Are you looking for a way to help employees grow professionally? Take a look at career development. Over the years, career development has evolved into something far different than what it once was.

Think back to your childhood. Do you remember being asked what you wanted to be when you grew up? Your answer likely changed as you aged. The person who wanted to be a fireman at age five might have wanted to be a doctor at age ten.

It’s rare for someone to keep the same career goals as they age. When you think about it, you are likely not following the same career path you chose even fifteen years ago. Even as adults, we can change our minds.

As a person who manages other people, it’s essential to find a way to help employees grow in their chosen careers. Managers are tasked with providing guidance, feedback, information, and motivation. Let’s look at how career development has changed and ways to help employees along their paths.

The Way to Help Employees Grow Is Changing

Think back twenty years. The world of employment has made some drastic changes. Once when you took a job, your career path was set. There were specific steps to take you to the next rung on your career ladder.

Over the years, industries have changed. Some companies have downsized. Others have closed entirely. Workers rarely stay in one position for the duration of their careers.

The stigma that was once associated with job hopping had decreased over time. In fact, a CareerBuilder survey indicated that 45% of workers with a college degree only keep a job two years before changing positions. The same survey said that a quarter of the workforce would have had five or more jobs before age 35.

Since workers now feel more comfortable switching jobs more often, long-term relationships between employees and companies have disappeared. Workers no longer expect to work for the same company for their entire careers.

Employees value career development, and many will factor training into their career choices. Not only have employee expectations changed, but employees who leave one company can land a new position that provides them with a 15% boost in salary.

Because employees aren’t likely to stay with their company their whole career, it’s essential to focus on skills rather than jobs. In the past, employees were trained for specific positions. Now, we need to focus on transferable skill development.

A Good Manager Finds A Way to Help Employees Grow

There is something to the old saying that employees leave managers, not companies. Employees cite a lack of career development as one of the primary reasons they leave a company. However, a manager who helps the employees realize their potential can cause employees to stay with a company.

What does that mean for you? You need to invest in employee development if your goal is retaining current employees and attracting talented new hires. Being intentional about development opportunities increases retention and motivation.

As career paths have changed, so has the approach to career development. Some employees require help defining their path. Others simply want to progress along with theirs. Either way, communication is vital.

As management, regular meetings with your employees are a must. Perhaps, you simply request project updates periodically. Or, maybe you’ve already instituted periodic performance reviews. Either way, your communication skills are vital to successful employee development opportunities.

Your entry-level staff is probably not doing their dream jobs. However, do they know what their dream job is? Do they already possess the skills they need, or is the current position with you a stepping stone to gaining those skills? How can you, as a manager, facilitate the growth opportunities they need to obtain their dream position eventually?

Can you help your employees pair with a mentor from somewhere inside your company so they can benefit from the mentor’s advice? Look at the available projects, and determine if any of them provide needed skills for your employee’s growth goals. Another way to help your employee grow is to help them find volunteer or educational activities outside the company.

Helping Your Employees Follow The New Career Path

In the past, when you were onboarded into a company, your career path was set in stone. The promotion track was static, and you trained for your next specific job. Barring some issues with the company that caused layoffs, employees would take a standard route up the corporate ladder.

Now, employees don’t simply train for the next job within the company. Instead, they prefer to learn skills that can follow them to other industries if they choose. It’s your job to help them find the training opportunities they want and need to develop their skillset. How do you facilitate that growth?

Put Emphasis on Continued Learning

Technology impacts every job across every industry. As technology changes, so do the needs of employees who wish to keep up with changing technological advancements. Employees recognize the need for new skills too. According to a Udemy survey, 51% of workers would quit a job if it didn’t give them the training they needed.

That same survey showed that 84% of workers in the US believe there is a gap in skills. Employees certainly need to take control of their own learning, but employers need to provide access to training and encourage them to complete it.

Besides technological skills, employees also need soft skills to succeed. What exactly are soft skills? Soft skills are those intangible skills that are necessary for success in the job market. The skills include problem-solving, empathy, and communication. Collaborative and creative skills are also necessary for success in the corporate world.

Soft skills are transferable across job markets. So, they are essential for true employee growth. Intellectual curiosity, adaptability, and grit are other examples of soft skills that are highly sought after in various fields. Paying attention to these can help you support your employees.

The Role of Individual Contributors Is Important

In the past, when an employee wanted to advance in a company, they sought management positions. The reasoning for the move was that if they were responsible and successful in their work, they were considered management material. However, some skills don’t translate well to management positions.

Some valuable skills are excellent for contributing individuals to possess. However, a specific skill set is needed to manage people successfully. A self-motivated person may be amazing on the sales floor. However, that person may not be able to motivate others effectively.

Perhaps you have an extremely competitive employee. Those skills are also excellent for salespeople to possess. However, a competitive nature doesn’t always translate to the team-building nature of management.

These employees, while not necessarily management material, have valuable skills and insights to add to the team. They desire further training just as those who are interested in management positions do.

Helping Employees Find Their Fit In the Company

For those employees in entry-level positions, it may be difficult to see how their position fits within the company’s mission. Managers are tasked with providing perspective on how they contribute. Clearly discussing company goals will help these employees align their own goals with those of the company.

When discussing company goals, clearly name those goals. Incorporate discussion about why those goals were chosen and why they’re important. Ensure that you discuss with them how the team makes a difference to the company’s objectives.

Share company news with employees. Let them know why the information is relevant to them. Discuss opportunities for career development within their department or outside of it. Help your employees see their own contribution and value to the company. When they see their value, you can help them envision their future.

When talking about their value within the company, discuss the reason for their tasks. At the beginning of the year, or whenever the company sets its annual objectives, allow each employee to set their own goals. This helps the employee feel connected to the company. Using metrics, you can track progress toward those goals.

As you move toward fulfilling the goals for the year, allow your employees to reflect on their progress and skills development. They can use this reflection and your feedback to track their progress toward personal skills development. Encourage them to communicate self-feedback with you and their thoughts on your role in their progress.

The Bottom Line

Career development isn’t just the employee’s responsibility. The employee should drive their own progress. However, as the manager, it’s your responsibility to create an environment that encourages and supports individual growth. You can also create an agreement with your employee regarding their career development.

Some employees may not understand how they can take the lead in their own career development. One way to help those employees grow is to teach them how to take control of their own growth. Working on employee development takes time and effort, but the collaboration is beneficial to you both.

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