Providing Your Employees a Clear Path to Follow

When making the journey toward a new destination — including along a career track — good directions are essential. However, managers often fail to give employees the map and “roadside assistance” they need to travel successfully from “Point A” to the desired “Point B” in the organization. The result: Workers decide to make their own path — out the exit door.

According to Robert Half’s Special Report: The Demand for Skilled Talent, specialized talent is already in short supply, which makes it even more critical to ensure your workers can clearly see their potential to advance. Add to this the findings of a recent Robert Half survey, in which 54 percent of professionals polled felt knowing their potential career path is “very important” to their overall job satisfaction. Generation Y workers, in particular, need to be able to visualize a defined career path; research by Robert Half found that these professionals counted the desire for greater advancement opportunities among the top reasons they change jobs.

To give your staff the appropriate guidance and support to reach their professional goals — and define a realistic timeline for getting there — you need to first understand what they’re striving toward. Start the conversation by asking your employees, “How do you view your future career path at our firm?” Then, based on what they tell you, and what you already know about their professional strengths and weaknesses, you can:

•    Recommend learning and training opportunities. What knowledge and skills would the employee need in order to attain the role he’s working toward? Would he have to earn any certifications? Refine his communication abilities? Build his technology expertise? A bigger question: What can the firm do to help him earn this essential experience in a way that also benefits the business? For example, are there skills in short supply that the organization would welcome? Another idea is to ask the employee to share his knowledge with others at the firm when training is complete.

•    Encourage networking. Who are the company’s key players an employee should know if she wants a faster track “up the ladder” (or perhaps, just a quicker transition to a different type of role)? Help her connect with others inside and outside the department who can provide valuable career guidance and industry insight. Building these relationships is dependent on the employee’s motivation, of course, but you can still help to make important introductions that could shorten her journey to the next level.

•    Establish a mentoring arrangement. Building on the above idea, is there someone in the organization who would serve as an ideal mentor to your employee? A mentor not only can share practical knowledge, but also provide hands-on guidance and insight that will help the up-and-coming professional better understand the organizational politics he must navigate to achieve his professional goals.

As a manager, you can do only so much to help your employees realize their full potential at your firm. They are ultimately responsible for their careers. However, by showing them what steps they will need to take to reach important milestones along their desired path, you can enhance their chances of success and build loyalty in the process.

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