4 Ways to Invest in Career Development and Retain Top Employees

As millions of Americans look for more fulfilling and more lucrative work following the COVID-19 pandemic, employee retention has become one of the most important topics in the business world. “The Great Resignation”, by some estimates, has 55% of people in the workforce expecting to be on the job hunt in the next 12 months. This has sent companies scrambling for solutions to keep their top talent in house and satisfied. We’ve previously discussed some strategies to win the war for talent such as hybrid work schedules, a culture that encourages paid time off, etc. but in addition to those strategies there is another tried and true practice to make sure your top performers stay on board: giving them a clear path for their career advancement goals.

According to Prudential’s American Workers Survey, 80% of workers who plan to look for a new job are concerned about their career growth. Many employees, especially millennials and gen Z, want to feel like their work is valuable. Both in terms of societal impact and in terms of their own personal growth and development. So how can management make sure that their top employees feel rewarded for their work achievements, and ultimately satisfied to stay with their current employer? We’ll explore 4 strategies to encourage your employees in their career development and how to retain them.

4 Tips to Invest in Career Development and Retain Employees

Clearly Define Goals

As the newest Marvel movie teaches us, “if you aim at nothing, you hit nothing.” The days of just winging it when it comes to tracking employee performance are over. Workers today prefer having goals that are clearly defined so that they can measure their success. According to a recent survey from Lattice, 47% of those surveyed were looking for a job that provides clarity and growth opportunities. Work with your management team to set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals for each position in your company.

Constantly Communicate

Having goals defined is a very important place to start, but it is equally important to provide feedback mechanisms so that employees know when goals are being met and how to adjust if expectations are not being met. Many companies offer annual reviews, but if your company struggles with retention it may be wiser to offer smaller-scale quarterly reviews. Informal weekly or monthly updates on company/individual goals are appreciated as well so that employees don’t have to wonder about how successful they’ve been.

Match Words with Actions

It’s critical that the feedback you give matches the actions you eventually take. No one likes exceeding all their stated goals and being told how important they are to the company only to see themselves eventually passed over for promotions or denied raises with no clear communication. These employees may simply turn their accomplishments for your company into excellent bullet points on their resumes as they apply to new companies, leaving you scrambling to replace their performance. So, when promoting internally be sure to give good, actionable feedback to employees who are not promoted so they do not feel stuck due to factors beyond their control. A survey from Joblist found that nearly 56% of respondents had quit a job due to being passed over for a promotion. We have a full blog with tips on providing good feedback.

Create New Roles and Opportunities

According to a recent survey from PWC, 33% of executives surveyed stated that employees were quitting their companies in search of career advancement. Employees in the survey listed career advancement as the 3rd biggest reason for looking for a new job, following closely behind wages and benefits. It can be complicated trying to thread the needle of recognizing the achievements of newer employees and promoting them up the existing org chart without upsetting your more tenured employees. Other times, departments may be so small that another level of the “corporate ladder” simply doesn’t exist internally. The Harvard Business Review found that 39% of employers cite a lack of positions to move into as an obstacle to internal mobility.

So, get creative and build new opportunities. Creating new titles, positions, and leadership opportunities (along with a pay raise as dictated by performance) is a great way to acknowledge how valuable your employees are without having to wait for someone above them to retire or otherwise move on. A simple title bump to “Senior”, “Manager”, or something similar can show your employees that they are on the right track and that their work is noticed and appreciated. And in some instances, career moves that are technically lateral on the org chart can be just as rewarding and fulfilling for employees as upward movements. Look for ways that lateral moves can develop new skills for your top performers and demonstrate to them how that development will help them achieve their career goals.

The main takeaway: do not wait until your top performers come to you with a lucrative offer from another company to show them how much you value them. Take proactive steps to ensure that you’re able to retain your top performers by investing in their career development from day 1.

Brunel is invested in the career development of each of our internal employees as well as the employees we place at pioneering companies around the world. Learn more about Brunel and our Passion for People here.

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Meet the Author
De'Vion Hinton
Digital Specialist - The Americas