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Creative Crossings: Where Employee Development and Career Development Converge

What’s in a word? A lot when it comes to the difference between employee development and career development.

Let’s being by defining terms.

Employee development is the learning, training, skill building, mentoring, and on-the-job experiences that grow an employee’s capacity in service of the organization…. that is, selected, focused, and deployed to realize organizational goals.

Career development, on the other hand, is the learning, training, skill building, mentoring, and on-the-job experiences – and a few other things such as reflection, consideration, exploration, conversation, networking, and outside of work activities – that grow an employee’s capacity in service of the employee and his or her career goals.

Although it appears that these could be very different things, the good news is that effective leaders can frequently find the places where the roads run parallel, converge, intersect, or at least share a little frontage space. This is what I refer to as the creative crossing. ‘Creative’ because one must think differently to identify and mine it and also because it creates inspiring and positive outcomes.

Finding ways to bring development directed toward personal and organizational results into a coordinated package delivers many benefits:

  • Efficiency – It’s the ultimate two-fer!
  • Energy – Employees are more enthusiastic about and committed to their actions.
  • Engagement – The emotional connection to the work is strengthened, leading to discretionary effort and business results.

Any manager can find these creative crossings if he/she:

  • Understands the organization’s goals and strategies for achieving them.
  • Knows the employee well enough to be engaged in regular dialogue around career goals.
  • Is willing to apply a little thought to the situation.

These crossings can be simple and intuitive. For instance, an employee wants to develop leadership skills and move into supervision, and the organization must advance several new initiatives through project teams and is looking for new leaders. (The other end of the continuum is a quirky client whose administrative assistant wanted to attend circus school and learn to juggle and fly on a trapeze. My client recognized how the enhanced focus would support her in her role and found a way to accommodate her ‘clowning around’!)

Although employee and career development tend to serve different objectives, it’s frequently possible to discover the creative crossing where the two meet… if managers look, listen, and watch for the signs.


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