career employees.

“They’re going to be more strategic critical thinkers for their company, and they’re going to say, ‘Hey, the company was willing to provide training and spend some money on my professional development,’” Stuart said. “Knowing this makes them a loyal employee.”

3. Expands Your Company Innovation and Productivity

Companies with engaged employees outperform those with lower engagement levels by up to 202 percent, according to a Dale Carnegie study. However, Gallup reports only 15 percent of employees worldwide are engaged in their jobs. With this expansive inequality, it’s no wonder that 85 percent of leaders say employee engagement is a strategic priority, according to a report by Deloitte.

Engaged employees are not only happier and more likely to stay; they are more productive and foster a culture that encourages risk-taking, new ideas and innovative tools. Productive employees can also help your company by staying relevant in your industry, solving problems in useful ways, and bringing value to your customers, all leading to sales growth.

“Our programs not only ensure our employees maintain relevant competencies and strengthen team dynamics, we see an increase in confidence, morale and teamwork,” Christ said in a press release. “This impacts our bottom line through the production of superior projects and improved efficiencies. We can document increased ROI through our P&L statements.”

With today’s changing workplace, it’s difficult for employees to stay up-to-date on the latest technologies needed for success in any industry or organization. Only one in 10adults in the U.S. believes that he or she has adequate computer and internet skills to use the digital tools they’re responsible for in their daily work, according to a study by Capgemini Consulting. Employers need to continually provide training opportunities for their associates as new technologies emerge. Besides technology skills, today’s employers look for soft skills like critical thinking and emotional intelligence.

“I think one of the things we do best is to help the participants in our program develop a different mindset,” Stuart said, “and that mindset, in turn, helps them go back to their organization and help create an environment in which they can thrive.”

On the flip side, bored or disengaged employees can mean higher rates of absenteeism, lack of productivity, higher turnover, more room for human error, safety incidents and much more.

4. Supports Employee Promotions

The employees who know your company the best and have worked there the longest are often the best candidates for moving up into management positions. However, they may not have the skill set to make the move successfully. A professional development program can reduce any knowledge gaps, develop a deeper skill set and train employees in the missing skills they need to allow their promotion.

“Providing a learning and development path is one of the many benefits of our professional development plan,” Christ said. “Growing leadership skills helps form a succession plan, preparing for the next generation of workers.”

Stuart said he works to develop leadership courses that offer employees training to provide the best possible work culture, develop a more strategic mindset, develop critical thinking skills, and address strategic change management aspects that every organization is experiencing.

“All of the leadership programs we offer at KUEC incorporate how to lead with sensitivity and emotional intelligence,” Stuart said.

Employees who move up also provide the ability to cover all job positions when needed, and eliminating any weak links within the company. According to the Association for Talent Development (ATD), companies that offer an extensive training curriculum have a 218% higher income per employee than companies without organized training.

Getting Started With Your Employee Retention & Professional Development

Just throwing out a workshop on mindfulness or a retreat about brand-building isn’t always going to be the right choice for every organization. Christ suggests getting started by thinking through what skills or competencies your business or industry needs now and in the future.

“Survey what associates are interested in, and explore how to map learning opportunities for the company’s future,” Christ said. “Ensure that you have a good delivery system or work with an outside vendor to assist you with a platform. Offer options for associates to learn about furthering their career in non-management roles. Enlist enthusiastic program brand ambassadors helps to ensure success.”

Thinking is also vital to the success of employee learning. You want to ensure you have the company climate needed to implement your training. Learning only happens through thinking, not teaching. Therefore, for your training to be effective, there are three questions you will want to ask yourself:

  1. Are there systems in place within your company or organization that will reinforce the newly desired behavior?
  2. Is your company dedicated to making the change, from the highest levels of management?
  3. Does the training you’ve selected provide a solution to your strategic priorities?

“Don’t assume the training is going to cure all ills, because that’s not necessarily the case,” Stuart said. “Some things are more structural or systemic. We can help companies figure that out.”

Working with an experienced business consultant, such as Stuart, will help you determine whether you are internally ready for training courses and the best course plan for your particular company.

“People leave bosses, not companies,” Stuart said. “That’s always in the back of my mind when I develop these programs. Let’s make good bosses because people are far more likely to stay with a good boss than with a lousy boss.”

Proven Professional Development Programs in Kansas City

Kansas City businesses don’t have to search nationally for the very best in professional development programs. Stuart has been listening to Kansas City area employer needs for years and helps develop programs at KUEC like “Leading with Emotional Intelligence” and “Building a Personal Brand” that meet the requirements of those local employers.

“All of our professional programs do a lot of good technical training, leadership skills training, project management training,” Stuart said.

Stuart works with companies of all sizes, but he spends much of his time assisting small to medium-sized businesses who may not have as many in-house employee development and retention resources. For example, his work with WaterOne throughout the past three years has encompassed training across every level of their organization in a variety of subject areas. WaterOne is an independent public water utility that provides a safe, reliable, high-quality water supply to 17 cities in eastern Kansas.

Through KUEC courses, programs and workshops, WaterOne has helped their field techs prepare for a certification exam with study habits and test-taking courses, implemented their aspiring leaders' academy with a six-course program offered to nominated future leaders, and provided first-line supervisors a nuts and bolts management program called “Supervisory Boot Camp.”  Most recently, KUEC is leading their “Building a Winning Culture” retreat for their top eight to ten executive leaders.

“They recognized early that they have a primarily technical workforce and they wanted to make sure that the workforce was as good with their soft skills as they were with their technical competencies so I think that’s how we plugged in best,” Stuart said.

According to Stuart, the most frequently requested type of training in Johnson County and the Kansas City area over the last few years is for soft skills - organizational communication, leadership and management topics - and project management such as Lean Six Sigma. These programs help employees get out in front of the inevitable issues that arise in projects, understand them in advance and work through them more efficiently.”

Learn more about the new KU Professional Leadership Certificate and other leadership programs at KUEC and get moving on your 2019 plan for improving company profits through investment in professional development and leadership training programs.

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