How to avoid getting PIED in the face

Find out: what PIED is, why it's essential, and how to turn it up.

4-minute read

According to Gallup, only 15% of employees around the world report being engaged at work. The remaining 85% are either disengaged or actively hating their job. Please stop, rewind, and read that again.

Thing is, engagement matters. A lot. An engaged employee is much more likely to be happy, healthy, and helpful. According to Gallup, the most engaged teams (comparing top quartile vs bottom quartile) have: 

  • 20% higher sales
  • 21% higher profitability  
  • 40% fewer quality defects 
  • 41% lower absenteeism
  • 24% less turnover (in high-turnover orgs)
  • 59% less turnover (in low-turnover orgs)

The good news is there is a low-cost way to increase engagement: invest in people’s growth and learning. When organizations provide opportunities to develop, everyone benefits. You get a more skilled workforce, and employees who feel valued are more likely to add value in return.  The term for this positive feedback loop is PIED: Perceived Investment in Employee Development. PIED refers to an employee’s belief that an organization is investing in their employability, internally and externally. Studies consistently show a positive correlation between PIED and job satisfaction, retention, emotional commitment, and discretionary effort. 

“But wait,” you may be saying, “what if I invest time and resources in my employees only to see them grow and leave? How do I avoid getting PIED in the face?” The possibility of your Learning & Development plan backfiring is scary. But as Henry Ford once quipped: “The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave, is not training them and having them stay.” Ultimately, the benefit of developing your employees outweighs the cost of not developing them. The key is preparing them in such a way that increases the likelihood of retention.  

At LifeLabs, we’ve spent years helping HR and People Ops leaders create L&D strategies that promote excellence and retention. Along the way, we’ve learned what great vs average companies do differently.

Here are four strategies to build a learning culture that gets your talent to stay and stay engaged:

1. Help senior leaders walk the talk

Cultures that move the needle on engagement have leaders who support and model their commitment to learning initiatives. Note: this doesn’t mean your CEO has to be your cheerleader, but success is more likely when folks with power and influence visibly support your initiative. 

Try this! 

  • Pre-write email announcements and all-hands talking points for influential leaders. 
  • Film and share short videos with their endorsement. 
  • Ask leaders to wear swag that promotes your program. 
  • Ask them to actively participate (rather than just show up and check out). 

2. Highlight benefits vs features

Many well-intentioned L&D initiatives fall flat when employees see them as mandatory initiatives that serve the company vs serving their personal needs. Make sure it’s clear your L&D program was designed to match the actual needs and wants of your employees. How? In all your communication efforts, highlight the benefits of the program (why it’s great for participants) vs just the features (what it will entail).

Try this! 

  • Add a ‘benefit statement’ in every announcement and reminder (e.g., “This will make your life easier by…” “By the end of this program, you’ll know...”)
  • Connect the dots between the initiative and employee needs (e.g., “You asked for more support as managers, so we created this program to meet your needs.” “Here’s how this training will help you succeed in your role.”)
  • Share the expected attendance etiquette rather than a policy (bonus: make attendance expected or encouraged rather than mandatory). 
  • Show that your L&D program is in high demand (e.g., advertise your waitlist, share high ratings and positive feedback from past participants).

3. Use the 3Es Model

The best cultures offer development opportunities through a variety of channels. To increase the breadth and depth of your L&D programs, use the LifeLabs Learning 3Es Model. Offer growth options through Education (e.g., workshops, webinars, books, podcasts), Experience (e.g., taking on new projects, stretch assignments, mentoring), and Exposure (e.g., interview others, shadowing someone at work, join professional associations).

Try this! 

  • Audit your L&D options using the 3Es Model. Ask, where are we missing options?
  • Have so many options that people are overwhelmed? Ask managers and HRBPs to offer coaching and guidance to help employees narrow.
  • Create a public depot of 3E options, including great websites, events, books, articles, and workshops open to the general public. 
  • Give employees an individual learning fund (most of our clients offer around $1,000 per employee per year)

4. Ritualize development conversations

Ask managers to systematically carve out time to have developmental conversations with their direct reports. Let employees know they should own their growth. Encourage them to bring up their learning goals with their manager and other mentors rather than waiting for the conversations to happen.

Try this! 

  • Give managers simple templates that guide development conversations (like this 1-1 agenda and IDP).   
  • Train managers to develop their reports and employees to drive their career growth. 
  • Add “give feedback” and “hold weekly or biweekly 1-1s” to managers’ job descriptions. 
  • Prompt employees to have developmental discussions (e.g., during onboarding and at least 2-4 times per year).


When organizations put these four factors into play, they demonstrate that they take employee growth seriously. In turn, employees feel valued and invested in, increase their ability to contribute in meaningful ways, and stick around longer. Now that’s a delicious way to grow the PIED for all.