Career Development: It’s at the Heart of Employee Commitment

Welcome back to the Culture Hacker series. It is time to talk about career development. This topic is on every employee’s mind, no matter what you might think, but unfortunately, it does not seem to be as important to many employers.

Let’s start by thinking about what career development means. In the 2010 book Employee Training and Development, Noe explains that career development is “the idea of looking at an employee’s career as a whole and designing different sets of formal training, developmental activities, and relationships at each stage.” In short, career development is about investing in the skills and abilities of your people. Not only is this a very reasonable expectation for today’s modern employee, but it is also one that provides a lot of value to the company.

Here is a quick recap of the benefits of career development:

  • Improves Performance and Loyalty: Aguinis and Kraiger in a 2009 study found that employees will work harder and stay longer if an organization shows that it values its employees by taking on the responsibility of shaping their careers.
  • Increases Engagement: In the 2013 Global Talent and Retention Report, Talentkeepers found, “Career and job factors have been shown to be key determinants of reported engagement levels, and these were shown to determine 59% of overall attrition.”
  • Reduces Turnover: A 2012 Randstad employee survey showed that 86% of employees quit their jobs due to a lack of career development.

Higher job performance, increased engagement, and lower turnover ­– which would positively impact quality and customer satisfaction – are direct results of an investment in career development. Did I mention also that your employees would be happier? This is a great case for career development, but still, it seems to be grossly neglected within many organizations. Why? Well, as Aesop wrote, “When all is said and done, more is said than done.” That concept can apply to many of the ideas we focus on within Culture Hacker, but it seems to be extremely prevalent in this one. A lack of time, resources, planning, and understanding all contribute to the current state of career development, but I have also met managers who seem more comfortable keeping staff where they are than developing people who might quickly take their jobs.

How can we start to reprogram the employee experience with career development? Let’s begin with the organization and manager – both play a critical part in making career development a reality. According to Aon Hewitt in 2013, the most important driver of employee engagement is career opportunities. This trend only seems to be becoming more pervasive, with Aon Hewitt stating in 2016, “Career development is the number one driver of engagement globally.” Aon Hewitt’s research in 2013 found that four of the top six engagement drivers were career related. Here are some of the takeaways from that study:

  • Ensure your staff see clearly how they can grow with you and that their development is a priority. When this occurs, people are more likely to be motivated to grow both the business and themselves.
  • Ensure people are given opportunities to develop the necessary skills and training to grow not only into their current roles but to also prepare for future roles.
  • It is important for managers to take a personal interest in the career and motivation of the staff. This is reinforced by Gallup research in 2008, which found that when someone at work talked to staff about their progress, the staff were 92% more likely to stay with the company for another year.

While the organization and managers play a critical role in an employee’s development, don’t forget the employee, too. They need to take some responsibility for their career growth, so whatever system you put in place, ensure the employee is able to be actively involved and has some control over the input and direction they aspire to take. When it comes to career development, consider this thought by Anne Fulton and Jo Mills, authors of The Career Engagement Game, “Career development needs to be individually driven, manager enabled, and organizationally supported.”

In an effort to bring all three constituents together effectively, consider a platform or software solution to be the catalyst for career development in your organization. One such platform we use with our own team is the Fuel50 career engagement software (, which has been developed with all three constituents in mind. It’s a very stylish and thorough platform that enables and empowers associates and managers to engage in meaningful conversations about career choices and planning.

Career development is a critical element in the mindset and attitude of your team, and it is only becoming more vital. Consider your strategy today and be prepared to make career development a priority, because your staff already does. Thanks for reading.

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