Investing in career development is important for both employees and businesses. Employees that feel like they have opportunities for advancement are happier and more engaged at work, and companies that provide these options are more likely to retain top talent.
Many companies have formal programs that allow employees to see their growth trajectory and milestones, but it’s also possible for employees to develop a plan on their own. When they do, it’s important to make sure the goals are SMART: specific, measurable, attainable and realistic. These goals should be a mix of stepping stones and stretch goals that will help an employee take their career to the next level.
For instance, a stepping stone goal could be to read a certain number of professional books or take an online course. Stretch goals might be a step up in a department or a promotion. Managers can encourage their teams to reach these goals by creating challenges or incentives that will get employees engaged. Using a tool like Nectar allows managers to track progress and reward employees with points when they achieve a challenge.
However, it’s also important to remember that despite an employee’s best-laid plans, they may not always pan out the way they expect. In fact, McKinsey found that 41% of employees who left their company did so because they didn’t have enough opportunities to grow their careers there. To combat this, companies should leave room for experimentation in the career development process by encouraging risk-taking and providing employees with learning opportunities that will bring their goals to life.