by Alison Challman, Paylocity Chief Marketing Officer
Today’s workforce is eager to hit the ground running in their careers. They want recognition, professional development, and especially advancement opportunities. The question I get most often from employees is, “How do I get to the next level?” Though employees may only be in their role for a short amount of time, they want to ensure they are taking the right steps to move their career forward. The desire for advancement is a critical driving force for today’s worker. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 63% of employees would rather receive a promotion with no salary increase over a pay raise with no promotion.
This is especially true among early career professionals who are eager to make the move from an individual contributor to a first-time manager. And if workers don’t feel they will get the opportunity at their current company, they won’t hesitate to leave. A recent survey found that 75% of employees under the age of 34 state job-hopping could benefit their careers. With a tight labor market, this makes it even more difficult for companies to retain top talent, transfer knowledge, and grow their business.
Performance and Potential: The Two Ps
So what can you do to keep your top talent around while satisfying their career needs?
My advice to employees who are eager to advance their careers is to focus on the two Ps to earning a promotion: performance and potential. First and foremost, be a high performing employee. This means mastering their current role, meeting and exceeding expectations, taking a results-driven approach and bringing a positive attitude to work.
To really propel their career, an employee needs to show others where they can go next. Being recognized as a top performer is part of the advancement journey, but it’s more than working hard — it’s equally important for professionals to push their potential; to have a growth mindset of always learning, always growing, and always developing.
Whether it’s helping employees sharpen their performance, or show their potential for more responsibility, your employees need and expect ongoing support and guidance throughout their advancement journey. Gone are the days of the yearly performance review, where you only meet once a year to recap accomplishments and areas of development opportunity. Today’s workforce expects a more modern approach to career development – one that fosters a personalized experience with immediate feedback, ongoing coaching and diverse growth opportunities.
As a result, technology will increasingly play a role in helping deliver on employees’ career development and engagement expectations. Here are three ways you can use tech to nurture top talent.
1. The Feedback Loop: Asking for Input
The foundation to professional development is actionable feedback, but this doesn’t have to be limited to input from an employee’s direct manager. It is also important for team members to gather feedback from peers or cross-functional partners — those with whom the employee works frequently to gain perspective in the areas of strength and opportunities for development.
A great way to quickly facilitate the collection of this feedback in an easy and confidential way is by using a modern HCM survey tool. In a matter of minutes, employees can create a survey with questions about their working and communication style, quality of deliverables, and partnership. The input can give both employees and their managers specific insight into how they are perceived, where their strengths lie and where there are areas for opportunity. They can also incorporate this 360-degree feedback in their personal development plans, and then conduct periodic “pulse check” surveys to evaluate their progress throughout the duration of the plan and help them stay on track.
2. Let’s Talk About It: Keeping the Conversation Going
Professional development plans are a great way to work together with your employees to discuss goals, what they expect to gain from their development, and the ways in which they will get there — taking a certification class, finding a mentor they respect, or improving soft skills that can raise their potential. But the real value comes in keeping the conversation going with employees about their progress against the plan.
Regular conversations are crucial to an employee’s development. One way you can use technology to enable these discussions is through performance journals. Journal entries can help facilitate goals-driven discussions and provide a reference point to refer back to as employees work their plan. Journals also allow for real-time feedback, as a manager or employee can create an entry related to a recent meeting that ties back to their development. And either party can comment on the entry to provide their perspective or response, propelling the development and conversation forward without having to wait for the next scheduled touch base. Consistent follow up by the employee shows their commitment to learning and improving; likewise, continuous feedback shows the employee you care about their development and are invested in helping reach their full potential.
3. Show and Tell: Sharing the Learning Experience
One way for employees to show their potential to advance is by demonstrating their leadership and coaching abilities beyond their own department. What transferable skills do they have from which others could benefit? Perhaps they are a great business writer and proofreader — a subject matter expert in this important soft skill. Could they help others in the company develop their own skills? Assign them a development opportunity to create educational content around this topic.
A flexible learning tool such as a Learning Management System (LMS) could serve as the perfect vehicle for extending education across the company. Your employee could create a video of writing tips and tricks, or an interactive course that tests employees’ knowledge along the way. Not only does this benefit the rest of your organization, but it also shines a light on your employee as someone extremely knowledgeable and willing to help others succeed — a sign of a true leader.
Taking an active role in employee development is critical to engaging and retaining today’s modern workforce. And if done well, not only will your employees be more inclined to stay at your company, but you’ll benefit by developing a valued member of your team into a highly engaged top performer with the potential to bring even more value to your organization in the years to come.
Alison Challman is Paylocity’s Chief Marketing Officer, overseeing the vision and strategy for the Marketing department. She has more than 20 years of experience leading strategic marketing and channel development functions at Fortune 500 technology companies.