Career development — it might sound like nothing more than a worthy entry for top buzzword phrases. But the fact is, it can bring major benefits to organizations that take the time to invest. LMS software and a career development plan are two ways employers can emphasize employee growth.
This post will look at how to tackle both those approaches. It’ll provide a framework your business can use for successfully developing your employees.
What if you’re an employee looking to develop your own career? Well, this article also has valuable insights for you. If your company doesn’t currently invest in career development, you can use this article to make the case for why it’s necessary.
- What Is Career Development?
- Why Employers Should Care About Career Development
- Career Development Strategies You Can Use
- Benefits of Developing Talent
- Next Steps
- Organizations are seeing the value in development — 82% of talent developers have active executive support for L&D initiatives
- Only 10% of companies feel “very ready” to improve their learning and development
- 94% of employees will stay with a company longer if it invests in their career development
- Replacing an employee can cost up to 213% of that employee’s annual salary
What Is Career Development?
Career development is the process of continually honing current skills or gaining new ones for the purpose of advancing along a desired career path. It promotes ongoing learning throughout a person’s lifetime, equipping them for transitioning to new roles and preparing for future positions in line with personal and professional goals.
The primary definition of career development applies to employees, making it a personal undertaking. In other words, a person can pursue career development whether or not they receive aid from an employer.
However, career development can be approached from a company standpoint as well. In this case, the focus is on facilitating the growth and development of employees. There are a number of ways to accomplish this — using software to deliver training and helping employees create a career development plan are two of the most effective.
Why Employers Should Care About Career Development
Today’s organizations face a diverse and potent set of challenges. The war for talent. Disruptions due to technology and global changes. A 2018 voluntary turnover rate of 27% in the U.S.
The ability to retain top talent is essential in such a world, and organizations are recognizing the importance of doing so. More than eight in 10 learning pros said they have executive support for L&D initiatives, according to the LinkedIn 2019 Workplace Learning Report. And at the same time, L&D budgets are increasing while facing fewer constraints.
Improving L&D was also the top trend in Deloitte’s 2019 Global Human Capital Trends report. Eighty-six percent of respondents listed it as “important or very important.” But in stark contrast to that admission, only one in 10 feel “very ready” to tackle such improvements.
It may be tempting to question the wisdom of investing in employee development if they’re bound to take their spiffy new skills to another company at some point — even a competitor.
That’s the wrong way to look at it.
In reality, helping employees with career growth makes them less likely to walk out in search of another job. LinkedIn found that a staggering 94% of employees would remain longer at a company that invested in learning and development.
So the question isn’t, “Can we afford to invest in developing employees?” It’s, “How can we not afford to?”
Strategies You Can Use to Promote Employee Growth
Career development isn’t always an easy journey. Not everyone knows where they want to end up or how to reach that desired destination. However, you can make this process easier for employees by providing them with the tools they need to grow and be successful now and in the future.
Let’s look at a couple ways you can do this.
1. Help Employees Create a Career Development Plan
Ideally, employees shouldn’t have to navigate their career development alone. They need to take ownership, yes, but managers can play a critically important role too. One of the top ways to aid an employee’s goals is by helping them craft a career development plan.
Let’s go over what that involves:
Step 1: Have a conversation
You can’t help employees build a plan without first knowing what they want. The best way to find out is to have a meeting to talk through their aspirations, goals and interests.
It’s important to know what makes them tick and where they want their career to go. Digging deeper into that could involve learning what they’re passionate about, whom they look up to and what they’re naturally gifted at.
You can then suggest opportunities and make recommendations based on that information.
Step 2: Create the plan
Once there’s a framework in place, you can build the plan. Two critical pieces you should focus on are helping your employee define goals (if they don’t already have a clear idea of what they want) and putting an action plan in place.
A career plan is a thorough evaluation of where an employee is, what they want and how to move from point A to point B in the most effective fashion. It should include:
- The field of work they’re most interested in
- An assessment of where they are now
- Their long-term goal or end destination to shoot for
- Several concrete steps they can take to get there, using SMART goals
- Potential obstacles and ways to overcome them
- A timeline for measuring progress and re-evaluating
Step 3: Point them toward resources
This step can take many forms. Here are a few things you can do to help:
- Recommend a training course the company offers that will teach them vital skills
- Offer them a promotion in line with their career goals
- Propose a lateral move that will set them up for success down the road
- Suggest potential benefits, such as tuition assistance, that the employee can take advantage of
Step 4: Follow up
Career development isn’t a one-and-done approach. You should follow up with employees to see how they’re progressing with their action steps and if their plan has evolved since it was created.
Checking in also shows that you care. It’s not about giving the employee an initial boost only to disappear, never to be heard from again. Employees will be more motivated to perform well, follow through on their plans and do what it takes to succeed if they know you’re invested in their career growth.
