5 business reasons to put employee career development at the top of your agenda

How much support do you give your employees in planning and developing their careers?

You may think that’s an odd question to be asking – given the increasingly widespread view that the ‘job for life’ is long gone and traditional career paths are no more.

But as a recent report from Blessing White points out, even though employers may not be able to make long-term commitments or predict with any certainty the skills they will need for the future – they still have much to gain from supporting employees with their career development.

Here are five reasons why companies should take an active role in helping their employees develop their careers:

It builds commitment and engagement

In the research for their report ‘Navigating Ambiguity: Career 2014’, Blessing White found 56 per cent of employees were clear about what they wanted their next job to be and 46 per cent believed their next career move would take them to a new employer. The danger is obvious. If you don’t provide the opportunities for your employees – especially the ones you regard as critical – they’ll walk.

Employees no longer expect their company to manage their career for them – but they do like to feel the business is at least taking an interest. If people can see the organisation is willing to invest in their development they are much more likely to be engaged, enthusiastic participants in their work and willing to go the extra mile when needed. They are also less likely to jump ship.  Research has shown a strong correlation between people’s perceptions of their opportunities for career growth and intent to stay with their employer – although worryingly, the survey also revealed that most employees score their companies poorly in terms of career support.

It can uncover hidden potential

Career conversations can often have surprising results. If managers have open honest dialogue with their teams, they may find people have ambitions they previously haven’t voiced or hidden skills and talents they are not using in their current role. Recent difficult economic times have meant, for example, that many employees have been sitting it out in roles way below their potential because that was the job that was available at the time. With the situation improving, now is the ideal time to find out what latent talents may be available within the business – and see how individual aspirations can best be matched with corporate priorities.

It helps the business develop skills for the future

One of the biggest challenges organisations face is operating in an uncertain, volatile climate where the rules of the game can change overnight.  New competitors may suddenly emerge, technology develops and disrupts the way services are delivers, customers drive demand for new products…. What this means is the skills the organisation has today are not necessarily the ones they will need tomorrow.  In its ‘Future of Work’ report, the UK Commission for Education and Skills (UKCES) suggests that employees of the future will need to have highly developed generic skill sets – project management, problem solving, the ability to analyse complex data – that can be applied in different circumstances. If organisations want their people to be adaptable they need to help them develop these competencies  – and will of course also be keeping an eye on trends to see what specialist skills employees might also need as the  business moves forward.

It supports succession planning

In a fast-moving environment, organisations no longer have the luxury of long-term workforce planning. Formal career plans no longer exist in the way they used to – and when the game is changing so quickly, it can be difficult to plan for succession next year yet alone in five years time. As the Blessing White report points out, in this scenario, people are often thrown into new roles with short or no learning curves and having people who are ready to move up is often the subject of “educated guessing rather than deliberate planning.”  Having regular conversations about people’s aspirations and investing in their development will, however, give organisations at least a fighting chance of having the right people in the right place at the right time. The most productive conversations about careers are those that centre around the kind of work people find most stimulating, the skills they’d like to develop and where their future interests lie. Being armed with this kind of knowledge helps the business stay ‘nimble’ and ready to respond to whatever is around the corner.

 It helps to attract new talent

People talk – and word will soon get around that your business is one that takes developing its people seriously. As the economic situation improves, talent is at a premium once again and a positive approach to career development will give organisations an edge in attracting the best and brightest people.

What’s your view? Is career development a personal issue or a corporate one? What measures do you have in place to support your people’s development?

You may be interested in reading our guide to helping employees achieve their career ambitions.

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