Employees Want to Grow Their Career So How Are You Helping Them?

The lure of a new job beckons these days from all corners. It might be an intriguing job listing in your LinkedIn feed. Or perhaps a former colleague messages with news her startup is hiring. Scrolling through Instagram, a hiring event for a major company pops up showing a group of smiling, happy employees. Maybe I want to work there? It might be better than this job, you think.

A new job sparkles with promise and the thrill of change, but do we really want to go? Maybe not. The LinkedIn 2018 Workplace Learning Report showed that 94% of employees say they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development.

That’s right — career development. Not higher salaries or better breakroom snacks or more vacation days. Employees today want better opportunities for career development. Unfortunately, most studies have found employers don’t actually offer this elusive career development. Saba’s 2017 State of Employee Engagement Report found that when asked about career development, more than a third of employees surveyed did not believe that employer-provided training was effective in developing and advancing their careers.

Coach for growth

A new way of thinking is required by employers. Today’s employees consider their jobs as springboards to learning and growth. By integrating career development into an organization’s talent management strategies, employers can support employees’ career growth while at the same time supporting business outcomes.

The smartest organizations put together a cohesive career development program. This is different than ad hoc training to develop a specific skill or onboard a new employee.

The best companies “coach for growth” rather than manage performance with a heavy hand. They allow teams and individuals the freedom to drive their own development tailored to their interests, skills and dreams. When employees are allowed to craft their career like this, they naturally develop the skills that will land them the next job at your organization.

HR’s role

HR sets the table for career development during the hiring process. Recruiters and managers can ask candidates about their future goals and ideal career path. New hires should be guided into learning their team’s expectations regarding career development. New hires should also receive access to development resources such as learning management software, content platforms or live training. I’m a big fan of 1:1 meetings where the career development plan is discussed and tweaked over consistent weekly or monthly conversations.

Ready to get started showing your employees their next great job….with you? Here are three ways to shape your employees’ career development.

1. Take a personalized approach

Where do you want your career to be in five years? Chances are, the colleague sitting next to you would not answer this question the same way. And they shouldn’t — we all come to work with different skill sets, life histories, goals and aspirations. Why should our career paths look the same?

You already know this, but I’ll mention it for emphasis: Career development is not something a leader can “prescribe” from the top and then send everyone on their way. Modern career development includes:

  • Personalized learning suggestions
  • User-generated content that can be shared with others
  • Informal, on-the-job learning
  • Timely, flexible and resonant content
  • Self-directed learning
  • Social sharing
  • Learning aligned with performance management
  • Technology that enables all of the above

Just like Netflix suggests a movie or television show we might like to watch, today’s talent development solutions must suggest learning that is personalized to the employee. This learning must also tie into performance management that aligns with the goals of the business.

2. Have regular conversations

It’s past time to rethink the performance management process. Personalized development stems from a high-quality performance review process. Done right, this review can allow managers and employees to have a conversation about the current state of things and what the employee wants for their future career growth. Think about it: Would you rather stew at your desk and wish a career track would suddenly drop out of the sky or would you rather discuss the steps you need to advance your career in a series of helpful conversations?

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Of course, not all companies have come around to this line of thinking. Plenty of employees are stuck in performance reviews that damage morale, stymie high performers and prod people to the exits prematurely. Fortunately, the tide is turning. Recent research from Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report shows that 90% of companies that have redesigned performance management have realized direct improvements in engagement; with 96% reporting the processes are simpler; and 83% discovering they see the quality of conversations increasing between employees and managers.

Performance management is a win-win for all, with continual feedback and coaching designed to keep the conversation — and the career development — on track. Continuous check-ins, specifically focused on employee development, can give managers a better sense of where employees see themselves and if they are making ongoing progress toward their development goals.

3. Train managers to be great coaches

Can your managers paint a vision for the future? When employees see their place in the future (with all the steps needed to get there), employee engagement and retention soar. But some employees need a little more encouragement, and that’s where good manager coaching enters the picture.

Coaching is the perfect way to offer guidance in a helpful and non-threatening manner. Think of it as advice from a trusted friend. In fact, the right employee coaching and development, at the right time, can pay huge dividends for employers seeking greater loyalty, productivity and contribution. Research from the Human Capital Institute (HCI) and International Coach Federation (ICF) (shows that having a strong coaching culture is incredibly good for business.

According to the study, companies with a strong coaching culture see:

  • 67% faster onboarding
  • 70% increase in productivity71% faster leadership development
  • 79% higher employee engagement
  • 81% improved team functioning

Don’t forget that most managers don’t know how to coach their employees (and many will say they don’t have time). But with stats like these, it’s worth the time and effort to make sure managers have coaching top of mind. The good news? Managers can be trained just like they train their teams — in frequent and informal “check-ins” that can deliver ongoing coaching and guidance. In other words, the manager’s manager can model what exactly needs to take place.

Sure, a new, shiny job sounds exciting. But we know your employees want to stay more than they want to go. Help them plan a future at your organization with a solid and practical career development program that advances their skills and aspirations while at the same time creating value for the company.

As the principal product manager, customer success in Saba's Strategic Services group, Anita Bowness draws on more than 20 years' experience in consulting and professional services to help HR leaders recruit, engage, develop and retain their talent. Anita has been published in HR Daily Advisor and HRO Today, featured in an interview on BBC Capital and presented at DisruptHR Ottawa, Saba Insight and Halogen TalentSpace Live. Although she's worked with hundreds of organizations from IT to healthcare, Anita never loses sight of what HR is really about: people. Anita loves helping organizations manage performance so people are more engaged, happier and productive.

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