You are leading a group of employees who are performing well and have good relationships with their teammates.
But, one by one, your employees start leaving the company. Why?
As heads of a company, we tend to only think about whether our employees are happy with their current job roles. And if they are, that is good enough.
But, no. Employees want growth in their careers too. And if they can’t achieve that in their current job, they may tender their resignation. This is what is missing in the employees’ careers. They want to see opportunities and potential for career growth.
According to a study done by PwC, having training programmes and opportunities for career progression tops the list for an attractive employer to employees. If career growth opportunities are not present in their career paths, be prepared to face a high turnover rate in your company. And this will be a problem for you.
When an employee departs, you will need to hire another employee with the same level of competency. The co-founder and CEO of CharlieHR, Ben Gately pointed out that, that might be a challenging and time-consuming task.
So, don’t neglect your employee’s career growth! Help to guide them in charting their career paths.
As an employer, you can take the first step. Arrange 1-on-1 chat sessions with your employees and discuss with them about their career aspirations and goals. Because sometimes, even the employees themselves are not familiar with career planning.
In fact, here are important pointers about career planning which you can bring up to your employees. So during your chat sessions with your employees, take the opportunity to explain it to them.
#1 It is all about creating the right environment
Employees need to start planning their career paths early on in their career journey.
Joelle, a project manager working in a small company for about 2 years, shared her perspective on this. “As we grow older, we will start to realise that we need to plan and set aside finances for things like marriage and housing. It's important to start planning your career paths early so that by the time you are at the age where you need to handle these expenses, you will not have to worry that your current career path will not be enough to support it.”
For Joelle, she has set personal goals which she aims to achieve in the future. And she wants to align that to her professional goals. As an employer, think about such considerations employees have and make sure that you can provide them with the suitable environment to meet those goals.
Joelle admitted that yes, while it is daunting and uncomfortable to take up more projects and handle higher levels of responsibility, this is also where employees can grow and progress in their skill sets and career.
Encourage your employees to go out of their comfort zone and not just stick to one job role. By taking up other projects, they will be able to realise their own potential and strengths along the way.
#2 Help your employees to keep up and stay relevant in the market
Remember what I covered earlier? Employees want to see opportunities and training programmes included in their careers. Such programmes include education and gaining new skills as part of their career upscaling.
While moving up the corporate ladder is the traditional way of career progression, upgrading their skills or acquiring new ones also serves as another form of non-linear career progression.
As an employee, Joelle shared that when she started working for her current job, she began to realise the importance of gaining new knowledge. She reinforced that it is very important to be in a position to learn new things constantly, so that there is always something new to look forward to in your job roles. “It is good to look out for opportunities like new projects, so that you can learn and grow in terms of your skill sets and expertise”, she added.
Clifford, a project engineer working in a small company with less than 50 employees also brought in his perspective. To him, one important factor which he never fails to take note of when planning his career path is to look out for opportunities to upskill - an aspect essential to his career progression.
He looks out for such opportunities by taking charge of a new project. Not only can he gain knowledge and technical skills along the way, he can immediately put his new skills into practise.
Because action speaks louder than words! Don’t just tell your employees to learn. Help your employees to learn by giving them opportunities, resources and guidance.
#3 Guide your employees to start their career paths and let them complete it
Charting a career path is two-sided. It is employee-driven and employer-supported.
Your role as an employer is particularly important. Especially when the employees themselves are unsure of how they can plan their career progression. Employers can help to create the environment where it is safe for employees to voice out their concerns and share their goals.
He shares that the employee’s role is to understand where they can fit in the venn diagram of career aspirations. Employees need to find out where their passions lie, and what their skill sets and weaknesses are.
“Employers are there to guide them. The reality is that most of the time, employees don't really know what they want and what they are good at. Which is why employers do check-in sessions with their employees. It is a feedback mechanism for employers to tell employees what they did well, and guide them to realise what they are and aren’t good at.”
