7 ways to support employee career advancement

By Robert Half on 17 August 2020

Leading employers know how important it is to place employees’ professional development at the heart of company policy.

Why? Their workers expect it. Talented professionals want to work for a company that will help them to build skills and knowledge and further their career.

Even in uncertain times, managers shouldn’t minimise the importance of supporting their employees’ career advancement. If they do, they risk undermining morale and productivity by leaving talented workers feeling like they aren’t valued.

And in the longer term, the company could face the loss of these dispirited employees to competitors once the job market re-energises.

To show your workers that they have both company and manager support in their desire to grow professionally and pursue career advancement, consider applying the following strategies:

1. Take a personal interest in employee career goals

If you’re managing a remote team, you know how important it is to communicate frequently with your workers. That interaction should include meeting regularly with team members on a one-to-one basis so that you can stay attuned to their career aspirations and expectations. This kind of manager support can help your staff feel valued — and lead to greater productivity and loyalty.

Help your employees outline a potential career path within the organisation, so they can better visualise their future at the company. Identify specific milestones for achievement, and the supporting resources employees will likely need to tap along their journey. Clear, direct and consistent communication from the boss about career advancement steps can help workers feel more engaged.

2. Promote virtual training and learning

Job training and continuous learning help to fuel employee career growth. So, you’ll want to encourage team members to pursue relevant business courses and workshops that will further their career advancement.

Virtual learning opportunities are a must for many teams right now, and fortunately, there are many affordable options available. (Even if budgets are leaner at the moment, keep in mind that an investment in employee career development can deliver a strong ROI for your business.)

In addition to nurturing individual needs and growing specific skills, help your employees keep up with what’s happening in the wider industry. One cost-effective method that’s easy to arrange is to host lunch-and-learn sessions by video, featuring either external or internal guest speakers. Also, give your employees the time and flexibility to engage in virtual industry events. Consider asking those workers to share what they learn at these events with their colleagues.

3. Encourage mentoring and job shadowing

Establishing a formal mentoring program might be one of the smartest moves a company can make at any time — for itself as well as for its workers’ personal and professional growth. Mentoring can also be an effective tool for onboarding remote staff.

Though often seen as a transfer of knowledge from tenured team members to less-seasoned employees, mentoring is a two-way street. While senior staff members can offer hard-earned insights and professional guidance to less-experienced colleagues, they also can benefit from the fresh perspectives and technological know-how of up-and-coming employees.

4. Rotate employee roles

The human brain thrives on variety, and job rotation is a smart way to shake up your workers’ daily routine. Consider allowing staff to work in different but related departments or positions. (A job rotation program can help to facilitate this.) These opportunities will help your team members gain new skills, more appreciation for their colleagues’ duties and a better understanding of the business.

Job rotation can also be an effective way to increase cross-departmental collaboration and build rapport in a remote team. And the organisation will benefit from having a more well-rounded workforce.

5. Support work-life balance

Hard work is a prerequisite for career advancement, but that doesn’t necessarily mean committing to an endless series of lengthy workdays. Encourage your employees to work smart, maximize their efficiency, and leave time and energy for their non-work interests. This advice is especially important for remote team members who may find it difficult at times to keep work and life separate.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also caused many professionals to rethink their priorities. As a consequence, employers will be under even more pressure in the future to help their employees achieve a desirable work-life balance.

Taking a proactive approach to your team’s well-being can also prevent stress from rising and leading to burnout. By adopting flexible policies that enhance work-life balance, you can buoy staff morale. You’ll help your workers find the time to do their jobs, attend to personal demands, and even engage in professional development activities that can aid their career advancement.

6. Paint the big picture

Reminding employees of their unique contributions to the company’s mission adds meaning to their role. It can also increase their motivation to expand their responsibilities and advance in the organization.

Don’t assume they already know how their work adds value, however. Offer regular insights into how their day-to-day actions make a difference to the organisation. In your regular updates to team members, be sure to highlight the firm’s progress toward key objectives. And acknowledge individual employees for specific achievements that are helping to drive the company toward those goals.

7. Create a succession planning program

Succession planning can demonstrate to high-potential employees that you not only want to invest in their professional development but also see them evolving into future leaders for the business. That is a powerful message. So, don’t push this important process to the back burner. Create a succession plan for every key position in your organisation. It can help motivate employees to learn the skills and knowledge needed for career advancement.

Career advancement should remain a priority

Your employees will be better positioned to achieve their career goals if they know they have manager support. And even if your team is working remotely right now, it’s still possible to make professional development and career advancement high priorities for the business.

Emphasising employee career growth can create significant and lasting benefits for your workers. It can also help position your company to be even more competitive in the post-pandemic business environment.

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