3 Steps Any Company Can Take to Kickstart Career Development

What keeps employees at your company? In every recent year, career or growth opportunities have been ranked in the top three of employee priorities. Even so, I don’t know a company that’s satisfied that they’ve done enough in the career development area.

What’s getting in the way? You know better than I do. Somehow there are always other priorities like chasing recruiting needs. Somehow career development projects seem to be too time consuming to even consider. Somehow many companies believe that a full blown career development program will rock the boat, encouraging every employee under the age of 45 to start stamping their feet, demanding promotions and raises.

For those of you who keep getting stuck, here are a few DIY projects that are easy and can be influential on manager habits and ultimately employee satisfaction. They are great places to start, with HR doing some set-up work and good communications picking it up from there.

It’s time to get started, don’t you think?

Start tomorrow — If you are using your intranet to promote wellness, you can use it to promote career management just as easily. And I don’t mean explaining your company programs (which you might not have yet). I mean providing broad content to employees about things they can do to grow: Reading books about your industry, signing up for HBR.org‘s tips, (subscribing to the TLNT.com newsletter), proactively talking with their manager, learning how to manage time or make better decisions. You many not need to write or rewrite anything if you can set up a news feed on your site. Think there are a lot of stars in the sky? There are probably just as many content sources for career advice. Go for it.

Identify role levels in each of your job families — A job role describes the level of work performed, for example Team Lead vs. Manager; Project Coordinator vs. Project Director. Notice that each of those examples refer to numerous job titles. You determine roles by starting at the entry point and working up. Where do I start in my career path in the company? What are the steps along the way to becoming an acknowledged leader/expert/strategist in my job family? With your deep knowledge of your company’s jobs, you can answer these questions without much time or hassle.

If you think there are more than five or six career steps, you’re overdoing it. After all, multiple job titles share the same role and career level, so if you’re struggling through career paths that seem too complicated, you’ve gone off track.

Create a glossary  Research indicates that there are four basic developmental levels in most every career area:

  • Learning the responsibilities for the job/relying on supervision and guidance
  • Knowing how to apply the fundamentals of the job/knowing when and whom to ask for guidance
  • Applying comprehensive knowledge of the job as well as a range of functional areas to complex problem solving/collaborating with others
  • Leading through wide and deep knowledge applied to solving long-term problems/collaborating across a number of functions as an expert resource

Is it this simple in your company? If so, label all the levels so they’re easy to refer to, introduce managers and employees to them and expect them to be used when staffing, giving feedback and discussing performance. Imagine how fruitful an employee might find a conversation that explained how to move his/her skills and reputation beyond basic job knowledge.

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Use the levels to describe each of the roles that you defined. Careers in some companies may actually work on a six- or eight-level model, with career steps in between each of the four levels above. You may also may find that different job families have different career steps — six in human resources, eight in research. Either way, identifying developmental levels and creating a way of talking about them will help get you started improving career development practices at your company.

This article was first published on Compensation Cafe.