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Three Strategies for Providing Professional Growth Opportunities to Employees

Jan 26, 2022

In the summer of 2021, I visited a beach on Nantucket as hurricane Henri moved away from the island. Another onlooker and I struck up a conversation that led to us discussing what I do for a living. I explained that I was new in the workforce, only one year into my career. As we got deeper into the conversation, my responses solicited this response from him, “I’m glad you enjoy what you do because you are going to be very successful with it.”

At this point, I had little idea of what my career might have instore for me. I had repeatedly asked myself, what does it mean to be successful? My understanding of success up to this point was that I should work hard and through my efforts, I will magically climb my career ladder upwards, until I was in some sort of leadership role. I recognized the small bits of discomfort these thoughts had stirred up, which prompted me to dig deeper on the subject.

I presented this question to my personal career coach at EisnerAmper, Dr. Matthew Kerzner, a human resources specialist and talent development guru. He explained to me that success is not achieved by climbing an upwards ladder, it’s achieved by building a path of progression. A philosophy he uses to help his clients retain and grow talent as part of his role as Director for our Center for Individual and Organizational Performance. Some of his strategies include:

  1. Offer Transparent Communication
  2. Create Path of Progression
  3. Implement Individual Development Plans

Offer Transparent Communication

Dr. Kerzner explained that the first and most important part of career planning is having transparent communication between employee and employer to build trust between the two parties. These initial conversations should be more informal and centered around establishing expectations, career aspirations, and a timeline to develop the necessary skills and expertise to reach these aspirations. In doing so, the employer can gauge whether the employee’s skills align with their desires. Once a solid foundation is built around an employee’s career path, more formal processes can begin.

Create Paths of Progression

Dr. Kerzner broadly defines paths of progression as the result of putting together a plan to develop skills, knowledge, and expertise. Organizations that institute such programs to offer employees the opportunity to map out their career path with a tenured expert in the company foster a sense of mutual loyalty. A path of progression is not linear. It’s about expanding and broadening an individual’s knowledge in any given area. The goal is not tick boxes on a checklist, but instead to develop the competencies necessary to complete tasks or projects with quality. It’s important to focus of developing and mastering the skills needed to perform a job with excellence as more hiring experts, like Ginny Clarke, encourage organizations search for competencies in their candidates as opposed to pedigree.

Implement Individual Development Plans

A formal process can include walking through a career planning document and creating an individual development plan. A career planning document asks the employee to identify their current strengths and areas of opportunity or growth areas. Following these questions, the employee is asked to note their short-term career aspirations, long term career aspirations, and the job assignments/experiences that are necessary to achieve the identified career goals. The purpose of the career planning exercise is for the employee and employer to reflect on where the employee is at in their career and where they hope to be. During the next path of progression collaboration meeting, the employer may introduce the individual development plan.

The individual development plan then asks the employee to articulate goal statements from the aspirations noted in the career plan. The employee and employer create a list the on-the-job actions that aid in developing the skill of competency in the goal, the timing in which these actions should be carried out, and how both parties intend on measuring success with these actions. The individual development plan is much more detailed, offering an action items and tools necessary to achieve the goals contrived from the aspirations in the career development plan.

While the career plan and individual development plan build the structure for the employee’s path of progression, it is imperative that the employee and employer capture a plan to stay accountable as the time goes on. This can be through regularly scheduled meetings to discuss projects, the status of training/education courses, and how they are measuring up to their measures of success. Meeting regularly aids in maintaining employee engagement and allows the employer to witness growth firsthand.

The Importance of Growth Opportunities

Forward-thinking organizations understand that providing growth opportunities benefit the organization, leaders and managers, and the employees. The integrated effort that goes into career planning benefits employees by providing them with an understanding of personal strengths, weaknesses, and their needs for the future. In doing so, employees are given a sense of purpose and meaning in the work they do

RISE (Real Ideas to Stimulate Engagement) - Q1 2022

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Alexa Scudillo

Alexa Scudillo is a Consulting Specialist in the Center for Individual and Organizational Performance.

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