Remember the old days of career development? It tended to resemble neatly laid concrete with clearly marked directional arrows pointing toward next steps. Now, the routes may look less like a paved road and more like a path in a forest, where there are many trails, untraveled offshoots and few signs to guide the way.
Some will find these open possibilities exhilarating. Others may find it challenging to understand how or even what questions to ask to make forward progress. And there are likely to be people who can resonate with either sentiment depending on the day.
To support staff and the health of the organization, it’s important that professionals in Human Resources (HR), Learning & Development (L&D) and Organizational Development (OD) rethink career pathing strategies to empower employees to take the lead in their own development. By prioritizing five areas of focus, these functions can modernize their approach to growth.
#1 – Open Up Job & Project Postings
When departments share information about new initiatives they are embarking on or roles they are filling, others see what opportunities are available within the organization. Through project-based assignments, employees can take part in temporary experiences to build new skills, discover their interests outside of their current functions and tackle different, enriching problems. With new positions, team members may apply existing talents in new ways and take a leap to an alternative trajectory. Both options can help staff on their development journeys so long as company leaders are open to embracing internal mobility.
#2 – Offer Rotational Programs
In the past, many companies have had initiatives where recent graduates rotate through multiple functions over the course of one to two years before settling into an area of specialty. It’s important to remember that young professionals are not the only ones who are curious about exploring other disciplines. By introducing rotational programs enterprise-wide, the broader workforce can test out departments or new jobs they may not have originally considered. In building rotational programs, identify timelines and ensure staff can work on meaningful projects to allow them to truly get a feel for another position.
#3 – Embrace Job Enrichment
Related to the concept of job crafting, this process enables individuals to make adjustments to their role such as taking on extra tasks, engaging different skills or promoting greater autonomy. The intention is to increase personal motivation as well as build capacity in ways that may not have been part of a person’s initial position description. To engage in job enrichment, deliver training and resources to individuals and managers to support the process and be clear about any limitations around the practice. For example, most companies will want to encourage changes that serve both the person’s growth and the organization’s future.
#4 – Encourage Self-Awareness
Self-understanding enables individuals to better recognize what interests them, where they get energy and what will keep them motivated. Through this process of self-inquiry, people can realize what sorts of changes they may want to make in their roles and uncover passions and priorities to guide their way. Utilizing assessments like Emergenetics® can be a great starting point to help people recognize how they prefer to think and behave, what is naturally energizing to them and ways they may want to apply those insights in their daily work.
#5 – Provide Avenues to Express Needs
As employees navigate their futures and consider a multitude of pathways forward, it’s essential that they can voice their curiosities, challenges and needs. Identify multiple avenues for staff to convey what they want to learn, what obstacles they want to solve and what growth prospects are of interest. Some options include regular surveys, a suggestion box directed to the L&D team, feedback on existing trainings, performance evaluations and regular check-ins with managers. Understanding these individual perspectives allows supervisors as well as HR, OD and L&D professionals to adjust training plans accordingly.
While the career paths of the future may have more twists and turns than in the past, they also provide many opportunities for employees to build on their interests and experience different types of meaningful work. By investing in systems to help the workforce expand their capacities and explore possibilities, HR, OD and L&D professionals can boost engagement and support the success of their staff while simultaneously driving organizational excellence.
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