Follow-ups can happen during performance reviews (annual and otherwise), but they don’t have to be limited to those times. Setting up a quick time to review where things stand and revise the plan if necessary can be just as effective.
Pitfalls to Avoid With a Career Development Plan
There’re some things you should be aware of when helping employees form a career development plan.
- Avoid making promises. Helping employees with their career development plan doesn’t translate to any sort of guarantee. You need to be clear that you’re happy to help but can’t make any promises about the outcome. People change, companies steer in new directions — there’s too much internal and external uncertainty to guarantee anything.
- Don’t end up executing the plan. In this scenario, you’re Gandalf and the employees are hobbits. You’re the guide. You can help them move in the right direction and give them support. But your job stops there. Ultimately, it’s up to your employees to follow through on the plan.
- Understand local laws. The last thing you need is to get into legal hot water by accidentally implying something you didn’t intend. That’s why you need to stay away from those promises. HR laws vary by region, so know what applies to your situation, especially if you have a global workforce.
- Say no to a cookie-cutter approach. Every employee is different, so every career development plan will reflect their unique journey. Trying to box them in will only backfire.
- Don’t do their job. You can’t be like the college whiz who does all the work to help the team ace their project. Employees need to own their career growth. You can suggest resources you know about, but researching additional options is up to them.
2. Leverage Learning Tools to Assist Employees
A learning management system is a good place to start when looking to boost career development opportunities. You may view these solutions more in light of providing critical job skills and certifications. However, LMS software is one of the primary ways your organization can provide training for your employees.
These systems come with a range of tools for building and managing digital courses. Some support classroom learning as well. With an LMS, your employees can access a host of classes that cover topics far beyond the scope of their current job.
Many LMS solutions also have the ability to import third-party content, such as courses from Udemy, Lynda, OpenSesame and LinkedIn Learning. This is valuable since it removes the need to create an entire library of content from scratch. It also provides you with a more extensive set of courses to offer employees.
However, as Josh Bersin points out in his HR Technology Market 2019 report, the learning market is being reinvented. And while an LMS still plays an important role, it’s prominence at the center of corporate learning has been displaced by an assortment of other tools, Bersin says.
His list of new systems includes:
- Learning experience platforms
- Micro-learning systems
- Program platforms
- Content libraries (for gaining access to third-party content)
- Assessment, VR and virtual learning tools
- Learning record stores (for storing data typically found in an LMS)
Clearly, the landscape is ripe with opportunity for companies willing to invest. The challenge is navigating the path and determining which systems are best-suited for your business.
In order to receive the most ROI, you should examine any solution through the lens of your employee development strategies. What functionality does a solution need to support those strategies? The right platforms should facilitate learning, not just sound good on paper.
(If you want to get a jump start on determining your LMS requirements, check out our free template.)
Benefits of Developing Talent
Every company wants engaged, satisfied employees who stick around for the long haul. Investing in career development is one of the best ways to make that possible. What’s more, there are plenty of other benefits related to talent development.
Replacing someone can cost anywhere from 16% to 213% of an employee’s annual salary. So while investing in company-wide career development may not come cheap, the revolving door alternative is much less cost-effective, especially when it comes to top talent that command higher salaries.
Fill Skills Gaps
By offering learning opportunities, organizations can ensure their workers have the required skills. And if there are any gaps, it’s much easier to fill them with a plan and process for talent development already in place.
Prepare for the Future
Companies can lay a strong foundation for future success by focusing on creating a skilled workforce. Succession planning is one key area where organizations can apply this approach. It provides the means for identifying and cultivating the next generation of leaders to ensure long-term stability and prosperity.
Create a Strong Company Culture
Businesses that want to capture that elusive sense of culture need to start by showing they care about employees. And as we’ve seen in the statistics, one of the best places to do that is by enabling and promoting career development.
Achieve Business Objectives
Without a skilled workforce, it’s impossible for a business to compete. Any strategic goals put in place by the executives require capable employees to produce the desired outcomes. The more training employees go through, the better equipped they become to contribute to an organization’s growth.
Career development can have a significant impact on employees and employers alike. Assisting employees with a career development plan and leveraging software are two key ways you can aid your employees’ growth.
In return, you can expect to see benefits ranging from lower costs and a stronger company culture to an increase in employee satisfaction and performance.
The tools available to facilitate career development come in many forms. Learning management systems, professional programs, third-party resources (e.g., LinkedIn Learning courses) and virtual reality tools are a few examples.
The route to choosing an LMS in particular can be daunting. If you’re at that stage, we’ve put together a free comparison guide to help you sort through your options.
How are you facilitating career development at your company? What obstacles are you facing? Let us know in the comments!