What next? How to help employees reach their career plan milestones

Career plan

Time and again, it has been revealed that one of the leading reasons people leave their jobs is because they lack a career plan. In other words, they don’t see the opportunity for advancement at their company. And, this seems to be particularly true among Millennials – who are now the largest generation in the US workforce.

Gallup shared that 59% of Millennials say that learning and growth opportunities are extremely important considerations when applying for a job (whereas, 44% of Gen X-ers and 41% of Baby Boomers say the same). Further, 87% of Millennials rate professional or career growth and development opportunities as important in a job (69% of non-Millennials agree).

Mapping out the opportunity for growth

Perhaps – knowing that career growth is an important aspect of retaining today’s professionals – you’ve already helped your employees develop career maps. Not too long ago, we had a look at how to do that. You can find out more here.

To recap on some pertinent points briefly, we recommended talking to employees about their ‘dream career’ and using their SWOT analysis along with your team KPIs to help individuals develop a career plan that works for them and the company.

You could start with a five-year plan, and work backwards to three-year and one-year goals. Once you’ve clarified a few short-term goals, you can help your employees to think about the projects, tasks, and learning opportunities they would need to complete in order to reach them.

Putting a career plan into action

So, the first step is the easy part, but let’s look at how you can implement this growth strategy at your organization, helping an employee put their career plan into effect.

Remember, as we mentioned before, it’s important for employees to understand that the responsibility is ultimately theirs to take the steps towards achieving their aims. But, there are ways that you can support your employees in doing this, simultaneously helping you prevent attrition. Let’s explore these.

Encourage employees to schedule ‘building blocks’ into their calendars

Defining a timeline forms part of the career planning phase, but introducing supporting tasks to that timeline spills over into the implementation phase. Aside from long-term and short-term goals being pinpointed, it’s important to identify what practical steps need to be taken on a monthly (or perhaps, in some cases, weekly) basis to ensure that employees reach their goals.

For example, if an employee hopes to step into a mid-weight copywriting role in your company in the near term, in alignment with your organizational strategy, are there tasks – like writing two or three blogs a week – that the employee could take ownership of and add to their schedule over the next quarter or six months?

Allowing that employee the opportunity to work towards their career plan not only shows that you value their contribution and have confidence in their potential, but it also helps you to understand their competencies and assess their potential for the new role with greater insight. A tool like our workload forecasting and scheduling system can help you manage this process effectively.

You may also want to encourage employees to look out for ‘enrichment’ opportunities that can be put into their calendars. Are there any internal gigs that they can get involved with, for example? Creating an internal gig economy is a great way to foster intrapreneurship and retain top performers by allowing them to take on stimulating work gigs in other departments or teams. Or, are there any significant meetings taking place in upcoming months, or perhaps an important conference within the next year, that promising individuals could be involved with?

It’s important for employees to know that they can approach you to pitch ideas or opportunities like these to you for your consideration. Making room for these tasks or events in employees’ calendars gives them the opportunity to learn and, once again, it shows a level of investment in them from the company.

Present employees with training and development opportunities

As we mentioned in our earlier blog, every career plan should include plans for learning. To ensure that these aspirations don’t get put on the back burner, it’s important to know what your training budget will allow for, to begin with. From that point, you’ll be able to effectively plan out and commit to opportunities where employees can participate in short courses, attend conferences, or the like.

Microlearning is becoming increasingly popular among organizations as a way of upskilling employees. Unlike the long-form, ‘heavy’ learning most of us are familiar with, microlearning – normally presented in an engaging and interactive way via technology – allows employees to digest smaller chunks of information. Click here for tips on how to make this type of learning most effective.

With technology like ours you can set up your ideal learning management process and create structured learning paths or allow learners to select courses in a more ad hoc fashion.

Of course, there are other ways to facilitate learning and upskilling. You may want to encourage mentorships whereby less experienced employees can learn from more tenured colleagues. If you know of suitable mentors, either within your organization or externally, why not help your employees break the ice by making the introduction? Alternatively, you could point employees to resources like this one that will help them gain the confidence to approach a mentor themselves.

You could also set up job shadowing opportunities, or quite simply encourage reading as a means of learning, and with that you could suggest a relevant book to be discussed each quarter.

With a solution like our skills tracking system, you can create a set of skills by department and level, and empower employees to visually see a ‘career path’ and gain the work experience they need to progress. You’ll also gain a bird’s eye view of all groups and see how employees are progressing.

Help each employee stick to their career plan with real-time feedback

Even a high performer with an ambitious career plan may need some motivation along the way. Think of professional athletes – they require feedback from their coaches; at times they need course correction to ensure maximum efficiency, and other times, they could do with some encouragement to keep pursuing their goals.

Similarly, employees benefit from knowing that they’re on the right track and moving towards their career objectives, and this can be offered by organizations via real-time feedback. This approach to feedback is better for employee development, retention and happiness than old-school annual performance reviews, as we previously discussed.

Real-time feedback is so effective because it takes place on an ongoing basis, as things happen. Delayed responses can leave the recipient feeling confused or resentful. And, when necessary, it’s easier and far more effective to course correct as soon as possible.

Acknowledging accomplishments or milestones is a great way of keeping motivation levels high, which in turn will help employees to continue striving towards their goals. Our real-time feedback software helps you to facilitate the process and build this approach into your performance management culture.

Keeping the channels of communication open also helps you to understand how your employees are doing in their quest to reach their career goals, and whether they might need additional support or training along the way to help them succeed – and stay.

Achieve your retention goals with the right tools

As you strive you support your employees in bringing their career plans to life, we know you have goals of your own – one of which is retaining your top performers. With our with our easy-to-use talent management platform, we can help you do just that.

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