Career development for your employees

As every HR professional knows, people are your most valuable resource

Companies with the most talented, capable, and high-performing employees are generally the ones that succeed. Yet no organisation can recruit an entire workforce of ready-made stars. That’s why employee career development — which is a key element of talent management systems — is so important.

Career development is about making sure your employees fulfil their potential, so they can make a long-term difference to your organisation.

Why prioritise career development?

Career development therefore, gives you a greater ROI from employees. But there are also short-term benefits of employee development: employees are more engaged and committed when they see a path of career development and progression ahead of them.

This can mean better performance in the short term, as well as positive effects on staff turnover and recruitment. With more than three-quarters of UK organisations finding it difficult to retain staff in a recent survey, effective career development can be a differentiator. 74% of companies have plans to develop more talent in-house in future (CIPD, 2015).

Because career development also nurtures internal talent, it can help you reduce the costs of external hiring. You can also retain valuable knowledge held by staff, who might choose to leave if development opportunities are scarce.

Employee career development plans

Career development needs clear structure and outcomes, and HR should take the lead in developing them.

At the organisational level, once you’ve decided to prioritise career development, the next step is to build a system that defines:

  • Criteria for identifying employees with the talent and potential for development
  • Career development initiatives such as career counselling, coaching and mentoring, and learning and development programmes
  • A progression structure for employees participating in development initiatives
  • Metrics for career development outcomes, so initiatives can be evaluated and improved

Individual employee career development should also be planned and recorded, using personal plans. Plans can be discussed with employees during appraisals, or in career counselling sessions with HR.

Individual career development plans should include:

  • Long-term and short-term goals for career progression, agreed between HR or line managers and the employee
  • Identification of skills and experience needed to achieve the goals
  • The employee’s next career development steps, such as completing training and improving performance in key areas

Career development as part of succession planning

Succession planning is a process of developing a pool internal talent as potential successors to key current staff. It originated in blue chip companies and has recently become popular again, offering:

  • The possibility of recruiting for key roles from within, thus appointing employees who already know your company well.
  • A wider pool of candidates for roles that are difficult to recruit. Technical and management roles are among the most difficult to fill (CIPD 2015).
  • Exciting career development paths for employees with potential.

Succession planning isn’t just for the most senior roles. HR and line managers can work to identify employees with potential for development. Initiatives to develop employees for succession can include shadowing, and receiving coaching and mentoring from, their superiors.

Share this article

Have a question?

Ask away, we’ve got lightning fast answers for UK business owners and employers powered by qualified experts.

More on progression

Employee career progression

When almost half (44.8%) of UK employees feel “uncomfortable” discussing their own career development with managers, it’s clearly a…