4 Ways to Help Employees Progress in their Career


HR Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for HR pros

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Providing the right support for employees is the best way to help them realize their full potential and ensure that the company retains its most valuable professionals.

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4 Ways to Help Employees Progress in their Career
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One of the most important elements of HR is to provide employees with the support and resources they need to progress and realize their full potential. This not only encourages them to remain with the company but also increases the value they offer to the business as a whole.

What motivates professionals depends on their own personal traits and priorities, which can make it difficult for HR to introduce company-wide support, but there are some overarching themes that should ensure all employees get the resources they need for progression.

Why is employee progression important?

So why should you invest your organization’s time, effort and resources into helping your employees progress? After all, you don’t want to spend money improving the skill levels of your staff, only to have them jump ship and take that knowledge to your rivals. However, this isn’t a likely scenario; in fact, the opposite is true.

Employees rate development as one of the most important aspects of their work. One study found that 81% of workers think it’s important for their employer to invest in their progression, and that L&D is more important to the modern workforce than salary.

This isn’t something you can afford to neglect if you want to retain your most talented staff. One report found that over half of US workers would quit their jobs if their employers didn’t provide necessary training, showcasing that development is increasingly important to your employees, and they’re prepared to go elsewhere to get it.

This is particularly true among younger generations. For example, 42% of millennials said L&D was the most important aspect to consider when deciding where to work. However, less than half said their current employer was providing opportunities to progress.

Given that millennials have been the largest age group in the US labor force since 2016, this need shouldn’t be neglected. Without opportunities for progression, your staff will feel less valued and will be more likely to look elsewhere for a job. To achieve employee retention and loyalty, you need to invest in L&D. Here are four ways you can do just that.

1. Get managers onboard with your vision

HR can do their very best but without the support of management, they'll struggle to implement any meaningful changes. Clear communication is key so it's important that you are regularly speaking to them, allowing them to update you on any progress or problems that they're experiencing. This will not only ensure that managers feel involved in the process but also helps to standardize the approach throughout the company.

It's important that HR communicate the overall objectives or goals of any employee-facing scheme. Whether it's increasing retention, raising morale or boosting the value of each professional, you're likely to get more support if management understand what the purpose of the initiative is.

2. Take responsibility for top talent

Leaving it entirely up to managers to spot the most promising talent on their team is unlikely to yield the best results so it's important that HR take it upon themselves to identify the most valuable employees. Progression is often about being in the right place at the right time and you should ensure that professionals with the most potential are exposed to the development opportunities they need.

The resources and support an individual needs to move in the right direction will largely depend on them so take the time to understand what your top talent needs and how HR can best provide it.

3. Identify areas of autonomy

Budding managers need to be given the chance to expand their skill set  as soon as possible. By communicating with the current management team, you can make sure they don't feel as though they're being usurped, while also identifying the best candidates to nurture for leadership roles. Through these conversations, managers should look to identify areas where they could give or expand the autonomy of professionals. Whether it's helping onboard new employees or taking on more responsibility for projects, giving employees more freedom is a great way to bring out their full potential.

Managers should see this as an opportunity to coach employees and share whatever skills or experience they have. If professionals flourish with their new responsibilities, ensure there is an appropriate progression scheme in place to prevent their enthusiasm from burning out.

4. Allow employees to control their career

Trying to get professionals to fit into the progression plan you have outlined for everyone can lead to disappointing results. Instead, ensure employees have the power to control their own progression. It should feel like an organic process that rewards those putting in the work, rather than a box-ticking exercise that looks impressive.

This is something that managers can communicate, but HR needs to be the driving force to make sure promises are being met and employees are progressing, regardless of who their manager is.

The true value of L&D

L&D isn’t just for the benefit of your employees. While it’s a great way to upskill your staff and attract talent to your organization, it can also have serious positive impacts on your business. Here are two significant benefits that can come your way if you invest in L&D:

Business growth

If your employees are given the opportunity to learn and develop, they’ll improve their skills and become better at their jobs. It shouldn’t be too hard to see how that can be incredibly good for your business. In fact, organizations engaging in employee development have seen profits double compared to those that don't.

Focusing on employee L&D is a great strategy for business growth. One study found that organizations developing their employees’ skills saw their productivity increase by 45%, their innovation by 34% and their overall performance by 47%. It’s clear that this is key to business success.

The value of staff retention

Staff retention is also valuable in its own right. Recruitment is expensive, and there’s no guarantee that you’re going to end up with someone as talented as the person you’re replacing. It costs an average of $4,129 to hire a new employee, and can take up to 52 days to fill a position; does that sound like something your organization can afford?

Then there’s the inherent value that comes from having loyal staff. One study found that the value of companies that can keep hold of their employees is 9% higher than those with low retention. If investing in L&D helps you hold onto your staff, it’s likely to be an incredibly wise investment.

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