Ways to offer career progression to staff | Main Region

How to offer career progression to your staff

Recruiting today’s top talent is about much more than remuneration and flexible working. One of the big draw cards for jobseekers right now is career progression opportunities.
We know from our conversations with job candidates that career progression is essential to engaging and retaining your staff, too. Progression gives your staff a sense that they are valued and you’re willing to help them reach their full potential. 
So, it seems the onus of attracting and keeping top talent is on organisations to create an environment in which staff can develop and thrive. 
But ensuring your organisation and its managers provide the right career development opportunities is a continuing challenge.
Here’s how you can design, plan and provide career progression pathways for your staff.

How to create a career progression plan for your staff 

1. Understand your employees’ long-term career goals

Managers can’t make informed determinations about their employees’ career development without carefully consulting their staff. Yet employee engagement software provider Officevibe found in its Pulse Survey that 34% of employees feel inadequately involved in the decisions that affect their work. Officevibe data also shows that one in three employees say they have nobody at work to help them grow and develop.
Rather than make assumptions about your employees’ career development goals and the jobs they could progress through, encourage them to share and discuss career aspirations with you.

Your employees can also share how they envision achieving their goals, how their goals will benefit your organisation and how their goals match with their experience.

2. Plot a detailed employee career path together

Next, collaborate with your employees to create a detailed and transparent development plan that matches their existing skills, experience and capability. By recording this plan, you’ll increase each employee’s accountability. 
Be aware that not every employee wants to climb the career ladder. You may find that some employees instead want to move sideways or expand the scope of their current job to perform their role even better.

Either way, ensure that the employee development plan identifies specific objectives and timelines your employees must meet to progress their careers. Populate the plan with all key actions your staff need to take to progress and ensure you embed metrics into the plan so you can both monitor progress.
Many organisations set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely) goals to stay on course. 
We also suggest you encourage your staff to carefully consider the types of goals they want to work towards. For instance, you might agree that it’s mutually beneficial for them to master a particular skill or set of skills to aid their progression. 
Download our Career Goal Planner for more insights and advice on setting development and career goals.

3. Encourage staff to assess their strengths and weaknesses 

Some of your employees will have a stronger understanding of their strengths and weaknesses than others. But all employees should assess their strengths and weaknesses to uncover new insights about what they do well and where they can improve. 
Your employees’ strengths and weaknesses might be most obvious in areas such as teamwork, communication, conflict management, project planning and time management. But in other areas, particularly niche or technical aspects of a job, strengths and weaknesses might require some investigation.
Encourage your employees to objectively assess their strengths and weaknesses by reflecting on how they react to particular situations at work. For instance, you could encourage them to think about how they relate to colleagues and customers, the attitudes they have towards each task and how they are perceived by others.
Your employees shouldn’t shy away from reflecting on experiences, activities or projects that didn’t go as planned. In fact, this is often where the greatest learning potential lies. Encourage your employees to reflect on these to uncover new insights about themselves. 
These insights can be powerful propellers for career development and progression.

4. Find appropriate mentors

A good mentor can help your employees clarify their career direction, develop new skills and overcome difficult obstacles.
Mentors might be internal staff members, external experts, career coaches or industry thought leaders. Some have specialised knowledge to impart to particular employees, while others have general knowledge to share across your organisation. For this reason, employees might have more than one mentor at a time, or work with a mentor for a defined period of time on a particular developmental goal. 
If your organisation doesn’t already have a mentor program, you can plan for one. Think about the elements the program will need to be successful, such as the length of the program, who the mentors are and how employees can participate in the program. Then, curate a mentor wish list and think about the process involved in matching mentors with mentees.
One paper released by the Association for Talent Development found that organisations with mentoring programs enjoy many benefits. These include higher employee engagement and retention (50%), career growth for high-potential employees (46%), intra-organisational relationship building (37%) and the transfer and management of knowledge (37%).

5. Offer your employees stretch opportunities

Employees who embrace stretch opportunities are challenged in a way that’s conducive to learning and development. In turn, by offering appropriate stretch opportunities to support your employees’ career progression, your organisation can deliver better results. You can also keep costs down by utilising existing employee skill sets and improve employee loyalty.
Stretch opportunities might mean chances for your staff to advance existing skills, processes and knowledge. Or they might involve new responsibilities, such as supervisory or managerial tasks, or introducing new processes and efficiencies into the organisation.
To ensure stretch opportunities are positive experiences for all parties, consider if an employee truly has the potential to take on the new challenge. Do they have the bandwidth at the present time to give it their best? How appropriate is the scale of the opportunity for this particular employee?

6. Offer employees time and space to upskill

Our research into employee attitudes to skill building highlights that 96% of professionals rate upskilling as ‘important’ or ‘very important’ to them and their career. 84% aren’t interested in roles that have no skills development and almost half (47%) won’t work for an organisation that offers no formal training opportunities.
If you are recruiting staff or focusing on retention, we suggest you keep in mind that employees and job candidates want clear and direct signals that it’s okay for them to allocate a few hours a week to attend a webinar, continue a short course or undertake further actions to advance their careers.
To develop an organisational culture that genuinely facilitates and supports upskilling, we suggest you plan the budget, time and resources to make regular professional development a priority for your employees. Create and promote cross-training opportunities between departments. Build a library of digital learning opportunities for employees that aligns with the strategic priorities and expectations of your organisation. Track outcomes and have employees share their learning amongst internal and external stakeholders.

7. Check in regularly and offer advice and support 

Your employees are the ones who have to put in the work when career development opportunities are made available, but you have an important role to play in supporting them to stay on course with their objectives.
Make time to talk to your employees about how they are progressing towards their goals. Establish a career development program with the flexibility to refine as you go along. Your employees might hit roadblocks along the way, but you can help them navigate these by checking in regularly.
Consider catching up informally on a more regular basis and holding more formalised and comprehensive meetings less frequently. Every organisation will be a little bit different, but formal career progression meetings every three to six months might suit your organisation well.

The career progression reality check

It would be ideal if every organisation had the means and capabilities to accommodate every employee with their career goals and ultimately retain their skills and expertise. However, there are some circumstances where organisations might not have the capacity to offer an employee the career development they are seeking. 
It’s best to be realistic about this up front. The worst thing you can do is promise career development opportunities that don’t eventuate. 
Provided you are honest and open with your staff, transparently share the career development opportunities that are available, and think about whether there is more you can be doing to improve career development in your organisation, you have a strong attraction and retention advantage.


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