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As an employee retention speaker, I tell my audiences that a lack of professional growth and career development is one of the biggest reasons why people leave an organization. After one of my speeches, an audience member came up and told me she had just seen that exact thing in their maintenance department. They had just lost the assistant maintenance manager to a competitor because of a lack of professional growth opportunities. Not just advancement…growth!

The organization never talked to the #2 person about how he could grow in his role. Ironically, his boss is set to retire in two years and he decided not to stick around because they have 1) not talked to him about the fact that he was the heir apparent to his boss and 2) he was never encouraged to grow. He was a long-service employee with over 15 years with the organization and they are losing him at a critical time.

During his exit interview, he told the HR Director that they never encouraged (in fact they discouraged) him from going to classes, attending webinars or seminars and to grow in his profession. He decided to do it on his own and did those things…unbeknownst to the organization. He decided that his career was his to manage even if the organization didn’t promote growth.

Many organizations think if they don’t promote growth, people will never acquire the skills to move on to bigger and better things. That’s the farthest thing from the truth because, as a whole, people want to grow for the challenge, they realize growth is security in this changing world and that growth is a path to more money. You may not keep them forever if they outgrow a job and you have no advancement for them. However, if you can keep them for longer than you would have if you didn’t promote growth, you are ahead of your competition.

The days of retaining someone forever are not gone forever. They are, however, less common. Organizations (and bosses) need to realize that growth (not necessarily advancement) helps to retain people. If you don’t help them grow…watch them go!