Career Development a Key to Employee Engagement - Novacrea Research
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Flying high, by Pi Wen Looi

Career Development a Key to Employee Engagement

A significant driver of employee engagement is having career advancement opportunities. However, our research shows that employees’ satisfaction with their career advancement opportunities at their company is usually low. As many organizations are getting flatter and leaner, what can senior leaders and managers do to engage their employees?

The secret may lie in understanding how employees define career success and what they want in their career development. A recent study conducted by Edie Goldberg did just that. She invited employees at Fortune 500 companies to participate in the study, and 75 responded.

According to Goldberg, two-thirds of employees have a contemporary view of career success. In this contemporary view, employees define career success as having a job that is challenging and that they are passionate about. Employees also want a job that makes full use of their skills, gives them opportunities for continuous learning, and enables them to make an impact on the people they serve. In addition, employees consider the alignment of personal and company goals an important element of career success.

On the other hand, only 13% still hold the traditional view of career success. These employees see career success as climbing up the corporate ladder and getting more pay. The other 21% had a combination of traditional and contemporary view of career success.

What this means for HR and managers:

Redefine career advancement at your company. Create an organizational culture that values employees’ experience and their contributions. Help employees understand that advancement is more than just moving up the company ladder. It also means amassing a portfolio of experiences and skills that can help them with their future careers.

Provide stretched assignments to employees. Provide opportunities for employees to work on projects that are slightly beyond their current skills and knowledge. Staff your project team with employees whose skills complement each other. More importantly, set the expectation that employees on the team will need to learn from each other to strengthen their skills.

Manage employees’ expectations of career advancement. Set realistic expectations with employees upfront. Younger employees tend to want to progress quickly, so it is important to manage their expectations by clearly communicating what it would take (e.g., what competencies or project skills are needed) for them to be promoted to the next level.

Use the power of language. Talk about opportunities for growth, development, making an impact, and creating meanings in their jobs. When an organization truly values employees’ skills and abilities, and pays them accordingly, then it is easier for employees to see that they don’t have to climb up the career ladder to be paid more.

Hold managers accountable for developing talent. You probably know a few managers who are talent hoarders. Don’t let this happen to your organization. Encourage and reward managers for developing their employees and provide resources and support for managers to develop their employees.

In Conclusion
Recognize that employees want more than just be promoted to the next level when they think about successful careers. Many employees are looking for continual learning, challenging assignments, and opportunities to make a difference in their customers’ life or communities. Shifting the focus from career advancement to career development and personal growth, and paying employees accordingly by their work, not by title, will help engage and retain your employees.

Further Readings

  • Make Talent Your Business, by Wendy Axelrod & Jeannie Coyle, 2011
  • Mass Career Customization, by Cathleen Benko & Anne Weisberg, 2007
  • The 2020 Workplace, by Jeanne C. Meister & Karie Willyerd, 2010
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