Training Yourself to Train Smarter

If your junior people transfer within the company, ask yourself if the jobs are good jumping-off places, or if there's something else going on

Dear Liz,

My department has more junior positions than some of the other groups in our company, and time after time I hire people and train them only to have them leave my group for other positions in the company. Our firm requires that employees remain in one position for a year before applying for a transfer. I have had employees leave my group after 15 months, 13 months, and in one case, one year and one week. What am I doing wrong that I can't keep employees in my area? It is frustrating to spend energy training people only to have them move on so quickly.



Dear Robin,

I suspect that the rapid turnover in your group feels like a problem to you because you keep finding yourself in the hiring-and-training mode. But there's a flip side: The company gets a pre-trained crop of inside salespeople, entry-level marketing people, or folks in other areas—the departments that benefit from your employee-training efforts every year.

It isn't uncommon for certain departments in a company to serve as "feeder" groups for other groups. I used to hire a new employee communications coordinator into my human-resources group every year, because the previous one would be gone—off to a higher-paying sales, marketing, or other HR job within three months of hitting his or her one-year anniversary.

There are certain jobs that don't offer a lot of advancement, but if the company has other opportunities for those people after they've gotten their feet wet and learned how to be useful, it can be a win-win situation for everyone involved. I would take a hard look at the positions in your group and ask yourself: Is this a position that I myself would remain in longer than I absolutely had to?

Streamline Your Training

I would also ask myself: Is it possible, that people are leaving my group for reasons unrelated to career advancement? If so, that's something to take a hard look at. I would conduct a confidential online opinion survey ( and are two good tools for that) to determine whether other factors may be at work.

But if you determine that the consistent reason people leave your area is the lack of advancement opportunities, then your objective will be to streamline the training process for new hires. I once attended a leadership seminar at Disney World and learned that one of the positions at Disney's theme parks has, get this, an average 21-day tenure. You would have to imagine that the smart folks at Disney have whittled down the necessary training to take no more than half an hour at most.

You should think the same way: Do the training as fast as you can for the position at hand—which is turning out to be a one-year assignment that prepares them for more responsible roles elsewhere in the company. Don't train them beyond what that job requires. If you redefine how you look at the job and refocus the training accordingly, you will save yourself the stress of trying to convince people to remain in a job that isn't challenging enough to keep them engaged. Face it: Even if you kept them, they probably wouldn't stay much more than a couple of extra months.

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