Right Management recently conducted an online poll asking people if they intended to look for a new job in 2012. Amazingly 84% said yes. Another 11% said that they might start looking for a new job and only 5% planned on staying in their current job. Really? Can you imagine what this would look like if over 80% of employees changed jobs in the next year? Of course that is unlikely to happen. However what is more feasible is that as the economy improves companies could be at risk to lose valuable employees and find themselves with a shortage of workers in key positions.
What is a leader to do? Research suggests that spending time in the area of career development can go a long way towards employee engagement. A number of studies show a strong correlation between career development and employee engagement. Providing your employees an ongoing opportunity to begin to assess their career goals, skills, and development opportunities will help them take ownership of their career. When employees know that you care about their own development they are more engaged and more likely to remain loyal to the organization. In addition, when employees have a plan for their future and their development they tend to handle internal organizational changes better.
I believe that in the future most organizations will value making an investment into career development initiatives. We are learning that investing in career development has many benefits to the organization including an increase in engagement, productivity, and innovation. One example of this is a fortune 500 consumer products company that saw a division’s attrition rate drop to less than half of the company’s average after putting it’s employees through a career development program. (For more information about the link between career development and engagement refer to a research article on the references page)
The next challenge is how to integrate a career development process into the organization, especially when a leader may not feel they have the time to invest a significant amount of hours into coaching their employees around career development. The following is the “short version” of model that many organizations have used.
1. Create a process that is self-directed.
You will most likely not have time to meet with each of your employees twice a month to help them create and manage their career plan and to hold them accountable. However, there are plenty of resources to help employees manage this process themselves. These could be online career development portals, onsite training classes, assessments, or a chance to meet with a career coach. The key is to create a process that employees can go through that encourages them to take ownership of their career and manage it themselves.
2. Managers must be engaged in the process
However, you will not be able to make this successful without some involvement. The need for some level of manager involvement is critical to this process succeeding. In addition, this is often lacking. Research suggests that 70% of managers rarely have career conversations with their employees. A manager can provide significant value to this process for the employee. They may have insights into skills that the employee does not recognize in themselves. They may have awareness of opportunities and jobs within the organization that might be a good fit for the employee. This is a critical piece that is often skipped and often leads to low engagement in the career development process. This may mean quarterly or bi-annual meetings with an employee around their career development goals and action steps.
3. It should lead to a plan and have regular follow up
The result in this process should be a plan of action that includes goals, and action steps. This gives the employee something concrete but also makes it easy for the manager to have periodic conversations with them about their progress. It also might provide insight into ways that you can create better alignment between their goals and business needs. For example, lets say that out of this process you find that your employee has a desire and a skill set to improve internal processes. Providing them an opportunity to use these skills to benefit the organization is a win /win. It sounds simple but this is often overlooked.
Investing in career development for employees can have a significant ROI. To make it work it will take a commitment to both time and money. Yet, if managed wisely it can lead to significant benefits for the organization and you may be the organization that doesn’t fear a loss of critical talent as the economy begins to improve