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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What happens if we don't invest in staff & they stay?


A twitter post (@sabram @eranium) a few weeks ago posited this question:
CFO asks CEO "What happens if we invest in developing our people & then they leave us?" CEO: 'What happens if we don't, and they stay?"

Interesting thought, isn't it? For many of us, we have staff who work for us, take advantage of training (either that we offer as on the job training) or via formal coursework (such as completing a degree or certificate program) and then LEAVE. To some, it would seem that they suck us dry of what we can offer and then move on. We've advanced their career, perhaps, uptrained them so they can do more,  and then they take that knowledge right out the door. I'm sure there are managers who think exactly that way.     
...but there is more to the story. If we've worked hard to develop our staff, do we really expect them to stay with no added reward? I realize that not all staff are motivated by an increase in salary (flexible schedules, telecommuting, health care, vacation time can be very powerful motivators) but do we really expect people to stay and work harder (or at more indepth level) for us out of what? LOYALTY? a sense of ALTRUISM? Seriously?!?! Given how low salaries are in libraries, I am never surprised when someone leaves.

Instead, I get kind of sick to my stomach when I hear of someone who has been in EXACTLY the same position for 15, 20 or even (egads!) 30+ years. I only hope that their job has been interesting enough and their motivational factors have been met... otherwise, that is a long time to be miserable and "checked out". I do know for some, they truly love what they do, and they have had enough variety, opportunities, and rewards to continue to motivate them. 


Then there is the second part of the question:  What if we don't invest in staff,  then what? In some ways, it is the same as the answer above. The motivated staff will be motivated - motivated to look for other opportunities. Other staff will stay - at worst stagnating, at best, coasting along still doing a good job (that they could probably do with their eyes closed because they have become an EXPERT EXPERT at their job). In Grad School, one professor (that I kind of hated because he made inane jokes about tech services people in libraries, but he did have a good point or two) used to tell my class regularly: You Grow, or You Die.

I think that gets to the heart of this question. We either help staff grow or we help kill them psychologically - we let them stagnate and we turn good employees into staff who are disengaged, bored, and disenchanted.


Growing staff is much like growing a garden: it takes a little effort: the right seeds and soil (right person for the right job), some fertilizer (training, mentoring, and encouraging), letting them grow (getting out of their way so that can do the job you hired them for) and occasional weeding and cultivating (getting rid of what doesn't work & encouraging what does). 

[thanks so much to Stephen, the VP Strategic Partnerships and Markets for Gale Cengage (and all around library geek) & Stefan Erschwendner is Managing Partner of @LHBS_AT for this blog topic. You can follow both of them on twitter @sabram @eranium}

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