One of the common questions we hear from managers at Career Revolution is how to handle the “I don’t have a career path” complaint from employees, especially those early in their career.
An organization may equate “career path” with “career ladder”—a step-by-step outline to getting promoted. But, many companies cannot support a rigid plan as they stay agile and competitive. This is especially true as we navigate a global pandemic that’s forcing many organizations to rethink how they operate and add value to their customers.
HOW DO YOU HELP EMPLOYEES NAVIGATE THEIR CAREERS WHEN YOU DON’T HAVE ANY ANSWERS?
Luckily, most employees don’t actually want a career manual with a step-by-step guide of guaranteed growth paths, even though it sometimes feels this way.
To discover what they really want, we interviewed individual contributors in a variety of companies and industries. What they mean when they ask for a “career path” is to know how their work contributes, what kind of opportunities to ask for, and the honest feedback they need to hear.
If your organization can proactively address those three desires, you’ll hear, “I don’t have a career path,” far less often.
CONNECT THE WORK TO THE COMPANY’S BIGGER PICTURE
Employees of all ages want to know the work they do is of value to the company and will be acknowledged as such.
For example, we spoke to some employees who would go above and beyond working on a project they believed was a priority. But, after the work was complete, managers would undercut that effort and say it was no longer needed. This lack of connection of work to the company’s mission disenfranchised these young professionals. Think of how different that experience would be if managers helped the employees identify the value of their work to the broader mission.
If you can’t build a career ladder, then help employees understand how their work drives business results. Then, they can take that achievement and translate it into their career story to help them become their own advocate. Bonus points if you can help them create this story!
GIVE EMPLOYEES THE TOOLS TO BUILD THEIR CAREER ROCK WALL
Often employees, especially younger ones, don’t see their next career opportunity as part of the work they’re doing right now. Instead, they wait for managers to assign them one. They don’t take accountability and ownership for their own career path. These two mindsets are the difference between an employee saying, “I don’t feel like I have a career path,” versus, “I’m interested in managing people and looking for an opportunity to mentor someone else.”
So, how do you empower emerging professionals to ask the second question? The key is more formal development to help them learn who they are and what’s important to them. By leveraging a program, such as AccelerateME, managers and employees can access feedback tools and development processes to address mindset and skill gaps necessary to progression.
PROVIDING CLEAR, HELPFUL AND HONEST FEEDBACK
The final crucial piece of solving the “career path” puzzle is providing useful feedback to employees.
How do you know if you have a problem with feedback in your organization? Look at how often emerging professionals ask for a promotion and how often they don’t get one. Sometimes, few promotions can be a practical or budgetary issue. But, other times it comes down to an employee’s blind spots that managers are unable or unwilling to address.
This is where a 360-feedback tool can make a big difference on a very tactical level. By giving your professionals anonymous feedback, it can help them get the information they need in a safe way.
By addressing these three critical areas, organizations can reduce the frequency of hearing “I don’t have a path” and increase growth.