Not a magic solution but definitely one that works – how career development programs change the rules

Many studies show a clear correlation between employees’ perception of the potential for personal and professional growth in the company and their degree of engagement, productivity and output. In other words, employees who feel they have no opportunities to grow in the company will most probably exhibit the obvious symptoms of a significant decrease in motivation and low outputs, and will eventually leave the company.

If so, what can be done to avoid this problem and help employees develop and grow even in small companies that don’t offer much mobility?

In the past, companies would outline career paths for their employees in order to enable mobility and growth prospects. These programs ensured mobility between positions and the accumulation of professional and managerial experience. This way, employees could acquire professional or managerial skills and advance to the next position accordingly.

Nowadays, organizations refer to ‘individual development plans’ which are more flexible and do not necessarily follow a linear path between positions. The idea behind this is to formulate personal development plans for employees to help both them and the organization grow.

How to manage such a program?

Managers have a very important role in the realization and success of these development programs. The fact that these are not one-time programs but rather long-term plans, is another reason for the importance of managers’ full involvement. Managers are expected to assist their employees in mapping out their strengths and aspirations and in formulating personal development plans that are consistent with the organization’s needs.

On the more practical side – how do you approach personal career development programs? Here are five principal steps:

  1. 1. Mapping strengths and aspirations – a questionnaire to identify strengths and aspirations (mapping development goals) will be highly expedient in helping your employees map their development goals and methods. At this stage, employees outline the trajectory in which they wish to develop, in a manner that is consistent with the organization’s goals.
  2. 2. Mapping the knowledge and skills required to achieve the development goal – identifying lacks in expertise, knowledge, and skills required in order to progress to the next stage.
  3. 3. Mapping and selecting development methods – besides reassigning your employee to another position, there are many different ways to allow them to develop and grow, such as managing new projects and tasks, developing new fields in the company, learning a new area of ​​expertise through company mentors or external courses.
  4. 4. Outlining and formulating personal career programs – setting definite objectives for the program, timeframes for the various milestones, and clear success indices.
  5. 5. Implementing the programs and monitoring their progress.

Employee or organization, whose responsible?

Notwithstanding the organization’s role in formulating career development programs and the platform it provides to its employees – eventually, employees must assume responsibility for their personal development. Organizations should convey the message: “We see and acknowledge your skills; we provide you with the opportunity to express your skills, and from here on – the path is yours to walk in”.

To put this in a chart –

True, this requires an investment on behalf of the organization, but it will ultimately reap all the rewards. Organizations that invest in individual development programs (IDP) gain a double benefit – an increase in employee engagement, as well as an additional process that promotes their goals and serves to achieve them through the development of human capital.

Attention HR! It begins with you.

Here too, the organization’s HR department plays a crucial role in driving the process – human resource managers must design and formulate appropriate platforms for career programs and help managers implement these programs while adapting them to each employee. This must, of course, be carried out in a manner that is consistent with the specific goals that the company has set for that program.

Remember – there’s more than one way to promote IDPs, and therefore HR managers should think them through and adapt them to the organization’s unique needs. That said, the principal goal underlying this process is, and always will be, improving employee retention and extending employee life cycles.

Spectory, a company with about 50 employees specializing in the development of web and mobile software solutions, provides a good example –  Dovrat Rama, the company’s HR manager, decided to implement an IDP project in small steps in accordance with the company’s spirit of agility. The company’s culture advocates values such as transparency and open dialogue, and so it was decided to implement an IDP program with just a few employees every month.

The very fact that they are a project-based company is an advantage in terms of career development. They are thus able to offer company employees to switch between projects and programming languages, ​​and even between different clients, thereby generating value for employees, for the organization and for its customers who enjoy the services of more experienced employees.

The employees participating in the IDP program are not only top talent employees, but also employees whose work is highly satisfactory. This policy stems from the company’s belief that the current situation in the labor market calls for efforts to retain as many employees as possible and not only the outstanding ones.

As part of the process, once every six months, a ‘growth plan meeting’ is held between the employee, their manager, and the HR manager in which they discuss three main issues:

Personal development – the employee is asked: “Which way would you like to develop in the near term (three/six months)?”

Corporate development – the organization offers the employee various options for development in accordance with their level of expertise.

Salary – this element is proactively brought up as a legitimate and periodic issue, in order to ensure that employees are satisfied with their wages and to prevent feelings of dissatisfaction which eventually lead to quitting.

It should be noted that including the issue of salary in a discussion about professional development is not a trivial matter in IDP processes, but it definitely reflects the company’s attitude and the way it adapts itself to changes and attests to its unique values ​​and goals.

Thanks to the IDP program, Spectory is able to diminish its “blind spots” and manage its human resource more effectively, with the underlying belief in open communication, setting of expectations and investing in employee development for the benefit of the company as a whole.

The field of employment is constantly changing, forcing us to keep adapting ourselves while staying up-to-date and effectively prioritizing. Employee retention and employee engagement are currently among the most burning issues. Therefore, if faced with the dilemma of which of these to address first, there is no doubt that employee development programs should be your first choice. Many organizations implement career development programs to leverage their success and end up realizing that investing in employees, their goals and aspirations, is crucial to the success of organizations as a whole.

Our team of experts is ready to assist you in planning and implementing employee development programs that will be consistent with your culture and goals. Please contact us >>

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