People First HR Services

It’s a simple equation

Bev Braun-Allard

There’s no escaping it. We’re in a time of fast paced change and high demand workplaces. Like it or not, to remain competitive, companies need to constantly reinvent and refine what they’re doing and how they do it. To meet the changing needs of business today, companies need employees who are agile, continually developing, and contributing at the top of their game.

From a human resources perspective, the outlook for 2014 is pretty dismal. It’s predicted that companies won’t be able to source and hire the talent they need. The skills gap between leaders of today and leaders of tomorrow continues to be a growing concern for many. With easy access to market opportunities, it’s anticipated that employees, looking for growth and opportunity, will leave their employment for “better” opportunities on the other side of the fence. Those not motivated enough to leave are at risk of disengaging, leaving a tired workforce in place.

blackboard image of one plus one equals twoWhat are you doing about these concerns in your company? What can you do about it? Companies that are paying attention are turning to career development solutions to shrink the skills gap and grow the talent they need for the future. It’s a simple equation – career development drives engagement, engagement drives retention and productivity which leads to enhanced organizational performance. If you want to impact retention, engagement and business results, 2014 is the right time for you to make an investment in the career development of your employees.

So why do companies still hesitate to make this commitment to their employees?

  • Often it’s because they don’t fully understand what it is or what to do about it. Traditional methods of helping employees develop their careers don’t work anymore in the ever-changing, high demand workplaces of today, but often they’re the methods companies rely on.
  • Companies are also concerned they’ll be setting unrealistic expectations or making false promises by talking openly about career development, so instead they don’t talk about it at all. My experience with career development is that employees aren’t looking for promises so much as they are looking for possibilities and opportunities.
  • Companies worry if they invest in development that employees will become more marketable and may leave. The opposite is more often true – employees look externally when they don’t feel there’s room for development within.

How can you move past the worries and roadblocks that are keeping you from developing the talent you need?

To start, break away from traditional thinking and models and invest in learning about career development for the 21st century. To understand and embrace career development in the workplaces of today, recognize that:

  • Employees need to manage their careers, have the support of their managers, and the company must set the stage for career development to occur.
  • Employees and managers need to be comfortable and confident to engage in career dialogue with each other. In order to ensure employees and managers can play their roles appropriately, they need to be trained on career development and career conversations.
  • Development isn’t just for your top performers and your high potentials. Career development can bring out the best in employees of all levels, ages and stages, and has shown in surveys to be important to the majority.
  • “Up is not the only way” – there are many ways to develop and grow within companies. The definition of career development is much broader than the traditional definition of advancement and includes development through stretch assignments, lateral moves, and participating in project teams.
  • Significant development is also possible for employees in the roles they hold right now through job enrichment strategies, and can occur without significant cost. Training and courses are not the same as development, and 70% of development occurs on the job when you make it a priority.
  • Career development isn’t “one size fits all” employees. How each of your employees defines career success is unique so how you approach career development should allow for flexibility and creativity.

The development issues you’re facing won’t go away by themselves. There is no quick fix for the development needs that exist within your company today, but you can start to make a difference one person at a time simply by looking at career development in a different way.

If you want to impact engagement, retention and business results, I encourage you to make 2014 the year you invest in the career development of your employees. It’s a simple equation.