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Feb 6, 2015

It’s been pretty clear for some time that American companies aren’t terribly interested in training or developing employees much anymore.

Yes, more money IS getting spent on training and development (15 percent more in 2014, according to Bersin), but it’s still not enough. Far too many organizations still expect new hires to be complete ready to hit the ground running when they start work, and that just isn’t very realistic.

That’s why this new survey from the American Management Association didn’t come as any great surprise.

Developing employees isn’t a high priority

According to a new AMA survey, only one-third of companies are focused on developing and retaining their current employees rather than recruiting from outside.

Instead, a majority of organizations indicate that they have no prevailing policy on recruitment, saying that shifting business needs determine whether to fill a position externally or internally. In addition, 11 percent of those surveyed acknowledge that they make little effort whatsoever to retain workers and instead have decided to recruit aggressively.

Here’s what the AMA survey asked, and here’s how people responded:

In recent years, does your organization prefer to recruit new employees rather than retain and develop existing ones?

  • We have no overriding preference, but act according to shifting business needs — 55 percent;
  • We focus on developing and retaining our current employees — 34 percent;
  • We expect high turnover and recruit aggressively — 11 percent.

Loyalty continues to sink

This survey — Is Employee Loyalty Still Valued ?, and completed Dec. 1, 2014 with responses from  1,213 senior-level business, human resources, management professionals, and employees — also showed what is driving organizations to hire from the outside rather than promote from the inside.

  • Some 52 percent said that employees are “less loyal” to your organization than they were five (5) years ago; and,
  • A whopping 80 percent said that either “loyalty was never really valued or a major focus” (24 percent), or, that it was “not a major focus, but valued nonetheless (56 percent).

“With only 34 percent of organizations committed to developing and retaining employees, it’s easy to see why employee loyalty has declined,” said Sam Davis, Vice President for AMA’s customized consulting solutions, in a press release about the survey.

He added: “The same survey found that 52 percent of companies report their employees are less loyal than five years ago. So many companies seem to discount internal candidates and just call a recruiter to fill an opening. But this sends an unfortunate signal to employees, who are usually eager for promotion and advancement.”

Existing talent needs be valued, too

Organizations need to have a coherent and authentic talent management program, advised Davis. “At its core providing opportunities for employees to learn and grow will encourage engagement. Employees should have a clear line of sight for future advancement. A strong management bench that’s relied on to fill openings demonstrates that existing talent is valued at least as much as new talent.”

These are interesting findings, but they really just confirm what we already know.

Companies aren’t doing a very good job of developing people, and because of this, they look outside all too often rather than promote from within. Employees, in turn, don’t have much loyalty to their employer and are all too willing to chuck whatever job they have for something that sounds or looks better.

It’s a vicious cycle, and a big reason why engagement number are so terrible in America today, and it is going to take a big commitment from the business community — mainly, more investment in training and raising pay levels — to get us out of it.

But, do you see the great majority of companies doing this? I wish I could say “yes,” but really, the answer is still “no.”

Until businesses feel they really need to pay and treat employees better, and that it is in their best interest to do so, we will probably see a lot more surveys with numbers similar to this one.

The four-letter word that is really driving engagement

Of course, there’s more than just bad workplace survey numbers in  the news this week. Here are some HR and workplace-related items you may have missed. This is TLNT’s weekly round-up of news, trends, and insights from the world of talent management. I do it so you don’t have to.

  • When applicants should walk away from a job offer. Recruiters and hiring managers need to pay attention to this: Liz Ryan has an article on telling job seekers when they should walk away from a job offer. It is great for those who hire people to read, because my guess is that we will be seeing many more people walk away from job offers as the economy continues to improve. As Liz says, “It’s very hard for a person who isn’t working to imagine that there are jobs not worth taking. At the same time, it’s critical to set a floor for yourself. If you become the doormat job-seeker — and there are a lot of them out there — the worst employers in the market will find you, and they’ll exploit your vulnerability. … No employer on earth will value you more than you value yourself.”
  • What are the real drivers of employee engagement? According to this story in Fast Company, engagement is all about love. As the author says, “what workers across the globe need in order to thrive and exceptionally perform in their jobs is love. The use of the word “love” is, of course, a huge taboo in the context of business and management. But as you read on, you’ll soon see that the love I’m referring to has nothing to do with romance, sex, or religion. The love I’m speaking of relates to the experience of positive emotions — the foundation of human motivation.”
  • Your happy employees may actually be faking it. If your workforce seems happy, well, maybe they are — but maybe they’re really faking it and acting like they’re enthusiastic. As The Wall Street Journal points out, “Science has seemingly proven what many workers know all too well: Employees fake a positive outlook when the boss is around. In a recent study, employees reported that they tended to put on smiles and feign upbeat emotions during meetings when higher-ups were in the room. By contrast, when workers hold meetings with peers or with lower-status employees, they tend to express themselves more honestly, the researchers found. The study is currently a working paper that is under peer review at the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology.”
  • A split verdict on the employee work-life balance. It’s not surprising that employers and employees don’t see the value of flexible work arrangements in the same way, but as Fast Company reports, the split is a pretty big one. Employees see the workplace continuing to erode their private lives, while HR views flex work as good for the company and the employee, too. “For most organizations, the work of the company takes priority over the life of the individual,” says Cheryl Palmer, the owner of coaching firm Call to Career. “Human resources takes the position that work needs to be done regardless of the impact on the employee’s personal life.” This is at odds with employees who want a distinction between their work lives and their personal lives, she says, and by virtue of leaving the office, leave the cares and commitments behind. This is exacerbated by company cultures that support workaholism, not a balanced life, says Palmer.