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How to get your employees to never leave you: train them

A few years ago I had to say goodbye to a team member that worked for me for a year. We hired him on as a summer intern before he entered his final year of university and he performed so well, we decided to keep him on in a part time role before he graduates. He moved to San Diego and while we embrace the distributed team model (work from anywhere), because we're a lean start-up the budget isn't quite where it needs to be to bring him on full time. Was it hard to see him go? Totally. But, I was truly happy for him and what I learned on how on to be a leader and the importance of training employees is so valuable I know he was definitely worth the investment.

I believe one of my primary job functions, as a leader, is to invest time, money, and resources in team member learning and help them to do their best jobs possible. With this team member, I wanted to train him to be able to leave some day - fly the nest. That's what an internship is after all. I get really annoyed when I see companies use interns as a cheap labor program.

For some companies, this is uncomfortable. Why put so much resources into your teams if they're just going to ditch you for the next opportunity? However, when you treat your team members well and give them the tools they need to be the best at what they do, you can encourage them to stay - and if they do leave, they'll be the best brand advocates for you.

Training is a two-way street

Steve Jobs said, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” I try my best to use this piece of advice when looking to bring someone new to the team. The worst thing someone can say to me in an interview is "I'm great at execution - just tell me what to do and I'll do it." I won't hire someone just so I can give them items from my to-do list. I want to hire someone because I need their insight, intelligence, and skills that I haven't learned yet. I love saying, "Tell me what you learned in this course because that didn't exist when I was in school." When I was at Target HQ, I implemented a Digital Advisor program as the retailer started their digital transformation - which can be described as a reverse mentoring program, but I don't particularly like that term because people tend to think of it as the "young kids teaching the old folks". It's a skill transfer - plain and simple. When it's based on skills, age or other demographics are irrelevant. Mentorships take on many different forms and it's important to match your employees with a good network of skills and development that may not exist in your core role.

Provide outside education to fill in gaps

Your internal training team may not have the specific skills that your team needs and that's ok. We can't all be experts in every topic and because of this, make sure you dedicate resources to bring in outside education. Create new offerings to help your team learn industry skills, not just skills related to your company. This can mean bringing in a guest speaker or educator for a day of training - yes this is a little plug for what my company does. Training can be expensive, but if it helps your team members be better at their jobs, sharpen their expertise and increases engagement, then it's totally worth it.

Help your employees want to stay with your company and grow - provide them with effective training, mentorship opportunities (both learning and teaching), and outside education. Feeling respected and valued can even outweigh certain compensation benefits. Yes, everyone wants a great paycheck, but sometimes people find the grass isn't always greener if they get more money, but work for an organization that doesn't invest in their career.

What other advice can you can share with me on this topic?

I'd love to hear from you!

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