As career development professionals, we are used to working with students, jobseekers and workers to help them navigate their career paths and develop “road maps” to get them to their destinations. Some of us work with employers to support recruitment and engagement. But if you are a leader with a career development organization, how do you navigate career management with your own team?
Career development may get overlooked in these organizations for a host of possible reasons. As a leader, perhaps you assume career development professionals are already well-equipped to handle their own career development, or, like other businesses, it may be challenging to make the time in your day for it. As we know, career development is not an event – it’s a lifelong journey.
Career development organizations are unique: they are equipped with a variety of valuable tools and resources to support career development and can intentionally integrate retention practices that benefit both staff and the organization.
Retention is a huge deal right now – just open LinkedIn and see the flood of articles speaking to the importance (and challenges) of supporting team members so they stay and grow with an organization. We’ve also heard about the trend of “rage applying” and the impact on companies when team members are dissatisfied with their work (or where they do their work).
So, how can you foster a positive work environment to reduce turnover and encourage growth and development?
Here are five strategies that will help you level up your leadership as a leader in a career development organization.
1. Initiate career development discussions with your team members
As much as employees need to drive the bus on their career development, they need a supportive leader to have these conversations. Don’t wait until performance appraisal time to do this. Consider having regular chats – separate from regular 1:1s to follow up on client work, projects or other initiatives. Ask “What aspects of your work energize you?” “What aspects of your work deplete your energy?” and “What work would you like to do that you haven’t had the opportunity to do yet?”
2. Provide development opportunities
Team members are more likely to stick around if there are accessible opportunities to build new skills and have new resume-building experiences. And if you think you need to spend money to provide team members with these experiences – think again. There are loads of career development opportunities that are free of charge, such as discussing career development topics as a team, sharing resources, shadowing and 1:1 check-ins. Help team members understand how they can access these opportunities, in addition to training and mentoring, and provide coaching and reinforcement along the way. Lisa Taylor’s Retain & Gain publication series for CERIC outlines many different strategies.
3. Create an environment of psychological safety
Team members will start looking around if they are reprimanded for mistakes or do not feel safe to take risks. The foundation of psychological safety is trust – and building trust is like building a bank account. Some activities and behaviours will be like deposits to the “trust account” and will build trust with teams. However, there are also activities and behaviours (often unintentional) that act as withdrawals to this account and fracture this trust.
One of the easiest-to-digest resources to help leaders build psychological safety is The Psychological Safety Playbook: Lead More Powerfully by Being More Human by Karolin Helbig and Minette Norman, which contains 25 “plays” to encourage team learning, collaboration and innovation.
4. Ask for feedback
If you have never asked team members for their perspectives on your leadership, this one may feel awkward and uncomfortable. And yet it’s one of the strongest ways to build trust within teams and get a clear picture of what’s working – or not working. Consider asking your team members “What would you like more of from me?” and “What would you like less of from me?” You may be surprised – and illuminated – by their responses.
5. Reward and recognize
One of the reasons employees leave organizations is because of a lack of feedback. In the chaos of the day, it can be easy to forget to offer praise and encouragement for team members’ efforts. Instead of a vague “good job,” be specific about a team member’s contribution to a project, solution or initiative.
By focusing on employee retention, you can create a more stable, productive and positive work environment for your employees. Investing in your employees’ career development will create a more engaged, productive and skilled team that can support the company through challenges and opportunities. When career development is not prioritized, you can likely quickly identify the impact within your team.
To quote leadership guru Simon Sinek, “The responsibility of a company is to serve the customer. The responsibility of leadership is to serve their people so that their people may better serve the customer. If leaders fail to serve their people first, customer and company will suffer.”
When we focus on career development and retention strategies with our teams, we are encouraging better service and positive outcomes for our clients. To increase career fulfillment, you can give employees the chance to do work that gives them energy, for a company that believes what they believe. A positive outcome to strive for.