How To Create A Culture That Encourages Employee Advancement

Why do good employees leave good employers? There are a host of reasons, but one of the most compelling is a lack of advancement potential. It’s hard to want to plant roots when you know that your growth will be limited, especially if you’re a talented worker who’s willing to buckle down.

When Pew Research asked people why they quit jobs in 2021, lack of advancement was cited by 63% of survey respondents; people don’t want to waste their time in what they perceive as dead-end jobs. They’d rather move on than stagnate, especially in a job market that continues to favor candidates over employers.

Accordingly, your job as a leader is two-fold. First, you need to ensure that you don’t lose your best people who want to progress. Secondly, you want to attract great applicants who are eager to find places where they can move up the proverbial ladder. You can achieve both of these tasks by putting a few measures into place.

1. Prioritize employee professional development.

Forget everything you thought you knew about workers who are just phoning it in and quiet quitting en masse. A 2022 survey from The Conference Board revealed that 96% of participants wanted to continue to learn more about their craft. Yet most of them are relegated to educating themselves because their employers aren’t providing clear-cut professional development training opportunities.

To stand out from other companies that aren’t devoted to upskilling and reskilling their teams, you need to provide continuous on-the-job education. Scott Scully, CEO of Abstrakt Marketing Group, makes sure to prioritize his workers’ professional growth. In fact, his company has put multiple initiatives in motion to create ample pathways for team members to expand their careers within the organization.

“We provide extensive training, both online and in-person, to help [employees] explore other career options and acquire the necessary skills for advancement,” Scully explains. “By offering general business training—covering management, leadership, communication, HR, and more—as well as position-specific training, we ensure that our team members grow regardless of their chosen path.” He goes on to add that this move has helped foster a culture that thrives on individual accountability, collective collaboration, and growth.

To guide your internal training program, assess each job within your business. What skills do people need today? How about tomorrow, so they can keep up as technology evolves and changes? Once you have an idea of different skills that could be valuable to employees as well as the company as a whole, you can begin mapping out training sessions and promotional avenues. That way, you can give employees more reason to stay and also attract new workers who want a transparent path to progression within your organization.

2. Set up formal mentorship programs.

Mentoring is a highly effective and personalized way for employees to get extra guidance for building their abilities. Regrettably, according to reporting by The Mentor Method, only 37% of people have access to mentoring. The other 63% of workers are presumably left to find mentors on their own time, which can be challenging and overwhelming.

The answer to this problem is obvious: You can set up a formal mentoring program at your company, as 84% of the top Fortune 500 corporations have already done. By formalizing the process, you give your company some key benefits. Number one, you control the mentoring experience and can make sure it happens regularly. Two, you can build engagement and connections throughout your workforce. Three—and most importantly to this topic—you are able to identify people who should be on a promotion track.

To create your mentorship program, you’ll need a core set of mentors and mentees. Typically, mentors come from the upper levels of a company. Think managers, directors, and executives. The mentor needs to be accessible to the mentee, as well as capable of passing along insights and information. The mentee should be willing to take advice and feedback from a senior worker who possesses a different skill set.

How often your mentors and mentees meet is up to you. Monthly can work for most people’s schedules. Ideally, you’ll want each meeting to have some structure. A structured setup allows the mentee to progress. For example, the mentor listens to the mentee’s latest challenges and then presents options for the mentee to consider to resolve those challenges. During the next meeting, the mentee can share what happened, and more challenges can be brought to the table. Over time, this continual advancement will give the mentee the capabilities, confidence, and know-how necessary to advance professionally.

3. Encourage managers to get to know their direct reports’ career aspirations.

Far too many managers shy away from talking about career paths with their most talented employees, which is perhaps why GoodHire found that just 39% of workers said their bosses were open about upcoming promotions. They worry that if they start bringing up the subject, the employees will leave. However, it’s much better to foster open communication lines so employees can share their career aspirations.

Think of it this way: When a manager knows the goals of an employee, the manager can guide the employee toward meeting those goals while staying with the company. Let’s say a terrific salesperson talks about one day running a department and leading other salespeople with his manager. The manager, along with HR’s assistance, could begin grooming the employee for more supervisory duties. This keeps the employee moving along and adds more experience to their credentials without having to leave the company. Eventually, the employee’s manager may move to a higher position, at which time this salesperson will be a potential match to take over.

Employees deserve to be treated like whole people, not like cogs in a machine. When your managers see their direct reports, they do a service to their relationships with employees. Inevitably, strong employee-boss connections lead to less attribution and more engaged—and promotable—people.

Upward internal mobility of your workers is good for your company and all its stakeholders. Over the coming months, focus your intentions on constructing a culture that pushes talent up rather than keeping folks down.

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