Training as a Strategy for Improving Employee Retention?

Posted by Jennifer Patterson  /  October 31, 2016  /  Training   —   No Comments ↓

photo of businesswoman who loves her jobMaybe you’ve seen articles about employee retention discussing perks, employee recognition, wellness programs and more. Where does a good training strategy fit into the picture of overall employee retention?

Researchers and HR experts agree that learning and growth are key components of any well-rounded approach to improving employee retention. That’s because they are known to be key motivators for improving job satisfaction. I’m not just making this up. It’s scientific. Read on.

Job satisfaction vs. dissatisfaction

Herzberg’s Motivation-Hygiene theory, also known as the two-factor theory, argues that in a workplace, certain factors lead to job satisfaction, while other factors separately cause job dissatisfaction. This is important because it means that we can use specific motivators to help people be happy in their work, while other “good hygiene” practices can be used to keep people from being too unhappy in their work.

An oldie but a goodie

Despite having been proposed half a century ago, Herzberg’s theory is generally still well regarded and has been hugely influential. Most importantly, it can be a useful organizing principle to help you target your efforts at improving employee retention.

More recently, one of my favorite books: First, Break All the Rules (which I’ve raved about before) appears to corroborate the division of satisfaction and dissatisfaction according to the motivation-hygiene theory.

In the book, authors Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman discuss the twelve questions that emerged from the study for determining high-performing individuals and organizations. The twelve questions align strongly with Herzberg's motivation factors, while Herzberg’s so-called hygiene factors were determined by the study to have little effect on motivating high performance.

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Good hygiene

Hygiene needs are those things that prevent employees from feeling dissatisfied with their jobs. These are kind of like the ante in poker: your organization has to get these right to prevent people from walking out the door.

Herzberg proposes that good hygiene is important because it prevents dissatisfaction, but does not, on its own, inspire employees to do great work. Good hygiene factors primarily have to do with your job environment and include things like:

  • Salary
  • Working conditions
  • Job security
  • Supervision
  • Company policies
  • Coworker relations


This is where the magic happens. To create a positive attitude and motivate team members to become high performers, focus on the factors that are known to be strong motivators:

  • Interesting work
  • Sense of achievement
  • Recognition
  • Responsibility
  • Growth and Advancement

Where to start?

If your exit interviews are revealing that people are highly dissatisfied when they leave, and you want to get your employee retention rates out of the toilet, focus first on good hygiene factors.

But once those hygiene factors are "good enough" then the real gold is in the motivators.

Satisfaction and retention can be increased through basic changes in the nature of an employee’s job. This is often called job enrichment or job design. Be sure to plan and train for increased challenge and responsibility, opportunities for advancement, personal growth, and recognition.

There are two obvious tie-ins with training: for all employees, and specifically for managers.

Ongoing learning for all employees

In order to provide employees with more responsibility and more challenging work, they need to be acquiring and perfecting new skills on an on-going basis. I’ve written before about improving employee retention through increased training.

Our mission here at KnowledgeWave is to create an affordable way for employers to provide ongoing software training for their team members. Software keeps on changing (mostly for the better) but you can’t make the most of it if you don’t keep up your skills. Help your employees feel happy and confident in their work by investing in their knowledge…research suggests that you will see it pay off in your bottom line.

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Make sure each team member has a learning plan and pathways for growth. If you don’t have any in place yet, an easy way to get started is with a simple employee training plan.

Training for managers and supervisors

Secondly, your managers need to be aligned with the organization’s commitment to using key motivators for inspiring high performance. So teach them how to implement and follow-through on Herzberg’s motivators.

Managers are the primary interface between the organization and the individual. Your managers are uniquely situated to have a very direct impact on employee motivation, and so be sure to provide plenty to training and support to your managers and supervisors.

If you want to transform your workforce into a high employee retention culture, you need significant buy-in and participation from your organization’s managers. If you want an organizational culture that says, “We value our employees and want to keep great talent on our team,” then all of leadership, and managers especially, need to be walking that talk.

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Topics: Training