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TechRepublic members sound off: Don't ask us to sign a contract after training

IT managers are often reluctant to invest in staff training for fear the employees will jump ship. Should workers be required to sign a contract in exchange for training? Many TechRepublic members argue against it.


Consider this scenario: There’s money in your budget that you could use for employee training. But if staff members leave and take a new job shortly after they’ve trained on the company’s dime, your return on investment is shot.

Some employers combat the problem by requiring employees to sign a training-reimbursement agreement that ties the employee to the company for a specified amount of time after company-funded training is completed.

The article “How do you keep them after you train them?” explored the pros and cons of training-reimbursement agreements. The article prompted a flood of e-mail from TechRepublic members. As you might imagine, many employees think training-reimbursement agreements are unfair, while some employers say they are necessary.

TechRepublic member Kevin Oxner described the debate from the employer’s perspective when he wrote, “Many times when an employee is unable to commit, it means they are a short-term job jumper. As an employer, I would much rather get an employee that wants to make a commitment than one who thinks the world owes them.”

However, most of the responses we received were written from employees’ viewpoints. Several TechRepublic members who oppose training contracts made this argument: While there is a chance a company will lose an employee after he or she has been trained by the company, that risk is worth taking. In this article, several TechRepublic members suggest reasons why there are benefits to paying your staff’s training costs without requiring them to sign a contract.

Conveying trust and commitment
According to the majority of e-mail we received, training employees not only builds trust but is also a much better way to retain employees than requiring a legal contract. Member Edd Burns said that if an employee knows that his or her work is appreciated, the work environment is up-to-date, and training is offered to face new challenges, then there is little reason for the employee to leave such a committed employer.

“Making him sign a contract will not instill loyalty in the employee. Providing the appropriate perks without strings will,” Burns wrote.

Bryan H., a technical manager, also believes that contracts are damaging to employee retention and morale. “[An employer] demonstrates their commitment to me by paying for training or certs and treating me right. Binding me to them like an indentured servant is not treating me right.”

Kai66 believes that training, among other factors such as pay, benefits, and work schedules, are key elements in fostering a trusting, family-like relationship between a company and its staff. When a company addresses the needs of its employees, “this shows commitment and loyalty from the company. When employees are treated like family…they will most likely return loyalty and commitment back to the company.”



Training beats trial and error
Although there are no guarantees that a newly trained employee will stay forever, at least that employee will help things run smoothly while he or she is working in your shop. Trial and error is a time-consuming and costly way to hone IT skills. Marc Quibell, a systems engineer with GE Capital IT Solutions, suggests that it is profitable for a company to invest in training for its employees. A trained IT force yields a well-run IT structure that benefits company-wide productivity.

“Otherwise, the employer is losing money on lost productivity and an IT staff spinning their wheels trying to learn things on the spot.”

According to Web developer Sanders Kaufman, a productive IT staff needs training just like a vehicle needs a tune-up or an oil change. If an organization neglects the needs to maintain and enhance its employees’ skills and knowledge base, the company will eventually suffer at the hands of an incompetent IT staff.

“If you don’t oil the machine, it rusts out and breaks down.”
Should employers pay the training costs of its employees? Do the long-term benefits outweigh the initial costs? Join the discussion and share your opinions.

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