Up, Up and Away: Inflating the Career Development Balloon for your best employees

Pardon me just a moment while I slip on my powder blue leisure suit, comb my curly perm and jump into my orange Pontiac LeMans then flip The Fifth Dimension cassette into my 8-track tape player to hear that groovy tune called “Up, Up and Away”.

HotairballoonOne of my favorite lines of the song is:

Way up in the air in my beautiful balloon
If you’ll hold my hand we’ll chase your dream across the sky
For we can fly we can fly
Up, up and away

Unfortunately, many employers are still stuck in the 70s by failing to provide that career balloon for their valued employees. In Tom Becker’s article “Happiness Helps: Career Development Breeds Employee Engagement, Boosts Organizational Performance” from The Baldrige Resource Library (www.baldrigepe.org/brl) he makes a strong case that when managers encourage and direct their employees to develop their careers, they will reap a whirlwind of benefits.

Yes, I know: Duh.

Yet, how many employers have improved your education? Mapped out your career path? Signed you up for career-opportunity classes (on their dime)? Met with you, yearly, to create or update your career development track? Encouraged you with bonuses, awards, conferences, etc.?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

So many employers just go through the motions. An employee, perhaps even an outstanding one, is only on the payroll. The company has no desire or intention to retain them since they figure they’ll be gone soon anyway or that they are stuck there due to the faltering economy. Thus, no career track or development. Just fill the role at the moment, that’s all.

No balloon here-more like a brick.

Becker says that you are looking for more from your employer than just a paycheck:

 Employees are looking for challenges in their jobs. They want to contribute meaningfully to their organization’s success. By equipping employees to greater          challenges and meaning in their work, career development promotes engagement and enhances the performance of the individual and the organization.

Since most managers know this, it is prudent (and good business) to provide career development. According to a Right Management Survey, employees listed 10 “Engagement Drivers” that they want from their employer:

  1. Work processes.
  2. Learning and development opportunities.
  3. Culture.
  4. Senior leaders.
  5. Communication.
  6. Structure, roles and capability
  7. Recognition and reward.
  8. Customer focus.
  9. Strategy.
  10. Immediate managers.

Becker says that when a company provides career development opportunities, benefits abound:

  1. Engagement: Most companies do engage their employees in career development. (Ratio is 6:1.)
  2. Retention levels are higher: Employees are more likely to stay with their employer when there is career engagement.
  3. Productivity increases: Employees are 2 1/2 times more likely to be more productive in their job.
  4. Performance improves:  Best performing companies are almost three times more likely to provide career development opportunities than below-average performers.

It’s hard to believe that smart companies would leave this aspect of their business out. Yes, the recession has caused many companies to scale down their non-medical benefits with fewer conferences, classes and bonuses. They simply cannot afford it right now.  That’s understood.

So, using the recession as fall-back, some narrow-minded companies prefer the “Devil-You-Know” strategy: The economy is intensely precarious as new career opportunities elsewhere are severely limited in number and scope, that the unhappy employee is just going to hold their nose and stay anyway.  It’s much better to stay with the “Devil you know” (us, the lousy employer) than you (the stellar employee) testing the icy waters of the bad economy for a less stable job which is the “devil you don’t know.”

Consequently, the company pops that career development balloon with the convenient recession needle. Eventually, the disgruntled employee leaves as the clueless company publishes a “help wanted” ad and starts all over.

Instead of adopting that failed strategy, Becker gives us four reasonable remedies:

  1. Develop from within to hire from the outside.
  2. Ensure your investment in learning and development
    is meaningful.
  3. Provide employees with incentives to progress.
  4. Make employees partners in their own development.

Do you really want to keep your best best employees? Then give them an incentive to stay by taking the time to develop their career path. You will have a much happier, more productive and less transient work force.

“Up. Up and Away” is not just pleasant 70s elevator muzak. It’s a tried and true way to keep your best employees happy and your company successful no matter what the economic environment may hold.

If you’d like to read the article reviewed here, visit our Baldrige Resource Library website at www.baldrigepe.org/brl/. 

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About Owner and CEO, Philip Day Communications

I'm a professional copywriter, blogger, voiceover artist and CEO of Philip Day Communications. (www.PhilipDayCommunications.com). My experience in public relations, writing, non-profit management and broadcasting gives me a unique perspective on business, charities and media. Plus, I just enjoy writing, broadcasting and people!
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