This may be the key to increasing company loyalty, according to professors

Albert Einstein is quoted as saying “once you stop learning, you start dying.” While Mr. Einstein was probably being a bit dramatic to make a point, his quote is no less valid. Continuing to learn new ideas, methods, and skills well into adulthood has long been viewed as a recipe for success. 

When it comes to the world of employment, however, many companies have historically been hesitant to offer their existing employees training and learning opportunities out of fear that they’ll take those new skills and leverage them to find a new job somewhere else. It’s a somewhat valid concern, but ultimately a self-defeating exercise. In essence, it’s a perfect illustration of the expression “don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.” Just because an employee might move on at some point, that’s no reason to avoid improving one’s company in the now.

Moreover, a new study conducted by the University of Würzburg finds that offering training opportunities to workers can actually increase employee loyalty to their employer. Educational opportunities tell employees that their company is willing to invest in them, and more times than not, employees take note of and appreciate that goodwill.

The study’s authors analyzed education and career information on roughly 4,300 employees from 150 German companies over five years. Using all of that data, they were able to track if employees were still with the same company that had facilitated their training a year afterward. 

“On average, training significantly increases employee loyalty to the company providing training by more than ten percentage points,” explains Professor Thomas Zwick, who heads the UW Chair of Human Resource Management and Organization, in a university release.

So, the study found that employee training opportunities or courses can have a two-fold beneficial effect on companies; employees will be more productive and less likely to leave.

People moving on from jobs and certain companies is a simple fact of life. Any longtime business manager or CEO can attest to that. There will always be the danger, training opportunities or not, of a company investing time and money into someone only for that person to leave. If anything, though, these findings suggest that offering more educational opportunities decreases the likelihood of an employee putting in their two weeks’ notice.

There are, of course, varying levels of on-the-job education. However, even in observed cases where companies offered employees universally recognized certifications that would almost certainly help them make more money elsewhere, employees still displayed a tendency to stay loyal and stick with their original job.

“Interestingly, the retention effect also occurs in the case of training content that would enable employees to take a wage-increasing career step outside the company,” Professor Zwick adds.

It’s easy for managers, COOs, and CEOs to feel appreciated and validated each day, but entry-level and lower-tiered employees often feel marginalized. Offering educational options for all employees is one way to make lower-level workers feel acknowledged and valued. 

There are several reasons why someone may decide to start looking for a new gig, but being treated as just another cog in the wheel is among the most common. Respect in the workplace is huge, and there is no better way to show respect to one’s employees than to provide the opportunity to better themselves.

The full study can be found here, published in the International Journal of Human Resource Management.