The Benefits of Employee Growth

By Anne MacKeigan

When we hire for a position we are looking for a good match—experience, temperament, smarts and emotional intelligence. When we find that match we congratulate ourselves on filling the position well.

But one thing many employers fail to consider is where that person is capable of being down the road. I am witness to the crime that happens on both sides of the hiring table: the employer blue-skying a job and selling it as a stepping stone to greater opportunities within the company and the candidate selling themselves as someone who will be satisfied to do an excellent job no matter where they are. Not a crime if either side is telling the truth, but often that’s not the case.

Employers are so happy when they find a great employee, they tend to want to keep that person where they are for as long as possible. “It was hard enough to find one good one, and you want me to go back to that pool again?” Larger companies may be able to elevate them to a supervisory role, but once a frontline employee has gained a high degree of product knowledge, higher-ups tend to want to confine them to that role. Good really is the enemy of great in this case—anyone with ambition will leave when they understand other company doors are closed to them.

Five consequences of keeping employees, particularly, customer care employees, “underemployed” are:

  • We don’t deliver on our interview promise: If a hire accepts a position in the belief that there is a career path, he or she will see it as a breach of trust if that doesn’t happen.
  • We de-motivate the competent: We shouldn’t be surprised if a good employee becomes disengaged when trust is lost. Customer care employees are often the most loyal in the company. It takes a lot to disengage them; but when they give up on progressing through the company, their eyes will wander to the want ads. Why work harder, go above and beyond, if there is no loyalty in return?
  • We allow complacency to occur: Keeping someone confined to a position because we don’t want to replace them encourages complacency and not only affects that employee, but other employees and team members.
  • We lose the good ones and keep the mediocre: It’s a fact that most competent employees want to be challenged, encouraged and promoted. If they don’t find the opportunity in your organization, they will find another organization where their needs will be met.
  • We externalize the lack of growth in the company instead of taking responsibility: It’s human nature, we blame the employee.

It’s part of the stinkin’ thinkin’ that employers have when they ask: What if I train them and they leave? Yes, by all means, let’s keep them locked in the back room doing work that no one else in the company wants to do. The vast majority of employees have unrecognized potential that neither they nor their employer can uncover without the right kind of processes in place.  As David Mattson, CEO of Sandler Training says, “Customer care training creates a potential employee pool for inside sales, account managers or new business developers.  As investments are made in training, frontline employees respond with additional confidence, competence, and renewed motivation.”

Those who choose to keep employees where they are will lose the good ones and keep the disengaged, eventually resulting in lower productivity and revenue growth.

Anne MacKeigan is customer care program specialist for Sandler Training and author of “Customer Service the Sandler Way: 48 Rules for Strategic Customer Care.”