In the seven years since Beverly Kaye and I originally wrote Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go, career development has only become more important. In today’s business environment, talent continues to be the major differentiator. As artificial intelligence and other advances take hold, we’re coming to terms with the reality that there’s no substitute for what human beings are uniquely suited to contribute to the workplace. As a result, developing people to optimize their capacity is quickly becoming a compelling and strategic priority across organizations.
Developing talent is also recognized as one of the most significant drivers of employee engagement, which in turn is the key to critical outcomes including revenue, profitability, innovation, productivity, customer loyalty, quality, cycle time reduction, and more. All the things organizations need to survive and thrive.
But the reality of career development continues to morph in response to the evolving business landscape. Baby boomers are living longer – and working longer. Belt tightening efforts that led to delayering and downsizing show no signs of loosening. There are fewer and fewer levels of management to which to aspire. Work gets organized and done more organically these days.
More jobs are being filled with contingent workers. Full-time employees only make up just over half of the workforce. The rest is comprised of part timers, contractors, consultants, interns and more. Gig workers have become a significant economic and employment factor.
All of this breeds a sense of uncertainty, and in some cases, scarcity. It leaves the impression that there aren’t as many opportunities as there once were, making career development more important and more complex than ever before.
Organizations that ignore the development imperative do so at their own peril. Every day, employees who believe that their careers are not getting the attention they deserve make the decision to leave. Some resign to pursue employment in organizations that offer greater opportunity. Others decide the freelance life fits them better, and they cobble together a variety of projects that become their career.
But an equally dangerous group is made up of those who stay but withdraw their engagement, motivation, and enthusiasm for the work. Their bodies report for duty but they’ve left their spirits and enthusiasm at home.
And all of this matters. A lot. Economic researchers point to evolving skill gaps, changes to immigration policies, and changing demographics as indicators that we are in for a sustained labor shortage. Cities – looking to build their populations – are offering relocation packages to attract new residents. Buckle up. It’s going to be a bumpy ride because retention – if it’s not already – is what’s going to keep you awake at night.
Lifetime employment guarantees and gold watches at retirement are artifacts of the past. But that doesn’t mean the leaders today don’t have powerful tools to keep their best and brightest talent. Because today, employees are looking for other sources of security – skills, knowledge and development experiences. Offer these and – while there’s no guarantee that people will stay longer, they’ll be able to contribute more while they’re with you. And you’ll build an attractive employment brand in a competitive marketplace.
(Adapted from Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Organizations Need and Employees Want)
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