Recently, I had a conversation with the leader of a certification workshop for project managers, and he shared an alarming trend. Most of his workshop participants are registering on their own dime.

These types of certification workshops used to be funded almost entirely by employers. Now, individuals are paying out of pocket and taking vacation time to attend the programs. Why? Because their employers won’t.

Seeking professional development and opportunities for growth, these proactive employees are taking matters into their own hands. And, upon receiving the certifications, they’re promptly finding new companies that value their employees and taking their initiative and newly received certifications there.

When companies don’t invest in the development of their employees, they’re saying that they not value them. Investment equals loyalty, and when the investment isn’t demonstrated, the loyalty is destroyed.

For business owners and managers, this trend should prompt the following questions: Do you have someone worth investing in? Are there team members who have helped you grow to your current level of success?

I would argue that anyone who is willing to spend his or her own money and take vacation time to acquire a certification is an employee you want to keep. It demonstrates initiative and self-confidence. So, if the opportunity arises, an employee that received his or her own certification is more likely to leave. And, in turn, you will be left with the one that did not show the ingenuity and drive. This, clearly, is a strategic mistake.

Many policies sacrifice long-term strategic interests for perceived short-term benefits. “Freezing or eliminating the training budget” suggests that you don’t value your people and won’t support their professional growth. “Freezing all hiring” prevents you from being able to snag star contributors when they are ready to make a move. “Freezing all raises” makes team members feel that no matter how deserving an employee may be, because someone else did not properly plan for a rainy day, he or she must do without a well deserved raise.

It’s not uncommon for strategic leaders to stutter and stammer over these decisions when questioned as to how these policies fit into vision statements that tout “our people are our most valuable asset,” or “our goal is to produce a positive work culture where every employee is valued and matters.”

It’s the contrarian organization that thrives in these times of rapid change. They are the ones that snap up key people from their competitors when the opportunity arises. They are the employers that show team members they are valued when everyone else is cutting, freezing and reducing.

If you don’t want to lose them, now more than ever it is crucial to support and appreciate your company’s most valuable asset: its team members.