The need for growth opportunities features prominently in almost every theory on motivation and engagement. Yet, research from Monika Hamori, Jie Cao and Burak Koyuncu into the career priorities of young high-achievers, illustrates a serious gap between their career development expectations, and those of their employers.
While these employees see a clear career plan, coaching, and training as a prerequisite for staying with their current employers, the research suggests that some businesses are reluctant to provide it, in the belief that it’ll be wasted should they decide to leave.
This sentiment is echoed in Tower Watsons’ Global Workforce Study. A mere 46 percent of employees say their organization provides useful career planning tools, and 48 percent report that their organizations have career architectures and levels in place.
The dissatisfaction this causes, ranks among the top reasons why those surveyed would want to leave an organization – and inversely, why they’d choose to join another. Glassdoor point out, another common mistake: believing that employees should fend for themselves in terms of development and advancement, a “you own your career, go find the opportunity” mindset.
Risking the loss of highly-skilled employees because they don’t have a disposition for self-promotion or tracking down their own mentors, is a big price to pay for any manager or organisations as a whole.
Visualising growth opportunities with career paths
To avoid employees feeling as though their career journey has stalled, on a macro-level, organisations can provide career frameworks. These show the potential career trajectories an employee could have – enabling them to envisage a future with the company, while demonstrating the milestones an employee can work towards to progress.
While the obvious path may be a vertical one, career frameworks should also provide horizontal options. For example, a high-performing support team member may aspire to become a product manager over the next few years. A complete career path for this employee could be mapped out as: How to grow into a support team manager, learning to work on identifying customer issues and passing these on to product managers in a structured way, receiving formal product manager training, switching to the product team as a junior, and onwards from there.
The role of managers to mentor and coach
Of course, a career path for employees is not something that can just be handed to them. In one-to-one meetings or coaching conversations, you’ll be able to discover the skills employees hope to gain. The strength of your relationship with employees is important here. Employees simply saying what they hope you’ll want to hear, is no way to help people meet their real career aspirations.
Building a “development relationship” (a topic we’ve covered in another guide) is the best way to ensure a healthy dialogue between you as a manager and your employees. This will enable you find the common ground between the skills your team and the organisation requires, with the interests of employees.
As the Towers Watson report (referenced above) explains, providing clear growth opportunities plays a big part in engaging employees. It also figures highly in how workers assess their total compensation package when considering to move on from the company, or joining in the first place. Therefore, well-mapped career paths, combined with effecting mentoring, are not only essential for individuals growth – they’re key to ensuring organisations have the talent required to grow as a business.