The Employee Life Cycle: 5 Key Career Development Strategies

by Anita Bowness | Posted | Performance Management

The Employee Life Cycle: 5 Key Career Development Strategies

For many top organizations, career development is a key component of their ongoing performance management strategy throughout the employee life cycle – and it’s easy to see why. Helping employees discover their job-related strengths and passions, and then aligning them to the company vision can go a long way in building a committed and competent workforce – from recruitment to retirement.

But unless you have clear, defined measures of success in place, it’s impossible to know how your career development efforts impact your employees and your organization as a whole. A new hire’s needs and goals are wildly different than those of an experienced team member, so it’s important to set clear development goals that suit every stage of the employee life cycle.

From onboarding to transition, HR thought leader Sharlyn Lauby shares her key insights on how to measure the impact of your organization's career development efforts using 1:1 meetings as a key progress-tracking tool.

1. Onboarding stage: Check in and get aligned

During this early stage, your employee’s main priorities are getting to know the business, the industry and the specifics of their role. Conduct regular 1:1 meetings either in-person or online to address concerns before they become problems and align their goals with the organization’s business priorities from the beginning. Show them why it matters and how their efforts contribute to the organization’s mission.

This early-stage alignment sets your new hires up for success in the long term, as they see how their professional goals align with the company’s targets. A good way to measure success at this stage is to look at your first-year turnover rate – the lower it is, the higher your success rate.

2. Performance stage: Track and develop

Once your new employee is feeling capable in their position, your talent development focus now shifts towards helping them maximize their performance. This is the time to set performance expectations as well as development goals to help an employee be successful in their role, through a structured goal-setting process.

Managers should continue to check in regularly to keep goals alive and to pivot or make changes to the goal if it no longer aligns with business needs. Meeting regularly also gives employees a voice, and lets managers know if they’re experiencing any roadblocks and require support.

The 9-box grid is a great tool to track employee success at this stage in the employee life cycle. By offering a simple way to track performance and maximize potential, you can see where an employee needs the most support. For instance, if the grid indicates that an employee is performing poorly but has high potential (e.g. is committed and motivated), their manager can schedule a check-in to discuss some ways to strengthen their skills.

3. Engagement stage: Embrace a feedback culture

The engagement stage occurs in tandem with the performance stage of career development. We know that providing employees with regular, ongoing performance feedback contributes to their engagement. But feedback needs to flow both ways so that employees can express what they need from their manager and their organization to create positive day-to-day work experiences and further develop in their careers.

Managers and employees need an open dialogue to create and maintain a culture of feedback within their team. A great way to do this is to set time aside in their 1:1 meetings for upward feedback and then record their notes in their performance management system to ensure accountability and follow-ups.

Employee Net Promoter Scores (eNPS) and pulse surveys are valuable tools to assess employee sentiment, loyalty and engagement on a larger scale within the company. Employees often appreciate the anonymous nature of these surveys so that there is no fear of backlash for their honesty. These in-the-moment feedback tools encourage employees to answer questions about their work experience and probes into why they may feel a certain way.

By looking at the “why,” you can see whether career development is a factor in your employee experience. Employee pulse surveys can give you more in-depth insights with real-time feedback to show how your employees perceive your organization’s talent development and performance management initiatives.

4. Learning stage: A team effort

To avoid a silo mentality, it’s important to give employees the chance to learn and connect with colleagues in different departments. This could include peer mentorship, job shadowing, and recommendations for development opportunities such as continuing education courses or role- or industry-specific conferences.

This stage is all about supporting team development and collaborative learning because managers can’t be the “go-to person” for every development request or opportunity. So a strong measure of success is to see how those teammates would rate an individual employee’s development.

Assessment tools like multi-rater or 360-degree review scores will allow you to gather insights from multiple employees – from direct reports to upper management. It’s best if this feedback can be recorded in the same system that tracks employee learning, performance and development so that employees and managers can discuss it further in their next 1:1 meeting.

5. Transition stage: Hiring from within

Employees need to feel that they have a future with their organization to be engaged in their work. While it has become highly unlikely that an employee will stay with one company for their entire career, supporting employee career development facilitates strategic career transitions within the organization. Map out opportunities for employees to move up or to transition into a new role in another department.

Your strategy for hiring from within can include formal succession and career development plans aligned to critical roles and talent pools. But you also may want to consider creating opportunities for your employees to explore roles and new areas of the organization that may be of personal and professional interest to them. Providing mentorship opportunities is a great way to introduce people to what other jobs exist.

Whether or not your organization has a formal mentorship program, exploring mentorship opportunities across your organization helps employees get to know new roles and learn where they may need to develop new skills. On the flip side, employees can also share their own knowledge and mentor new hires in initiatives like an onboarding buddy program. Ignite and explore mentoring opportunities in 1:1 meetings to ensure mentoring aligns with the employee’s and organization’s goals.

To see whether these actions are making an impact, look at your ratio of internal vs. external hires. More internal hires mean that you’re excelling in developing employees that are ready and willing to take on new challenges and are more likely to stay committed to your company over the long term.

Your next steps: Using 1:1 meetings to support career development

To dive deeper into the ways you can support career development at any stage, as well as get organizational buy-in, join Sharlyn Lauby and Saba Product Marketing Manager Maura Woodman at our upcoming webinar, How to Use 1:1s to Support Career Development, on September 20.

Learn how you can maximize and measure the impact of career development on individual and organizational performance, and register today!

How to Use 1:1s to Support Career Development

Learn how managers and employees can leverage 1:1 meetings for career development.


Register Now
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How to Use 1:1s to Support Career Development

Learn how managers and employees can leverage 1:1 meetings for career development.


Register Now


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