If we want our employees to thrive and advance in their careers, we need to set them up for success.
Last month, we talked about the important role that employees play in the career management process, and the steps they're responsible for taking to be successful.
But career management isn't a one-sided activity involving only the employee.
Organizations need to be an equal partner in the process because employees regularly make decisions about their career based upon the perceived support (or non-support) from the company. And, clearly, this can have a significant impact on employee engagement and retention.
Career conversations are different
There are certain employee conversations that can be perceived as formulaic or encouraged to be consistent in nature. Discussions about an employee's career are not those types of conversations. They are as unique as the employee.
If there is one area of consistency in career conversations, it might have to do with the three stages of the employee's career.
Early career: Understanding employee goals and aspirations
During this phase, employees are trying to determine their future. They might be evaluating what they want to do as a profession or which path within their profession bests suits them. They could also be wondering how the organization fits into those long-term plans. During the early career phase, the company should:
- Make sure employees know the career path that is available - within their current role, the department and the organization.
- Share with employees the tools and resources that can help them determine their career goals. This could be in the form of workshops, books, videos, online tools, assessments, etc.
- Commit to supporting the employee's goals. The process of defining a career path takes time and can often change. Don't try to read an employee's mind where their career goals are concerned.
Mid-career: Supporting growth and learning opportunities
In mid-career, employees are looking to refine their knowledge and skills. It's possible they'll explore opportunities outside of their department or the organization. Managers need to trust that employees will make the right decisions about their career and play the role of coach. Companies should consider these activities:
- Find opportunities for employees to develop skills in their current role. Assignments on task forces or project teams can be valuable for the employee and the company.
- Listen and consider employee proposals to redesign work responsibilities. As the business world changes, so do careers. Let employees have a voice in job design.
- Encourage education and learning. Whether it's in-house training or outside learning programs, suggest and recommend opportunities for employees to expand their knowledge.
Late career: Demonstrating respect and encouraging sharing
Employees in the late career stage have a history with the company. They hold a significant amount of knowledge that the organization needs. It's possible they have a clearly designed plan for the future. It's also possible that they're looking for the company to be flexible with their needs. During this stage, companies need to:
- Consider alternative career strategies such as contingent work to retain highly knowledgeable and valuable workers.
- Encourage employees to share their expertise with new employees as part of a buddy system, or design a mentoring program where employees can share expertise.
- Respect employee career decisions. It might not be the decision the organization was hoping for, but it's possible that the employee might reconsider at a later time.
It's in a company's best interest to support, encourage, nurture and respect employees' careers. The decisions an employee makes have a tremendous impact on the organization. The company's support and investment in an employee's future creates employee engagement, increases productivity and improves the bottom-line ‒ and that's just win-win for everyone.