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. In fact, a recent survey found that nearly one in three workplaces in the UK don’t provide any opportunities for their employees to learn new skills at all.

However, even though employers may not be able to make long-term commitments to career development 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

A report by recruitment specialists Robert Walters, focusing on attracting and retaining Millennial workers, showed that 68% of those surveyed cited a clear path to grow in their role as the most important factor and motivator in keeping them engaged.

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 – and with a report by LinkedIn showing that budget constraints are less of a major challenge for L&D teams in 2019 compared to previous years, there are more resources available to help fund new opportunities in general.

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 hadn’t voiced or hidden skills and talents they are not using in their current role.

With many companies already struggling to fill key roles, 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 delivered, 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.

Employees of the future will need to have highly developed generic skill sets – project management, problem solving, the ability to analyse complex data alongside soft skills – 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 other specialist skills employees might need as the business moves forward.

It supports succession 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. However, that doesn’t mean that HR teams should give up on succession planning altogether.

Having regular conversations about people’s aspirations and investing in their development will give organisations at least a fighting chance of having the right people in the right place at the right time, and today’s HR systems should make visualising – and acting on – performance and potential data much simpler too.

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

Nurturing internal talent can help reduce the costs of external hiring, as you’ll be more likely to fill vacancies with current staff, who also already understand the organisation and its values. Of course, sometimes recruiting talent from elsewhere is necessary, so it’s important to position your company as a desirable employer.

People talk – and word will soon get around that your business is one that takes developing its people seriously. Employees often share their experiences online, whether that’s on Glassdoor or on social media. With unemployment being at its lowest since the 1970s, talent is at a premium once again and having a visibly 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?

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