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Don't Lose Those Talented Team Members. 3 Ways to Hold on to Them. The secret tool to building a great company? Professional team development.

By Tony Delmercado Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Great talent doesn't always stick around. People are always looking for the next big opportunity, and if you aren't careful, you'll wake up one day and find all your best people in positions at other companies.

Related: The 3 Percent Solution for Personal Development

While there are many ways to compete for great talent, the key is to make sure your people feel connected to your company and its mission. The best way to stand out as a growing company and retain your talent once you've landed it is by selling that mission (and your team's future) from a career trajectory standpoint.

To do that, you need to understand the return on investment of employee development. Investing in its people helped The Clorox Company, for example, earn a spot on Glassdoor's Employee's Choice list of Best Places to Work 2017. According to chief people officer and senior VP Kirsten Marriner, employees stick around because the company invests in their growth.

To develop strong leaders who find meaning in their careers, Clorox offers programs specific to certain functions, as well as cross-dimensional training, The aim: to help people learn invaluable leadership skills that will improve their own effectiveness and impact.

What's more, according to research by the Work Institute, compiled through analysis of 34,000 exit interviews, career development was the No. 1 reason employees said they were leaving those jobs. And that one factor beat out management behavior and work-life balance -- even compensation. The 2017 Employee Retention Report also found that turnover costs for U.S. employers averaged about $15,000 per departing employee.

While it takes time, effort and budget, setting your employees up for success with opportunities to grow their skills is the best favor you do not only those team members, of course, but also your workplace culture and your bottom line. By providing opportunities, you can help your employees grow, form personal bonds with them and watch your business grow right along with them.

Investing in diamonds in the rough

We have one employee at Hawke Media who's been with us for more than three years. She's smart, hard-working and cool to be around. But there was one problem: When she first came to us, she talked like a token "Valley Girl" -- "Like, I know . . . .like, totally."

Finally, I sat her down and told her she was smarter than she sounded. Funny thing was, she knew it. We gave her some books, sent her to Toastmasters International and hooked her up with an accountability partner who listened to her on the phone. Within six or seven months, no one could tell that she'd ever had that Valleyspeak speech pattern.

There will always be smart people out there who are a little less refined or have a weaker skill set. But if you can identify them and tailor professional development opportunities to their personal as well as professional goals, you'll improve their lives while also strengthening your company.

Shaping professional development opportunities

Professional development is always worth the investment, especially when you get people going to coaching events, seminars and the like. Then, even if they leave your company, they'll advocate for you and let others know that your company is an awesome place to work.

You just can't depend on a one-size-fits-all approach. When you consider professional development for your company, you have to tailor it to your culture and your people. Here are three tips on how to do that.

1. Focus on competencies over metrics.

I know, that's crazy. Don't focus on metrics?!

Here's the thing: A maniacal focus on metrics alone will build a company full of people willing to cut corners and work around the basics in order to meet your requirements; just look at Uber. The behavior of that company's leadership -- poor, at best -- trickled down and spurred a lack of self-control throughout the entire business.

Instead, pick a few key metrics that matter, and focus on more subjective measurements that will eventually get you there. When we do quarterly reviews, we note objective measures such as churn, utilization rates and client revenue growth. But the focus is really on a competency scoreboard based on a four-point scale.

Related: How to Give Millennials the Employee Development They Want

Do you know this? How well? Are you doing X things each day to improve? Are you avoiding these negative habits? Those are the competencies that, over time, add up to the objective success we're looking for.

2. Do career training on a repeated basis.

Like anything else, consistency is key.

In order to say you have a strict focus on something, you have to be beating the drum on it regularly. Don't wait for people to ask for help; create opportunities and encourage them to take advantage of those.

Every Friday, we have education and development sessions we call Hawke U. These sessions are given to more than 100 people, so it's not the hyperfocused personal development that happens with other opportunities; instead, it's a chance for us all to improve on certain things together. What's more, it engages our team -- Rypple found 20 percent of employees it surveyed considered career development and training a good incentive to keep them engaged.

Related: The Best Professional Development Advice Ever

Don't overthink this. As a leader, you know where improvement needs to happen. Recently, our Friday trainings focused on utilizing our project management software. The point is this: Regularly take time to invest in employee development, and make it relevant to your people.

3. Empower your people.

At the end of the day, people are responsible for their own development. Encourage your employees to identify their own sources of development and then to go for it. Biotech company Seattle Genetics is great at this -- it offers tuition reimbursement and on-site training for employees.

Any time there's an opportunity for improvement, I'm open to investing in it (assuming it makes sense, of course). If our employees see anything they want to do that'll make them more valuable as human beings, they can hit me up -- I'll probably pay for the conference, seminar, podcast subscription or online course. Want to go to a concert because you think it'll make you a better person? Show up with your pitch detailing why that is, and if you can convince me, I'll pay for it.

Ultimately, as a leader, you can approach training in a myriad of ways -- just execute professional development in a way that makes sense for your company and your people. Doing so will not only make your business more competitive than ever but will also help you build a supportive culture on a foundation of personal and professional growth.

Tony Delmercado

COO, Hawke Media

Tony Delmercado is the COO at Hawke Media.

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