Career Development – Whose Job Is It Anyway?

For Employees to Move Up and Improve, Managers Need to Play an Active Role.

When I was fresh out of college and in my first real job the company sent out a notice that all MBA graduates would be put on a fast-track development program. When I was in college, I had heard about this sort of thing so I was pretty excited to get involved.

I filled out the forms and gave them to my boss, who sent them on to the corporate headquarters. I waited for some kind of feedback, only to be disappointed by not getting any. When I asked my boss what happened, he just kind of rolled his eyes as if to say it probably fell into the corporate black hole.

The lesson I learned was that employees get excited about having some sort of development in the workplace. If that development does not happen, employees become disappointed and become skeptical of future company initiatives.

As a manager of people, your primary responsibility is to get results through your people. Your goals should be to not only hit the numbers, but to have your employees motivated to hit the numbers. One part of employee motivation is for them to know that they have a future in the company, something to look forward to that is beyond what they are doing today.

Some people will want to advance vertically, staying in their current function but getting advanced skill-building and broadening their scope of responsibility. Other people want to advance by moving out of their current role and perhaps going to other departments to get a greater level of experience in different parts of the company. In both cases, you as a manager have a responsibility to help your people move ahead within your organization. Some considerations when meeting that responsibility follow.

Set clear expectations. For someone to move up, either within your department or outside of it, they must meet performance expectations. You should make this the price of entry for them to get your development efforts. As the manager, make expectations very clear right from the start. Do not assume that people understand exactly what they are supposed to be doing. Check and double check that they understand what good performance looks like.

Find out what their goals are. Just as performance expectations must be clear with your employees, they must make it clear to you what they see as career goals for themselves. Get on paper their short and long-term goals. Do they want to move into management? Do they want to be the best solo contributor in the company? Help your employees learn how to set career goals that are challenging, yet attainable. Again, check and double check that this is what they want to do.

Discuss career development regularly. Just like performance goals, in order for career goals to be met there must be regular follow-up. Whenever you have face-to-face discussions about goals, make sure you check in on progress with career development. The employee is ultimately responsible for their career, but you have some things to do in the process also. In your discussions, as your employees what they need help with in order to get to the next step. Make sure you put money in your training and development budget to pay for formal training and education for your employees. Try to make sure each of you comes away from development discussions with a couple action items.

Work with other managers. To some of your employees, development means getting exposure to other parts of the company. That exposure could lead some employees to move out of your supervision. You have to be ok with that, which can be difficult for some managers. Excellent companies need well rounded employees that have an understanding of many departments’ functions. Put your employees in situations where they work with other departments. Introduce them to other managers that can help their career also.

Be a good coach and mentor. Chances are, you have been in the shoes of your employees at one time and wanted to move up also. You were probably lucky enough to have a coach that helped you along the way. Your employees are looking for you to be a good coach to help them also. Give them a lot of feedback on both their technical and interpersonal skills. Focus on the strengths as well as areas they should improve on. Being a good listener to some of the employee’s challenges will go a long way as a coach.

As you move up in management, you will encounter greater responsibilities in the development of employees. Companies cannot afford to sit still, nor can employees. Both must be developing and improving constantly. You play a vital role in the development of both.

Steve Schumacher is a management consultant, trainer and public speaker with more than 25 years of experience in numerous industries throughout North America, including aggregates operations. He can be reached at [email protected].

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