Inc. just published its annual listing of America’s 500 fastest-growing private companies (“Inc. 500” September 2016, pp. 20–34. [For the larger complete list of the top 5,000, visit Inc.’s Web site ]). The list itself is helpful and we can learn much from it. To extract additional value, Inc. quizzed the CEOs of these companies about all aspects of how they choose to do business (“How Dreamers Become Doers” pp. 44–48). How they approach ongoing training and professional development is interesting and provocative. Here are four ways in which their ducks are lined up, each followed by my comments.

  • 89% prefer to develop employees by giving them different jobs. Just as those founding entrepreneurs were willing to take a risk, they are also willing to take a risk with their people. That approach challenges and inspires their people. Looking beyond the person’s “official” resume, these leaders recognize the value of identifying the people that are trainable. This works to everyone’s advantage. The person that is trainable will totally invest in that new job and the organization will reap the value of that investment. Too many times in today’s economy, I have seen many companies that want the “perfect” candidate rather than the trainable candidate. There is a big difference.
  • 61% provide outside training. These founding entrepreneurs recognize the value of the diversity of the marketplace. Not everything is necessarily best done in-house. In those cases, going outside will connect your people with diverse, fresh enrichment that is needed to bring them back in equipped for a higher performance level. That outside enrichment translates to inside profit.
  • 28% have a formal leadership development program. While that proportion is woefully low, I can understand why it occurs. By virtue of being one of the 500 fastest growing private companies, getting all the ducks in line is still a work in progress. Nevertheless, it is encouraging that 28% have taken that important step. The future of their companies depends on it. Chances are this percentage will only increase as these companies evolve.
  • 29% reimburse employee tuition. Similar to the prior point, these ducks very likely will get into line as these companies evolve. On this item especially, it may even happen faster than the previous item for one very important reason: tuition reimbursement is an increasingly important talent attractor in today’s job market. Everything about tuition reimbursement ascribes value to employees. It will attract and retain your best people.

Your organization may not be on the Inc. 500 list. Nevertheless, you can still give careful consideration to how these companies lined up their training ducks. Then, answer the crucial question—Where should you realign your ducks?

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