Here’s a little Headhunter Secret that you might not be privy to: We just love organizations that front-load their training investments. Why? Because we can predict, with a very high degree of accuracy, approximately how many of your employees we can recruit away at any given point in their ‘professional development’. That’s right – I said with a high degree of accuracy . . . and that’s no overstatement. Here’s an example:
Widgetmaker Consulting, Inc. has a 36-month ‘leadership development’ program that enlists 250 college graduates per year. Competition is stiff — diligent screening efforts and candidate obstacles are in place to ensure that only the creme de la creme makes it through the gauntlet. The professional development program is impressive – it includes three 12-month rotations in which each candidate’s cross functional skills are better honed so that they may gain a more holistic view of the business (aka “appreciating all the company’s moving parts.”) You took an intelligent entry-level graduate and groomed them to be a long-term HiPo value-creator. Not too shabby if you ask me . . . with the only caveat being that, in the majority of cases, ROI is seen after the completion of the professional development program. Let’s say you sink $150k USD into each employee in the program – how long do you predict it will take to break-even on your investment? 24 months? 36 months? Longer?
And precisely while you consider the notion of ROI, there’s now a market reality that presents itself like Coleridge’s Albatross: At the end of that 36 months, you’re not the only organization that wants them. And that’s where the Headhunter steps in – it’s our job to woo them away; to “accelerate their career path”. Conversely, it’s your job to keep them. And in many cases, money is no object – don’t assume offering better pay is the solution, because as you know, young people embrace and thrive on change. They were engaged over the 36 months because you kept them dynamically shifting gears. You fed them excitement . . . and they loved you for it. But now, in their minds, the journey of their professional development has ended – they see continuing at your organization as “getting a real job.” In the Headhunter’s eyes, as well as the eyes of your competition, the end of your 36-month professional development program offers extremely fertile ground.
To that end, we Headhunters assume that at least 1/5 of the 250 you enlist into your professional development program will be leaving anyway, despite your best efforts to keep them (that’s 50 front-loaded training investments down the tubes). We also estimate that another 1/5 would consider a new opportunity if presented properly (that’s another 50 front-loaded training investments down the tubes). Depending on your organization, you might see as much as 1/2 to 2/3 of your front-loaded training investments leave the organization within 12 months of completing your professional development program. Maybe more, maybe less – only you know your own retention statistics.
And perhaps you’re happy with those odds- maybe you employ Big-Pharma’s (or the Video Game Industry’s) Blockbuster Profit model. As I mentioned earlier, a given percentage of your front-loaded investments are leaving anyway – they’re going to want change, excitement, new waters to navigate and conquer. But there will be other employees that are highly impressionable (yet cautious), and it’s those who you want to make your best effort to retain. Depending on the cost of your professional development program per employee, losing these “I’d like to stay but have a feeling there may be something more exciting out there” can be chalked up as an instant loss on your balance sheet.
The point is to think about what I’m suggesting today – think about the Headhunter’s Secret. Because as I write this, there’s a good chance that one of your professional development program employees is having the following conversation: “So have you thought about what you’re going to do when your development program is over in the next 60 days? I imagine they want to just stick you in a business unit and expect you to join the 9 to 5 rat race like everyone else, but I have a feeling you want more. And you know what? Frankly, you deserve better.”