Rapunzel's godmother locked her in a tower to hold on to her. Companies employing the same strategy will face a similar fate.
I’ve always encouraged companies and managers to train up their employees. Sometimes there’s hesitation, that training people will increase the likelihood that those employees might leave. There’s the famous quote, “The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.” (This is sometimes attributed to Henry Ford but there’s no actual evidence that he said it; TheHenryFord.org website, for example, does not list it among his quotations.)
Let’s consider this idea more specifically around networking. If you teach your employees to network, won’t that lead them to have more job opportunities? Absolutely. If I tell my girlfriend that dress makes her look very attractive (and mean it, not just say it because she bought it and that’s the one right answer no matter what I think), won’t more men notice her and try to ask her out? Absolutely. The right answer isn’t to try to get her to hide her attractiveness, but to be someone she doesn’t want to leave.
In my field of technology, I know that literally every day my engineers get inbound messages from recruiters. Trying to hide opportunities from your employees by keeping them less effective at finding them is not going to work in the long term. In fact, then the ones with the most initiative will figure it out for themselves and leave, leaving you with those with the least initiative and drive to self-improvement.
Much like with my now prettier-dressed girlfriend, the best bet to keep them is to be a better option than the alternatives. The good news is that training helps. SHRM found that 76% of employees say they are more likely to stay at a company offering continuous learning. Deloitte reported, “organizations with a strong learning culture have engagement and retention rates 30 to 50 percent higher than peers who are not considered to have such a culture.”
But most importantly we should recognize that networking is not the same as a job search. Networking is to a job search what your car is to grocery shopping. In both cases the former makes the latter much easier, but the former can be used in so many other ways. If you teach people that networking is only for job hunting, then every time they use the skill, they will associate with finding a new job. If you teach them that networking can be used for sales, partnerships, sourcing, strategy, learning, and more then your organization will get all these benefits. It’s true that when this person decides to find a new job, she might find it faster because she’s better at networking, but that’s a small cost compared to all the benefits (and she would have left sooner or later anyway).
You can’t hide away your employees from reality as the witch tried to do with Rapunzel. Parents know that the only way to keep your children around in adulthood is to provide them with love, so they want to stay connected. Employers must support and grow their employees and show them that their company is the best option. You may not pay the most (only one company can be the highest payer in a market), but other benefits including culture, managerial support, and training can offset that. Chaining your employees with ignorance will only leave you with an empty tower.
It’s critical to learn about corporate culture before you accept a job offer but it can be awkward to raise such questions. Learn what to ask and how to ask it to avoid landing yourself in a bad situation.