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Help Employees Get Back in the Driver’s Seat of Their Career Development


Question: What do employees crave, expect, and consider leaving their current jobs for… but increasingly are not taking the initiative to pursue?

Answer: Career development!

Despite high-profile research studies highlighting the importance of career development to employees worldwide, leaders report that employees are taking a noticeably more passive approach than in the past. They typically attribute this inertia to generational factors, entitlement, and shifting power dynamics.

But in conversations with employees, I hear something very different. A large portion of the workforce is putting less energy into development as a result of three key factors:

  • Burnout – In the past, overburdened and over-committed employees could squeeze at least a little time out for learning and growth. But today, their reserves are on empty for anything that doesn’t fall on the critical path toward job outcomes.
  • Anxiety – Fast-changing employment conditions have left people concerned about job security. Economic uncertainty weighs heavily on workers. There’s a reluctance on the part of some (and full-blown fear on the part of others) to ask for something that may come back to bite them.
  • Confusion – Employees report a sense of whiplash as employers that encouraged a learning frenzy during the pandemic now pull back those resources, leaving questions about organizational commitment to development. Additionally restructuring, streamlining, and delayering efforts leave many wondering if growth is even possible.

These factors are likely contributing to career development immobilization among some of your team members.

But here’s the rub. While they may not be pursuing the learning and growth they want within your organization, employees are willing to explore opportunities elsewhere.

So, how can you – as a leader – change this dynamic… and retain talent in the process? It’s as simple as talking with people about development. Don’t wait for the annual conversation. By then, it might be too late! Instead, begin using every interaction you have with employees to spotlight development and communicate your active support of their growth.

  1. Share your own development goals and how you’re going about achieving them. This sort of modeling gives others permission to express their wants and needs as well.
  2. Discuss development during every one-on-one meeting with others. Imagine the message you’d send if 5-10 minutes out of each meeting was dedicated to growth. And all it takes to get the conversation started are simple questions like, “What lessons have you learned over the last month?” “What skills are you working on?” “How are you growing?” “How would you like to grow?”
  3. Make ‘development’ a standing agenda item during regularly scheduled team meetings. Encourage employees to discuss their goals and ask for and offer support to others. Make development a team sport.
  4. Actively publicize and celebrate development. So frequently we focus recognition on promotions, position changes, and moves. Send a signal that development matters as much or more by giving it the attention and appreciation it deserves.

And, if you want to send a clear message, broadcast your support, and inspire employees to take action to develop their careers, we’ve developed this complimentary resource and self-assessment.

Who's Driving Your Career Development

It’s time to help employees get back into the driver’s seat of their career development. And these keys will start them down the right road.


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