Engagement Driver #4-  Development Opportunities

Engagement Driver #4- Development Opportunities

Our prior article “What Drives Engagement?” listed the top 10 engagement drivers.

Three areas impact employee perceptions of available development and career opportunities (category 4):

1. Enjoy challenging work assignments that broaden skills

2. Improved my skills and capabilities over the last year

3. Have excellent career advancement opportunities

Many people are comfortable and happy in their current job and do not wish to take on additional responsibilities.

Others crave challenging work and the opportunity to learn and grow. A key component in keeping the second group of employees at your organization is to figure out how to meet these needs.

If you are small business, you usually do not have a “career paths” or a training department. However, you have many informal opportunities for additional development—these include cross-training, job enrichment, project assignments, and team lead opportunities.

It is always best to have a “back up” for each role– and developing someone as a  backup cross-trains another team member and gives a sense of skill development. Job “enrichment” means learning a bit deeper or broader on current tasks, such as increasing knowledge of accounting principles or equipment repair. We can always learn more about the work we do.

Even if your organization does not have “layers of management,” some employees are interesting in a newly emerging role of team leader. Team leaders are the “go-to” people who peers ask for help or to get another opinion for a decision. They often assist managers with routine supervisory tasks such as scheduling, assigning specific work, compiling reports, and side by side skill training. You may have someone now that is informally in this role.

Three steps you can take NOW to improve employee perceptions of development opportunities

  1. Think of one project or ongoing task that would be a stretch assignment for a team member, and delegate to someone with the competencies to accomplish.
  2. Spend 30 minutes one morning each week meeting with a team member to discuss “What skills or knowledge do you want to develop in the next year? How can this be accomplished?” Then create a timeline and action plan to achieve.
  3. Identify and start developing a team leader: If you have a great performer with interpersonal skills and a desire for additional responsibility, start with delegating a routine team task (scheduling, weekly project report, train new employee). If this person continues to grow in this role, create a team leader position with specific responsibilities and coach to achieve.

Two articles for more reading

For a source of stretch assignments, read our People plan article: “Too busy to delegate

Inc Magazine article How to Tell If Your Employees Are Bored


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Total Rewards #11- Opportunity for Advancement

Total Rewards #11- Opportunity for Advancement

The perception:
“McJob- a low-paying job that requires little skill and provides little opportunity for advancement” (Webster dictionary).

But how wrong they are!

The reality:
According to a recent article by our firm’s founder Dr. Jerry Newman and McDonald’s Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Richard Floersch, McDonald’s actually has very high employee perceptions of advancement opportunities.

Reward/ Percent Who Love This About McDonald’s:

  • Learning and development -80%
  • Skill development and opportunity -79%
  • Career opportunity -76%

Contrast McDonald’s results with numerous studies that consistently show about half of employees do not see long-term careers at their company, and more than one-third of employees believe they must leave their current employer to advance to a higher-level job.

Opportunity is Key to attracting employees: A recent Experience Inc survey of 2011 college graduates, 55% list career advancement opportunities as the most important factor in choosing a job (just above pay and challenging work).

Opportunity is Key to engaging employees: Aon Hewitt found that a clear career path and career development were two top drivers of engagement.

Typically organizations have positions with multiple levels, but they are not always clearly defined or communicated.
For example, a client had production workers with three levels of responsibility and skill, but they were not apparent to employees.

The company decided to title these three levels production, senior production and team leader. The job levels corresponded to different performance expectations and pay levels. Managers were trained to discuss with employees performance against their current job, communicate the “next” level job responsibilities, and mutually agree on a development plan with each employee who was interested in that next level.

Employees now know the clear career path, how they get there, and what the reward will be when it is achieved. (Or they can choose to stay in their current position as long as they perform to expectation). Managers now have a clear development plan for every employee and can focus their feedback and training on this plan. This also provided a succession plan by building a core of senior and team leaders to assist the Plant Manager and identified an Assistant Manager who is now quite successful.


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