Athena, a manager working at Format M&E Services Pte Ltd also mentioned that the role of employers are important when it comes to encouraging and creating an environment for their employees to grow through opportunities. “If we don’t create the opportunities for our subordinates, they won’t have a chance to grow and create their career paths and progression”, she said.
Besides setting a good environment for your employees, incorporating opportunities for them to progress in their careers is also important in helping to chart their career paths.
After you have provided clarity and guidance, your employees can slowly start to chart their career paths on their own. They can take the active first step by setting their goals and figuring out what they wish to accomplish out of their careers.
You can support them by guiding them towards their goals and provide them with resources and opportunities. By doing so, they will be more comfortable in voicing out and telling you what they want to achieve from their career paths.
But also make sure that your employees are not simply listing down random skills. Be sure to guide them towards developing skills that are relevant to their career goals and prioritise the ones that are more important.
For Joelle, she took action on her own to voice out to her employers on what her goals and aspirations were and how she wanted to work towards it. As self-development is important to her, she mentions that people should not be afraid to ask their employers about opportunities for professional career developments in the company. She shared her first hand experience with this and was thankful that her employers eventually sponsored her for a course of her choice.
From an employer’s point of view, it’s always a plus point to see employees actively approach them and do their own research. Josh shared that this behavior will show the employer that the employee is invested in the company and themselves.
He went on to share that, “as an employer, I would like to see employees taking steps to find out the direction that the company is in and where it is moving towards. If they can’t see that, they can take action to email the founder to find out more about what the company wants to achieve.” By finding out the direction that the company is moving towards, the employees can find out how they can add value to the company by upskilling and learning more. And this helps them to better understand what their career goals are as an employee for your company.
So tell your employees to take a step further and do their research to show that they are willing to learn to grow.
#4 Career progression is both linear and non-linear
Employees tend to think that career progression is all about progressing up the career ladder. (As per the name ‘career progression’ suggests.)
In my opinion, career progression can happen both linearly and nonlinearly.
As an employer, you can help to create an environment which encourages agility. You can create opportunities for your employees to upscale in terms of their skills and knowledge. For instance, if your employee is currently doing a design role, you can offer them opportunities to do marketing and content planning. That way, their skill sets will not be niched to their current job roles and they will have the added benefit of being able to do more in their career journeys.
Remember to reinforce that agility is key!
As your employees gain more skills and knowledge, they will have more options in how they want to plan out their career paths. Let’s look at the same example. When your design employee gains new knowledge and skills on marketing and content planning, their career paths can branch out beyond their design role. They can also consider charting a career path towards marketing and planning. This is how an agile environment can benefit your employee in planning their career paths.
Employees in a large company can anticipate that their career progression would happen linearly with a title change. But not for a small company.
“Career progression is not just about being promoted from an executive to a manager. Because in a small company, the team is, well, small. So having title changes is not the main thing in career progression”, says Janan, the Chief Operation Officer of The Patatas. He added that instead, it is about the employees’ own personal growth.
“We don't focus on the title, but on the employee’s interest and areas they want to grow in. For instance, when my employee wants to try their hand at another discipline, such as from marketing to project management, title-wise, the employee won't be seeing a huge jump, but career-wise, the employee is seeing progression in their personal growth.”
Ultimately, charting one’s career paths is something which everyone should start paying more attention to. But we need to know first and foremost that it will not be a smooth journey.
Help your employees picture this. When they are charting their career paths, imagine drawing a timeline on a piece of paper and working closely to it. But this timeline will include tiny postscript notes stating “subject to change” and or even things like “time to tell my employer that I want to try out a new project”.
Trial and Error
There is no fixed template on what works best. As an employer, just try your best to do what you think works best for your employees. And if it doesn’t work, try another method. Find out from other employers what they do to help their employees chart their career paths, or even garner some feedback from your employees directly.
Helping your employees to chart their career paths is a good stepping stone in helping them to grow in terms of their personal development and how they can plan out their career paths better. And reading this article is a good first step!
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