The missing piece in HR metrics: Employee Career Growth

Of all the metrics in HR, the one that often gets the least attention is employee career growth, says Mark Murphy:

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May 4, 2023

In HR there’s no shortage of human capital metrics that companies can attempt to track and discuss.

There’s cost-per-hire and time-to-hire; there’s various measures that address compensation; while turnover and absenteeism statistics are abundant.

Most companies can also easily cite their DEI and employee engagement metrics.

But one area that gets little to no attention is ‘employee career growth’.

The extent to which people can grow their careers

Put simply, employee career growth is the extent to which people have the training, career paths, job opportunities, goals, and mentoring to advance or grow their careers.

There are – unsurprisingly – dozens of ways to measure it, but some of the most direct measures come from the recent study Career Growth Or Stalled Progress.

Leadership IQ surveyed 3,577 employees, and amongst the many revelations was the finding that only 23% of employees always think they have the kind of training opportunities to foster career growth and advancement.

Additionally, just 19% of staff see a path to advance their career at their current employer, and only 20% believe that their assigned goals will help them progress in their careers.

While those numbers are disturbing on their own, the study also discovered that career growth opportunities are one of the top reasons why candidates will or won’t choose to work at a company.

Metrics to measure career growth

Career growth doesn’t just benefit your current workforce; your ability to recruit and hire is also directly influenced by your company’s success in growing careers.

Every organization should have, at a minimum, a few career growth metrics figured prominently in their HR dashboard.

Surveying employees is the most direct way of measuring career growth, but here are some other metrics that companies can use.

One of the classic measures of career growth is Promotion Rate; the percentage of employees who receive promotions within a specified time frame.

On the plus side, this metric is easy to calculate and track, and to the extent that promotions indicate career growth, it’s highly accurate.

Growth doesn’t always require promotion

The problem with this metric, however, is that there are lots of ways for an employee to grow their career that do not involve promotions.

Taking on new projects and responsibilities, discarding the uninteresting parts of a job, or having greater autonomy are all ways that careers can grow without a formal promotion.

Time to Promotion (ie the average time it takes for an employee to receive a promotion) and Internal Mobility Rate (the percentage of job openings filled by internal candidates), are two metrics with similar strengths and weaknesses to Promotion Rate.

All three are incomplete, but they’re also very easy to calculate, so every company should be tracking at least one of them.

Succession Planning Coverage – the proportion of key positions with identified successors – is another straightforward metric, but it, too, presumes that promotions are the primary vehicle for career growth.

Capture growth in other ways

Tracking the number of new skills or competencies employees gain through training can capture employee growth without relying on promotions.

Participation in development programs (the percentage of employees who actively participate in learning and development programs), is another way to tackle the same issue.

You can also track participation in mentorship programs, assuming you have such programs.

And, of course, every organization should be tracking their managers to ensure that monthly or quarterly coaching conversations are being conducted with every employee.

There isn’t one perfect metric suitable for every organization.

What is important, however, is that at least some measures are tracked and prioritized alongside all of the other HR metrics.

Career growth regularly gets short shrift in terms of metrics, but given its importance to both current and prospective employees, it needs to rank much higher.

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