Professional growth is a joint effort – with inputs both from the employee and their employer. So the truth is that individuals and organizations have a lot to gain from committing resources and energy into managing careers.
1. Start career development on day one.
Introduce a robust on-boarding program that integrates new hires into their new job and the organization and lays the groundwork for success and growth. Career support should be part of that robust program. Start career discussions very soon, even before the first day, if possible. Make sure new employees get acquainted with the key jobs, career paths, and available career resources. You assessed their capabilities during the selection process, don’t lose that assessment. Use it as a starting point for further assessment and discovery about their talents and career goals in the first few months of employment. Maintain an ongoing dialogue with the employee to keep apprised of how things are going, what’s working, what’s not working. Modify the support provided to leverage the talent, to give them confidence, to make them successful.
2. Match career paths with the unique capabilities and aspirations of individuals.
Map out several possible career paths in the organization that will allow professional growth. Help your people find their way to the path that’s the best fit. Getting a good fit starts with an assessment of performance over time and an estimate of potential. Accurately make those assessments and provide people with the candid feedback that will help them realistically assess their career options. Remember potential is not the same as performance. Teach your managers the difference and help them learn to accurately assess both performance and potential. This is important for career coaching, development and support. Your professionals on a technical career path are different from those on a general management career path. They need to be treated differently, and developed differently and supported differently.
3. Give Managers the skills they need to provide career support.
You need to help your management team continuously with growth and learning. Devote as much energy to training the skills of managing and developing people as to technical skills training. The best managers are expert coaches. They have finely tuned listening skills, they have meaningful conversations that help employees understand what needs to be accomplished, how behaviors impact others and what’s possible to achieve in the future. These conversations raise self-awareness in others. They ask questions that encourage involvement and promote a sense of ownership. They motivate, get others fired up to set and meet challenging goals. All these management behaviors benefit employees while also engaging employees and driving organizational performance. Such behaviors should be taught and practiced in your management development programs. Ensure those managers are very knowledgeable about the key jobs, career paths and the available career resources so they can readily answer questions and point employees in the right direction. Educate managers about the value of moving talent across organizational boundaries for development. Reward managers who promote their best talent as candidates for developmental assignment. Counsel those who resist and are protective of talent.
4. Dedicate organizational resources to career development.
Career support is an important driver of employee engagement and warrants formal structure, staffing and budget. Formal structure means space, technology, and resources. Consider establishing a career center, providing career counseling services, establishing a library of related materials, book articles, web resources, overviews of the most significant jobs and career paths in the organization, as well as a directory of career support services. Conduct career development seminars, webinars and brown bag lunch sessions that feature executives speaking about careers in the firm and outside experts speaking about general career growth and development strategies. Partner with local educational institutions. Encourage and prepare all managers to have meaningful career discussions, especially with motivated top performers. Remember, things that are important get funding!
5. Recognize and reward employee initiative.
Empowerment is preferable to dependence and that principle should guide your career support initiatives – design them to enable individuals to climb into the driver’s seat and take control of their destiny. Highlight educational achievements in the employee newsletter, on the intranet, etc. Run personal interest stories that provide some personal details about the sacrifices individuals made to achieve their goals. Celebrate initiatives, celebrate great effort and hard work. Doing so will inspire others, help drive a high-performance culture and positively impact employee engagement.
6. Employ technology to remove friction from the career support process.
Explore how talent management software suites can empower managers and employees. These web-based applications can support all phases of talent management: recruitment and selection, performance management and alignment, learning and development, compensation and total rewards, and deployment and succession. Studies show that organizations that use these tools have more effective talent management practices that translate into improved organizational performance. From the employees’ perspective, tools enabling them to be able to maintain personal profiles, view available positions in the organization, create and align performance goals, find and register for internal development opportunities, launch online learning applications, manage learning transcripts, apply for tuition reimbursement and create development plans in their current role and prepare for future roles. Managers benefit as well from the ability to track employee progress against performance and development goals. Technology is your friend. Embrace it – it can greatly enhance your career management efforts.