It's true that conversations about career development and advancement can be intimidating for managers. Especially if opportunities for your employees to move up in the organization are somewhat lacking. But avoiding these conversations with employees can be one of the biggest mistakes a manager makes.
Why? According to a recent research report from Aon Hewitt, a top driver of employee engagement is career advancement opportunities. By shying away from growth conversations, you may just be driving away top talent who will look for those opportunities elsewhere.
As this FastCompany article points out, even when there aren't clear avenues for moving people up in your organization, you can still provide stretch opportunities to help your employees develop new skills and strengthen existing ones:
This could potentially be a lateral move, or even a move to a completely different part of the organization. Some of the greatest opportunities for growth are found in areas that integrate what's happening between two departments. For example, a project following up on leads could bring the sales and marketing departments together, while refining and solving a business problem could integrate the engineering and sales departments.
Career development is a key part of talent management
Career development should be an integral component of your organization's talent management strategy. Done well, it is a collaborative process that meets the needs of the business, while fulfilling employees' career aspirations.
Here are some of the benefits:
- Higher employee engagement; engaged employees make productive employees
- Increased ability to fill key positions with internal candidates
- Improved employee retention since employees see a future for themselves in your organization
Offering a multitude of ways for employees to build careers, to work, and to participate in the success of your organization is a win-win. Employees feel challenged and see their development path. In turn, your organization is developing employees to meet its current and future needs.
Added bonus: Providing multidirectional career development through varied paths of learning and growth also helps increase employee engagement because more employees can participate.
Make the connection between career development and better business results
Employee development must be put in the context of how it relates to the strategic needs of the organization. It's one thing to develop an employee's skillset and competencies in areas that only vaguely relate - or worse yet - don't have any connection at all to the organization's goals. It's another to foster an employee's growth in a way that aligns precisely with the needs of the organization.
So be sure to frame your career development discussions around the needs of the individual employee and the needs of your organization.
Employees value the opportunity to learn and grow but more than that, they value the opportunity to make meaningful contributions to the success of the organization. When employees can see the important role they play in contributing to the company's success, they feel valued.
The end result is a culture of high performance and continuous improvement.
Remember, career development doesn't have to follow a traditional linear path. If there's no way "up" in your organization in the foreseeable future, look for other ways to develop your people. You'll be glad you did.
Your turn: How do you integrate career management into your overall performance management strategy? Does career management in your organization always tie into broader organizational strategic needs?