"Where do you see yourself in five years?"

We've all rehearsed our response to that question when preparing for an interview and have perhaps asked it to a job candidate from the other side of the desk. Today, it may be even more important to ask employees that question, and take it a step further by discussing how you, the business owner, can provide support along the way.

Personalized career development should be prioritized for all employees. Encourage them to identify goals, then present them with tools and opportunities to help them develop a path to reaching them. Autonomy is a basic psychological need and allowing employees to self-direct will likely motivate them. The key is to pave the way, then step back and let the employee take charge of his or her own development. Here are several approaches you can take.

1. Work with employees to put a plan on paper.

Career mapping is a strategy you can use to help guide career planning discussions with employees. Essentially, you work with them to create a career map--a written plan that charts their current status, future goals, and the steps needed to get from point A to point B. For example, a LinkedIn survey found half of American workers, age 35 to 44, are unsure of what their career path should look like.

Creating a plan is a crucial step in combatting job dissatisfaction, lower engagement and productivity, and attrition--all of which are bad for your business.

There are three core steps involved in career mapping:

Start with a self-assessment. Together, explore the employee's knowledge, skills and abilities, as well as past experiences, accomplishments, and current interests.

Set growth goals. Discuss other positions within your company that meet the employee's interests. It can be a promotion or lateral move and should leverage all the factors identified during the self-assessment, while also requiring the development of new knowledge, skills, and abilities.This will keep the employee engaged by giving him or her something to work toward.

Remain vigilant. Your employee should seek out and evaluate other job opportunities within the organization as they become available.

My employees pick out quarterly objectives--we call them "rocks." They decide what they want to achieve and carve out a plan for it. Then, they meet with their manager every month to discuss problem areas and progress, the result of which is a problem-solving to-do list.

2. Be a Connector

A Gartner survey of more than 7,000 employees in 25 industries explored managers' development approaches to identify how they can better serve the development needs of their employees. While four major managerial styles were discussed, the data suggested that employees of "connector managers" are three times more likely to be top performers.

You can be a connector manager in your business by asking the right questions, offering tailored feedback as needed, and identifying the individual needs and motivations of your team. This type of manager also fosters a culture of transparency and skill-sharing within teams that encourages relying on and learning from each other, rather than just you.

3. Facilitate ways employees can learn new skills.

Technology has required us all to be more adaptable. Smart workers realize the role they serve today may not fit into your company's future plans so they must take action to develop the skills they will need as their roles evolve. Knowing they have access to upskilling opportunities, employees can match their skills and interests with those that will be of value to the company down the road, which is where the self-assessment I mentioned earlier comes in handy. Establishing where they fit into the overall plan can yield higher engagement, productivity, and loyalty.

A large base of my employees who work in our warehouse have basic computer and language skills. While we undertook automation and digitization, we had to reskill and upskill the existing workforce. Systematic trainings were scheduled and now we have a group of primarily Spanish speaking team members who interact and communicate with the client directly in English.

4. Support employees who want to learn outside the office.

If an employee expresses interest in acquiring external knowledge that will help him or her achieve a goal, do what you can to provide support. Keep the lines of communication open to suggestions regarding local conferences and industry events, certification programs, and continuing education training. If it is within your scope, consider providing a career development stipend for employees to utilize at their discretion.

When it comes to your employees' career paths, make it clear that your role is one of guidance and support. They are the ones who will reap the benefits of successful navigation and must own it every step of the way.

 

Published on: Feb 26, 2020
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.