Staff retention

1st May 2014

“The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave, is not training them and having them stay.” - Henry Ford

The quote above is often cited by training companies (and others with a vested interest) as evidence that we should be delivering training otherwise our staff will leave. As is often the case, the truth behind the statement is more complex.

So how can we in L&D help to retain the right staff and how can learning technologies like an LMS help us?

I can think of three broad areas where we should be contributing:

Support and progression

Employees often want opportunities for progression. They may have long term career aspirations that involve going up through the ranks of the company. They may want a short term opportunity to take on additional responsibilities or perhaps to work on a project outside of their normal role. They may just want to ensure that they keep up to date with the skills needed to support changes in their current role.

Whatever the degree of progression, people want to feel that they are receiving the appropriate support they need in order to make the most of those opportunities. In most cases that support is linked to training and learning.

We need to make sure that staff can not only easily find and access learning materials, but they get the support they need to identify the right materials for their needs.

Goals and objectives

Having clearly defined goals and objectives is a fundamental prerequisite for making the most of opportunities for development and progression.

There is a responsibility on the employee to identify their own goals, but if we don’t help them link those goals to those of the organisation it greatly reduces the likelihood they will be achieved. It also makes it unlikely that they will be applied in a way that really benefits the individual or the organisation.

We need to make our learning materials useful in as many circumstances as possible. Whatever the learner’s goals and objectives they should be able to go to the LMS and find what they need. That means we need to take the time to present our materials in multiple ways, such as:

  • As part of structured learning plans that map on to progression into roles of greater responsibility
  • As part of a catalogue of learning that is searchable by categories, tags or other metadata that can help the learner identify what they need
  • As a browsable resource that may spark ideas for new goals and objectives


This learning activity only benefits the individual and the organisation when it is actually applied. You might take the view that application in the workplace is beyond the scope of L&D and not something that is easily supported with an LMS. However, I believe that there are opportunities to do both:

Difficult as it may be, we should stop celebrating the completion of training activities. For example, when someone completes a training course in project management it is worth acknowledging that they have achieved a personal milestone, but it really doesn’t have much relevance to anyone else. However, once they have used that learning to successfully deliver a project it becomes something worth celebrating as an achievement for the individual, their team and the organisation. It also gives us the opportunity to celebrate a clear link between someone’s learning and the achievement of their goals.

As for the role of the LMS; in previous posts on this blog I’ve made many suggestions for moving the LMS closer to the work and making it more relevant. If it’s easily searchable, accessible from any device, connects learners with the right content and provides opportunities to collaborate it becomes a useful tool that supports workplace performance.

About the author
Barry Samson

Barry Sampson is a consultant focusing on the use of technology to improve workplace performance. In 2009 he co-founded Onlignment, a consultancy specialising in organisational communication and learning. Previously he worked in a range of delivery and management roles in HR and Learning & Development before becoming Learning Technology Manager at B&Q where he led a number of award-winning elearning and blended learning programmes.

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