career path

Keys to Employee Engagement: 6. Development

We’ve been focusing lately on factors that can really motivate people to perform their best.

The sixth question in the Q12 is “Is there anyone at work who encourages my development?”

In our last post, we described how employees want to feel their managers care about them as individuals. And, as individuals, each employee has his or her own expectations of what their career can be.

I don’t think anyone wants to work in a repetitive role or task.  Some are more Employee Developmentcomfortable with the status quo and don’t have lofty ambitions to progress further.  Others see careers as ladders, to be mounted one rung at a time, and expect to be in the job role for only a short while before moving up to the next level.  The majority are probably somewhere in between.

Most managers associate the term “employee development” with identifying and promoting employees through the ranks to senior management, But development doesn’t necessarily have to be limited to promotion up the ladder.  It’s more about helping employees realize their potential.  From a manager’s perspective, we need to ensure our employees are developed to the point where they are able to optimize their contribution to the organization.

We should identify courses that can help develop skills and/or knowledge in particular areas.  We also should be thinking about projects and other work assignments that can enable employees to gain experience beyond their current responsibilities.  There could be opportunities for job rotation so employees get a feel for how other jobs relate to the ones they’ve been doing.

But a central principle is that there needs to be ongoing dialogue with the employee to discuss their goals and potential so that, as managers, we can help them realize those goals.  An annual performance review is simply not adequate for achieving this.  With an ongoing dialogue, it’s analogous to reviewing progress and getting feedback from the employees in real time. And this ongoing dialogue can be perceived by employees as a way that managers can demonstrate how they care about their employees.

Some companies have defined development paths for employees. I don’t think the Executive Track needs much explanation. Some companies have implemented something like a “Professional Track” whereby employees can become subject matter experts in their fields – engineering, sales, IT and so on.  People on the professional track don’t necessarily take on responsibilities for managing people.  Some of them recognize they don’t have a talent for leading others; some just don’t want to assume that type of responsibility.

Progressing along a professional track might mean specialized courses to increase depth of knowledge in a topic area.  It could also mean working on progressively more challenging projects. It also allows employees who follow this track to realize increases in compensation as they move from one level of expertise to the next. This can help retain employees with such valuable knowledge: they feel they are being recognized for their expertise and are being rewarded for further developing their expertise.

When employees feel their employer cares about them and helps them realize their potential, they’re much more likely to remain with that employer. The result is reduce hiring costs because the need to hire replacement workers is reduced and employees who are motivated to help their employer to succeed. The latter will manifest itself in improved productivity, innovation and customer satisfaction.