These days, it’s unlikely for people to make a career out of their first job, or even their second, third, or possibly a fourth job. In fact, as we’ve all seen first-hand, most people stay at a company for two to five years before moving on to the next opportunity. We know that this happens in businesses (including our own) every day, so many of us just accept that it’s the norm. We may hope and wish that our employees would stay with our company for ten, twenty, or even thirty years, but most of us don’t think critically about what we can do to make that happen.
If this sounds true to you, it may be time to start asking those critical questions. A great place to start is by looking at the kinds of career opportunities your company offers its employees. We all know that work is about so much more than just a paycheck, and this stands true when you’re looking at why employees leave. In fact, a recent Gallup study revealed that a lack of career advancement or promotional opportunities was the number one reason employees left their jobs. Employees need to see that there are better things ahead – even when things are good. Most people crave the opportunity to be challenged and to prove themselves. Career advancement possibilities within an organization can act as a motivational tool, a form of recognition, and the “light at the end of the tunnel.” What I mean by this is that no matter how motivated and engaged employees are, that’s likely to dissipate if they can’t see a glimmer of what all of their hard work will lead to.
If you can help your employees develop career paths within your organization, you’ll keep them engaged and working toward that next step. You’ll also be more likely to retain your employees since they won’t need to leave in order to advance in their career. The end result of offering career paths for employees is higher retention, a broader depth of industry- and company-specific expertise from tenured employees, and the kind of dedication that comes from seeing your company as their career, not just a stop along the way. The loyalty your company will gain from employees who are invested in the success of the organization is absolutely invaluable.
Another area where career paths can directly benefit your company is in recruiting. Many candidates see future advancement and promotion as a “later” issue, meaning they need to find their next career step now, but they aren’t necessarily planning for a lifelong career. Why not change that? Set your organization apart and attract new candidates by illustrating that you value your workforce and care about their future success.
From an employee’s perspective, having a defined projected career path within an organization means that your employer is behind you and believes in your success. Knowing that your employer is willing to invest in your career is a morale-booster that no free dry-cleaning or other perks can match. Additionally, it’s incredibly motivating to know that you’re working toward something and that there’s a clear goal, whether it’s leading the next project, getting a promotion, or being invited to attend leadership training. These are all goals that will push employees to produce quality work and results, which will naturally lead to the next step in their career.
When you’re ready to start creating career development paths for employees, look at what your organization values most, whether that’s innovation, productivity, high sales, or some other factor, and determine how you can help employees maximize those qualities. Place the emphasis on the qualities your most successful managers possess and then evaluate what employees need to develop in order to get there. It could be continuing education, leadership training, mentoring, or a sales challenge. Keep in mind that every employee will be different, so it’s important that managers take the time to meet with each employee and develop individualized plans. Regular meetings that allow managers and employees to review their accomplishments and set new goals are best. Then, employees can be matched with the resources you make available, to get them from where they are now to the next step in their career path at your company.
Does your company work with its employees to develop their career paths? Tell us about your experience in the comments section below.
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Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, is an author, speaker, Human Resources professional, and workplace social media expert who has a passion for recruiting, training, and all things social media. She is the president and CEO of Xceptional HR, and a leader in the HR community with more than 12 years of industry experience. The author of Tweet This! Twitter for Business, Jessica was named by HR Examiner as the second most influential recruiter on the Internet and the seventh most powerful woman on Twitter. She is a columnist for both SmartBrief and The Huffington Post, in addition to Blogging4Jobs and Human Resources One on One. Jessica has been interviewed for professional articles in CIO Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, SHRM’s HR Magazine, and on CBS. Jessica earned a Senior Professional in Human Resources designation in 2008, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Business from Kansas State University. Originally from a small town in Kansas, Jessica currently lives near Oklahoma City with her husband, Greg and daughter, Ryleigh.