At a time when companies are struggling to attract and retain the talent they need, many are overlooking the workplace that employees value most—career development. This article looks at how to create employee-centric career development programs that can support your talent requirements and shares the five principles that ensure program success.
An unprecedented talent crunch
Attracting and retaining talent is one of the biggest HR challenges of 2022. The Great Resignation, the Great Reconsideration, the Great Reshuffle, and the Great Discontent—whatever you call it, the trend is real. Worldwide, employees are quitting (or taking an early retirement) in record numbers, and the phenomenon has left employers scrambling to find the talent they need.
Companies are responding to the situation by offering an array of incentives that include higher wages, signing bonuses, company equity, student loan repayment, flexible schedules, and four-day workweeks.
But many are still overlooking the most powerful incentive—a robust, employee-centric career development program.
Evolving employee priorities
Foosball tables, nap rooms, and gourmet snacks in the break room may have appealed to job seekers in the past, but today's employees have very different priorities. The majority are seeking a sense of purpose and a chance to explore and fulfill their career potential, which has turned career development into one of the most attractive and valued workplace benefit.
A couple of recent surveys highlight the shift.
A LinkedIn global survey found that job seekers believe an investment in professional development is the best way to improve company culture, rating it as more effective than flexible work support or mental health and wellness support.
Conversely, a lack of career development has a negative employee experiences and turnover. An Oracle survey found that 83% of employees are ready to move on, and for nearly one in four, it's because they don’t see growth opportunities to progress their career at their company.
And the pandemic has only intensified the importance of development further, with 46% of employees reporting that learning and development are even more important to their career success since the shift to remote work.
Companies are missing the mark
While employees have made it clear that career development is important to them many companies have yet to act on this information.
While 65% of organizations recognize that career development has a big impact on talent retention and employee engagement, less than 40% of employers actively support career development and internal talent mobility as part of their business strategy. And even of those that do have career development programs in place, only 32% rate them programs as "effective" or "very effective."
Employees are noticing the lack of investment in this critical part of the workplace experience. The Oracle survey found that employee dissatisfaction was highest around learning and skills development, with 34% reporting a lack of support in this area.
Employee-centric career development
Creating an effective career development program is not easy. But it's well worth the effort to get it right.
Building a career development structure makes it almost 4X more likely that an organization will see increased employee retention and almost 2X more likely to see increased employee engagement.
These five principles can help you build an employee-centric, competency-driven career development program that helps your employees assess their career potential, explore their career options, and create development goals that help them reach their career aspirations.
Give employees autonomy
Empower employees to explore their career options and choose their own path—one that achieves their career goals and aligns with their learning preferences.
Too often, career development programs are structured as a top-down activity, with managers assigning development activities to the employees who report to them.
As a result, employees feel disconnected from the process and dissatisfied with development activities that don't reflect their interests and aptitudes. Giving employees autonomy over their development activities results in a plan that is more engaging and aligned with their goals and learning preferences.
Only 38% of organizations have self-service resources that enable employees to take ownership of their career planning, but those that do are 1.8X more likely to have a career development program rated "effective" or "highly effective" than those that don't.
Give employees direction
Provide guidance to help employees choose the steppingstones and milestones that help them get from where they are now to where they want to go next.
When organizations let employees choose their own path to career development, they also need to give them guidance along the way. This includes setting a clear destination and assigning progressive steps to help them get there. Yet only 22% of employers have clearly defined career paths for employees seeking more responsibility in management roles and even fewer—19%—have clearly defined career paths for employees seeking more responsibility in individual contributor roles.
Organizations that help employees visualize career opportunities and options for moving forward using technology are 2.8X more likely to have career-development programs rated "effective" or "highly effective."
Give employees feedback
Deliver regular feedback on and recognition of employee progress to provide the insight and motivation they need to continue their journey.
Successful career development programs empower employees to explore and co-create their own path to development, but that doesn't mean that managers can stay on the sidelines. Employees need regular feedback to help them evaluate and accelerate their progress as well as regular recognition to acknowledge how far they have advanced towards the goal.
Organizations where managers care highly about employees' happiness in their careers and regularly discuss long- and short-term professional goals are 10.4X more likely to have career-development programs that are rated "effective" or "highly effective."
Make learning relevant
Provide development activities that are connected to role-relevant competencies and include a mix of on-the-job experiences, interpersonal learning, and formal training.
One of the biggest challenges in designing a career development program is ensuring alignment between learning options and role requirements. Employees need to know that they are using their time and energies wisely, and that their development efforts will have a direct and positive impact on their career success.
Using competencies to structure learning paths can help to keep development activities relevant and focused. By mapping multimodal learning opportunities to a competency's specific proficiency level, employees and managers alike can build a development path that follows the 70-20-10 learning model and provides a highly targeted mix of on-the-job training, courses, certifications, and mentorship opportunities.
Companies that use competencies see a 19% improvement in employee performance and 26% higher revenue per employee.
Support development activities with technology that enables employees to self-assess, explore career paths, and build customized development plans.
Competency-based, employee-centric career development is complex. It involves a range of learning modalities, all of which need to be mapped to specific job requirements. It also needs to enable employees to self-assess, build their own development goals, and measure their progress against the goal. And finally, it needs to give managers clear workflows and visibility into employee progress so that they can provide feedback and encouragement along the way.
That's why the right technology solution is integral to program success. Organizations that use technology to help employees visualize career opportunities and options for moving forward are 2.8X more likely to have career-development programs that are rated "effective" or "highly effective." They are also 36% more likely to have clear, well-communicated career advancement plans, 20% more likely to see higher employee engagement, and 14% more likely to see increased employee retention.
Explore technology options
Launching a career development program can help your organization overcome the extraordinary challenges of today's job market. See how CompetencyCore technology empowers employees to assess their strengths and reach their potential. Learn more about CompetencyCore.
 Sherman Garr, S., (2012) Integrated Talent Management: A Roadmap for Success. Bersin and Associates.