For today's employees, it's not all about the money-- it's about personal and professional growth. According to a 2019 national survey from The Harris Poll, a lack of career development opportunities ranked second to poor compensation as motivation to leave an organization. For this reason, more than 80 percent of employees polled by Execu Search Group in a recent study said they would leave their current job for one with better development programs.

The practice and philosophy of investing more than a nice paycheck into your workforce is nothing new. Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, famously said, "Before you become a leader, success is all about growing yourself. After you become a leader, success is about growing others."

Welch said this back in an era when workers expected -- and wanted -- to stay with the same company until retirement. Not so anymore: Millennials and Gen Zers are constantly shifting jobs or at least looking around. According to a poll from CareerBuilder, 78 percent of employees who aren't actively looking for a new job would be open to the right opportunity.

Your employees crave personal and professional growth. In talking with Thaddaeus Koroma, a performance coach who's advised organizations like Harvard University and Deutsche Bank on employee development, he told me, "A person is like a seed, and the most important thing to do is to make sure I have the surroundings or environment that can fertilize the seed." Your people want more experience with new projects, more skills training and the opportunity to add increased value to others. 

I work with already successful leaders that are committed to evolving and growing as a leader. When my clients invest in others, they see increased retention and a more engaged team. 

Here's how companies can benefit from investing in people for the long term, right from the start, in a market that makes it harder than ever to retain a workforce for any length of time.

1. Heightened commitment.

One reason why focusing on employee development reduces turnover is that the employee is simply more committed to the company -- she's not just along for the ride for a paycheck. Because you've offered programs that interest her and will help her reach her own goals, she'll be more interested in helping you succeed.

2. Increased confidence.

A well-trained employee is a more confident employee. People don't want to walk into an office unsure of themselves every day. And if they do, it's more likely they'll walk out -- leaving you with the expensive task of hiring and training a new person. In-house mentorship programs also increase the confidence of the leader doing the mentoring, making this a cost-effective and win-win method of employee development.

3. Partnerships with universities.

Not all continuing education programs have to be in-house. Higher education institutions often partner with businesses to offer traditional or online courses that won't interfere with day-to-day operations. This approach is perfect for the employee seeking to finish a degree or someone looking for a one-day seminar. Entering into a partnership with a university allows leaders to customize its academic courses to benefit both the employee and the company.

4. Better client care.

Leaders who put the needs of their customers over those of their team will ultimately fail at fulfilling their customers' needs. As former Apple Senior Vice President Angela Ahrendts said, "Everyone talks about building a relationship with your customer. I think you build one with your employees first."

Offering employee development programs not only creates educated and better-trained individuals, but it also shows that you appreciate them. Put simply, someone who's a better salesperson will close more sales for you, and someone who's appreciated will make clients feel the same way.

5. A great reputation attracts top talent.

In addition to fostering the growth of current team members, established development programs also make finding and hiring new talent much easier once the word is out that investing in people is one of your top priorities.

Offering competitive salaries is obviously still important, but relying on high wages alone won't keep the team you want. Focusing on what a team member can do tomorrow is essential to growing the seed that is that person -- and your business. Investing in people's development is the only way to ensure a solid team of capable workers and the future of your company.