The world of work has changed dramatically over the last few years. Even before the COVID pandemic entered our lives, employees began focusing more and more on their wellbeing, work-life balance and their long-term career growth. Organizations were already struggling to adapt to their employees’ changing focus and needs when the pandemic brought about significant new challenges such as employee shortages and the Great Resignation. Now more than ever, it is important to focus on career growth as a way of showing employees that we are listening to and supporting their needs as well as combatting attrition and retaining key talent for the long run. Organizations that prioritize employee growth reap significant competitive advantages, such as better business outcomes, increased flexibility, decreased attrition and more.
The significance of employee career growth in the new world of work
Career growth plays an instrumental role in the employee experience and is an essential part of connecting people to the organization. It is the overall ability to progress in the workplace and encompasses all the enrichment opportunities, both personal and professional, that motivate development throughout the entire career journey. Growth goes beyond short-term achievements such as titles, promotions, and compensation. It is about seeing the bigger picture, making decisions for the long-term and cultivating a network of individuals that are invested in personal success for the duration of an entire career.
Opportunity, strong career paths and the potential for growth have become the foundation of effective workforce strategy. In fact, research shows that high-performing companies are 37x more likely to support employees in achieving their long-term goals. Cultivating a culture of employee growth means showing employees that there is a personal investment in their individual career objectives. From prioritizing upskilling opportunities and mentorship programs to creating a learning-for-all culture and designing systems to support employees as they take on leadership roles, companies that find ways to help employees reach their full potential while fulfilling the organizational mission will decrease retention and boost productivity.
Key initiatives to support and improve career growth focus in a hybrid workplace
1. Fostering fairness, equity, and inclusion for all
Equity has become a defining issue for business leaders as they face new challenges in how to ensure fairness across the progressively diverse employee experience. Addressing equity will be an important priority for HR executives this year as 82% of survey respondents reported a lack of fairness in their workplace. In the new world of work, creating an environment where employees have the ability to succeed means treating them fairly and equitably both when it comes to promotions and development opportunities. It is important to ensure that those who choose to work from home don’t get left behind as those working from the office may get more face time with management. Fostering a sense of inclusion among employees of all social groups, genders, races, and backgrounds is critical to achieving equal opportunity as well. Data collected in 2021 indicates that nearly 1 out of every 10 LGBTQ workers faced discrimination in the workplace in the last year. And while Black women request promotions the same amount as their male counterparts, only 58 of them receive promotions for every 100 men. It’s vital to recognize bias and ensure inclusive leadership so that all members of the organization are comfortable requesting greater investment in their career trajectories. Sponsorship programs can also help boost growth as 81% of the women of color with sponsors say they are more likely to be happy with their level of career progression than those without sponsors. Having the right tools and processes in place can ensure management is adhering to inclusion and diversity targets.
2. Supporting internal mobility on a strategic, organizational level
Engaging employees and cultivating a culture of career growth presents a whole new set of challenges for a dispersed workforce. Providing organizational support and making growth a priority goes well beyond annual performance reviews. Implementable and well-administered promotion policies and procedures are crucial to sustaining career growth for remote workers. To build energized teams who take greater ownership of their work, managers should be intentional about discussing personal goals and ensure employees can visualize their future no matter where they are. To decrease attrition rates and strengthen morale, organizations must invest in greater internal mobility, training, feedback, and coaching. Structuring programs to support long-term achievement will empower individuals to reach their full potential. Candidates who aren’t chosen for a specific role should be given detailed feedback and shown how to strengthen their skill-set so that they are well-placed to go for future promotions.
3. Creating stronger hybrid and remote communities
Studies show that maintaining strong, diverse relationships in the workplace is not only critical to success, but a key driver of career growth. These relationships embody cooperation and equality while encouraging trust and confidence. A strong network can lead to greater advancement opportunities, improved industry knowledge, and provide greater capacity to innovate. Workplace networks are one of the most powerful tools in an individual’s professional armory and for management, fostering meaningful relationships is an integral part of getting team buy-in. Employees who are less effective at creating strong relationships, whether remotely or face-to-face, may find collaboration challenging and consistently feel out of touch with coworkers.
During the pandemic, our professional networks suffered. Kept away from colleagues by social distancing, networks shrunk by approximately 16%. Attention shifted away from networking to relying on relationships with family, close friends, and those within our inner circle of colleagues. Experts explain it by inviting us to think of our network as a series of six concentric circles. These circles lessen in emotional power as one moves toward the bigger rings on the outside. When researchers compared the networks of individuals before and after the pandemic, they found that for most people, the outermost ring has shrunk in size. And while the immediate threat from Covid-19 is over, we have emerged into a new world characterized by great employee migration and colleagues that have never met one another in person – exacerbating the struggle to replace lost relationships in the workplace with new ones. This fascinating realization adds fuel to the argument that now more than ever, companies must shift their focus to ensuring their new hires and tenured employees strengthen their workplace relationships to support career growth. Organizations looking to cultivate connections from afar should focus on encouraging employees to treat their virtual careers in the same way as real-world interactions. Guiding team members to find mentors, creating online networking opportunities, and finding new creative ways for them to show their talents – are all vital to creating and sustaining relationships in a remote or hybrid workplace.
4. Provide data-driven insights that support career growth
In the new world of work, providing visibility into how employees are doing and how the organization can support their growth is a crucial part of executing an effective career growth strategy. Using the power of AI and data that already exists in the organization, companies can now deliver on this promise by deploying advanced people insights solutions that analyze data and provide insights and recommendations.
To find a new way forward in an employee-driven market, companies must tailor their growth plans to accommodate today’s hybrid work models. Inclusion, equity, community and technologies that support career growth from afar are at the heart of this strategy. Businesses should purposefully address the factors that support career growth in the long-term by providing a committed, collaborative, and innovative environment in the process.
Montara provides real-time continuous data-driven insights around employee career growth, leadership, and more to enable strategic focus on career growth in the organization.