A common bit of CEO humor goes something like this: A CEO tells the CFO that they need to increase employee investment. “What happens if we spend the money to train them and they leave,” the CFO cries. “What happens if we don’t train them and they stay?” says the CEO.

Unfortunately, most organizations share the same concerns as the CFO: Talent management costs money and can have unpredictable results, so it’s best to scrap the idea altogether, right? But while it’s true that better-trained employees might search for greener pastures, they can also become major assets for the right organization. As one of the most underrated factors of employee training, talent management has the potential to increase profitability and competition in a fickle employment landscape.

Asking the Wrong Questions

What some organizations recognize as talent development might be more akin to cracking the whip than supporting a new wave of leaders. It comes down to the questions managers ask, and too often the questions asked are “Is the job done?” or “Are you meeting your deadlines,” or even, “Are you meeting my expectations?” When pelted with these types of questions, employees soon learn that managers only expect the minimum requirements to be fulfilled.

Of course, that attitude likely comes from the top down. Managers ensure employees are simply fulfilling basic requirements because they’ve learned that it’s what their supervisors want, and their supervisors have learned the attitude from organization executives: Do this and you won’t get fired. Eventually, the organization culture revolves around ticking off the necessary boxes before heading home, with little employee share in the company’s success.

Investing in Employees

Perhaps the question isn’t “Did you get this done,” but “Are you getting better?” Maybe managers shouldn’t ask “Are you meeting your deadlines,” but “Do you have the support you need?” Instead of “Are you meeting expectations,” the question should be “Are you positively contributing to this company?”

If organizations want employees to emotionally invest, managers needs to put their money where their mouths are. Consider your workforce as a commodity: Without investment and cultivation, your best and brightest will move onto organizations that are willing to help them imagine an improved career path and a future with their companies. In short, talent management is a requirement to give organizations the competitive edge they need to not only keep the most amazing employees, but to ensure those employees are just as emotionally invested in the organization’s success as those sitting pretty in the C-suite.

It might be time to rethink your training strategy: Instead of setting expectations up around how not to get fired, teach employees what they can do to act as a successful contributor to your organization’s success. While it may seem like a hefty investment of time and capital, you can’t afford to neglect seeing your employees as your organization’s most precious resource.