Why Career Goals and Plans?

Why Your Organization Should Help Employees to Develop and Use Career Goals and Plans

By Barry Sweeny, 2008

A “Catch 22” Situation?

Many organizations worry that if they build up the capabilities of employees, the employees may leave and take that investment with them. As a result of this thinking, organizations often wait until an employee demonstrates a commitment to the organization, and THEN begin to invest in the person. That is a critical financial and strategic error. What we are learning about the factors that cause employee attrition and retention refutes that old argument.

Helping employees to set career goals is not simple, but it is WELL worth it. Here’s WHY.

Managers who take appropriate steps to support development of employees typically have a BIG, almost “Classic” concern. Their concern is often a valid one, and is that, after 2-3 years of professional development and skills building, their newer employees will decide they are more marketable now, and seek a new position elsewhere. When that happens, there goes all of the organization’s investment in those employees!

That is why (wrongly so) some managers have decided to WAIT until an employee deonstrates loyyalty to the organization, say 8-10 years latr, and THEN to provide professional development and skills training. There are TWO problem with this approach:

  • The employee will feel ignored and unsupported and is MUCH more likely to leave as a result.
  • The lack of sufficient skills in these employees robs the organization of it’s investment in hiring these employees, and it robs the organization of years of higher productivity!

What’s the solution to this apparently “catch 22″ situation?

The most effective solution has THREE parts:

  1. Do NOT just provide training and support for newer employees. Design an on-going system of training and other professional development options that address the needs of employees at every experience level, and that will motivate employees to stay for the ongoing learning and support they can continue to receive.
  2. Train managers and siupervisors in mentoring skills so that every supervisor is also a staff developer. This addresses the PRIMARY reason that employees leave an organization – They hate or feel ignored or unsupported by their bos. Change this perception and you will retain more employees.
  3. Train managers and supervisors to facilitate employee development of CAREER GOALS, action plans to attain those goals, and then provide support for implementing those career development plans. This is a bit tricky, especially in recent years with the younger generation we are hiring – people who frequently show little or no loyalty to an employer and who often have no career aspirations. Think about the economic environment in which these younger folks have grown up -massive layoffs, corporations with no loyalty for employees, bottom line results as primary motivations, and a me first, it’s “business” attitude. They have good reason to doubt ther “career” opporunities.

If you try to “direct” these folks to do career goals and plans, you may get compliance, but changed attiudes and employee retention cannot be mandated. What’s needed are managers and bosses who can facilitate the proces and TEACH newer employees HOW to reflect on career options, personal strengths and interests, be realistic about personal growth areas, how to write career golas and plans, and how to THINK about making each step of their career a preparation for future, unknown opporunities.

IF these new employees see that “this company is different” and “this place supports employees and gives us what we need to do our job well”, then what they hear from their peers at other places will convince YOUR employees to stay with you for the long haul.

In other words, you need several pieces to retain emplotees long-term, and the most critical elemen among it all is the Career Goals and Plan.

Now, HOW might you get started? Go to the page “How to Help Others to Develop Career Goals