When I ask people what they want to do with their career, many can't really answer the question. It's not necessarily a bad thing to be undecided about what path you want to take, but it's indicative of a recent change in the way we think about career development.
People no longer get a job and stay with that company for 20 or 30 years to make scheduled moves up the ranks. The onus of career development is more squarely on the shoulders of the employee now.
But that doesn't mean companies should be leaving career development entirely up to each individual. There are a number of initiatives and steps a business can take to give everyone the resources they need to make their own way.
Think of it less as giving people a roadmap with set milestones, and more as providing them with support and a sense of direction as they grow.
Here are some of the most effective ways a company can offer that support and guidance:
1. Clear Career Paths
A major part of career development is knowing what's expected of you at your current level, as well as what you'll need to do to move on to the next level.
And without a clear career path, people can wind up spending all their time and energy in the wrong places. Ideally, nothing should be ambiguous. Everyone should know exactly what metrics they need to hit and what goals they need to achieve in order to move up.
At ThirdLove, we're currently putting a performance development process in place. The goal is to ensure that managers and teammates have clear expectations for each role. And just as importantly, we want to make sure the standards we've set are calibrated across the entire company. We also have a skills matrix that we use across the organization. It clearly articulates the softer skills related to leadership, influence, and collaboration that are expected at each level.
If you want your team to make progress and use their ambition, you have to give them a clear path forward.
2. Educational Stipends
Many companies say they care about personal development, but not all put their money where their mouth is. That's a problem because employees who want to spend time learning and developing often lack the resources to do so.
That's why we recently started offering an annual $1,000 stipend for education and development. Teammates just have to find something related to their field and submit a form providing the details of how they're spending the money. For instance, some of our UI/UX team used the stipend to go to an important UI/UX conference in San Francisco to learn more about best practices and what's happening in the field.
One of the easiest ways to show your team that their development is a priority is by helping them overcome some of the financial roadblocks they may face.
3. Monthly Educational Seminars
Learning on the fly is part of any job.
But that doesn't mean it's always in your team's best interest to work without guidance or instruction. Sometimes, it's easier to teach people the right way to get things done.
That's why we started holding monthly seminars for our team that focus on tactical knowledge we want everyone to know and feel comfortable implementing. One of the seminars was on running effective meetings and another one taught how to manage a project from start to finish.
There's no reason to make people figure everything out on their own. If you can teach them, you'll speed up their development and avoid a lot of common problems that plague companies.
4. Unique Speakers
In the past few years, we've been lucky enough to have several high-profile speakers come in and talk to the entire team.
In some cases, the presentations have been "fireside chat" style, where an author joins us and I interview them. We had Erica Keswin, the author of Bring Your Human to Work join us, as well as Magdalena Yesil, who spoke about her book, Power Up: How Smart Women Win in the New Economy. We also got to hear from William McComb, one of our board members, who spoke about his experience at Liz Claiborne and what he's learned over the course of his career.
These events all go back to getting people engaged and excited. You want to give them as much information as possible about what it's like to work in the industry and what it takes to develop a career in that environment.
When people are excited and optimistic about their careers, they naturally want to take their growth into their own hands. The more you can support your team's growth, the more effective and productive they'll be--both today and years down the road.