Help Walk Employees Down a Development Path (Even When it Doesn't Exist)
I was recently on a call with a small group of emerging leaders talking on the topic of career development. Even though they worked in different companies, each person had a similar experience - they weren't having conversations about their career path with anyone in their company.
This is unfortunate but not unusual as a majority of companies would agree that they don't have defined development paths within their companies, nor are they having enough conversations on the topic. It is also unfortunate as the lack of future career development remains a key driver of why employees leave companies.
I typically find that this gap isn't due to a lack of caring, but rather that in many growing companies, the business path is even more difficult to define than a career path. When a company is growing, the leaders typically haven't led at that next growth level and therefore aren't even sure what roles will be needed next.
So while the path may be difficult to create, managers and leaders can still be a guide in the employee development conversation by helping employees:
Focus on performance. In any organization, competence is king. While you don't have to be the best, you have to show proficiency within your role. Reinforcing goals and metrics and creating opportunities to challenge the employee in healthy ways allows opportunity to grow and develop.
Understand their desire. I know plenty of people who say they want to grow in a company - but they usually haven't processed whether their strengths will fit within future roles - or what their strengths even are. Rather than focusing on what role and employee might want, help the employee identify what strengths and skills they want to master and apply in the future.
Create experience(s). Create the space and time for the employee to share their goals with you before an opportunity exists. With that knowledge, you can share and/or place them in situations or experiences to be viewed in a new light and show that they can get the job done.
Be open to luck. We all need some luck on our side. Luck in business may mean having patience to wait for an actual need to be created through accelerated growth or a company acquisition. By doing the work above, luck typically helps pull performance and desire into action.
While a path may not exist, you can still engage your team members in the journey through intentional and proactive conversations about their development.