Career development can be an invaluable retention tool — but only if done right


When workers don’t have a clear path to advancement, they leave, recent research shows. And with the current tight labor market, retention is more important than ever.

Few employers, however, seem to be able to capitalize on this opportunity. If fact, when employees advance in their careers, only 7% do so with their current employers. A renewed look at — and an investment in — employee development could provide a significant advantage when it comes to retention.

A chance to advance
If you’ve waited until an employee’s first day to talk about career development, you may be too late. Candidates are looking for a company where their development is a part of the package, just as much as compensation. More than 65% of millennials believe it’s management’s job to offer accelerated development programming on the job. To hire and retain this massive talent pool, development has to be part of an employer’s recruitment strategy.

And once employees are on board, development has to be part of your learning agenda. Training for employees’ current work is good, but training for the work they aspire to do is motivating. Like dressing for success, employees also have to train for success; and when companies invest in employees, employees invest in companies – with satisfaction, engagement and longevity.

But it can’t be all talk. “Promoting career development alone without viable internal career opportunities for employees will not always increase retention,” Jesus Bravo, clinical associate professor at Washington State University Carson College of Business, told HR Dive. It’s important to give employees a clear path to growth, he said. “Hence, one way to promote career development opportunities/programs would be to tie them together with opportunities for promotion within the organization.”

Bravo suggests a variety of development activities attractive to staff, including workshops to develop tech skills, learning to develop managerial competencies, career planning workshops, tuition reimbursement planning and job rotation within different divisions and functional areas in the company.

Career conversations
Employers should engaging employees with short career conversations frequently and iteratively, rather than waiting until the annual development review, recommends Julie Winkle Giulioini, co-author of Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Employees Want. The model she and her co-author developed calls for questions in three key areas: hindsight, foresight and insight.

Hindsight questions are similar to those one might ask during an employment interview. “When we interview people,” Winkle Giulioni says, ”we want to hear all about who they are, what they’ve done, what they love, their talents, what they’re interested in… and what they’re not interested in. But once hired, that conversation ends.” She recommends continuing the conversation as employees learn more, grow, evolve and take on more duties and responsibilities.


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