how to provide career growth in a top-heavy organization

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You hear it time and time again – Sarah left the organization because there was no room for her to grow. Joe is interviewing at other organizations because he was passed over for a promotion for the 2nd time. Jen’s been at the company for 10 years in the same role, and needs something new. Matt’s boss has another 15 years before retirement, so Matt feels stuck and hopeless.

For many organizations, it just isn’t possible to promote everyone who deserves to be promoted, or give raises to everyone who does outstanding work. Company structure, business performance, or a good company where no one ever leaves can all prevent the best and brightest from moving up the career ladder. Unfortunately, this means your top talent starts looking elsewhere for opportunity. How do you help employees feel like their careers are healthy and growing when there’s no room for promotion?

Here are 4 ways to provide your people with the opportunity to grow and develop, even if raises or promotions are out of the realm of possibility:

1. Expand skills – beyond Excel. Usually when leaders tell employees to expand their skills, it translates to an Excel or other software program class that fails to provide true growth. Instead, understand where your employee really wants to be in their career, and work on skills that will help him or her get there. Options might include presentation/public speaking skills (and the chance to use them), learning the latest developments in their field, or working with another team in a different area of expertise. All of these will provide a greater feeling of career growth than learning another software program.

2. Desirable projects. There are always those high-profile projects that people want to be a part of but only a few select team members are ever invited to participate in. Think of projects that involve meeting with clients, business travel, access to high level leaders, etc. Often giving employees face time to the most important people in the company (like your CEO, for example) can be an opportunity for them to shine, learn new things, and start building their social currency. So if you have a star, give them a chance to shine.

3. Build their social network. Most opportunities to change careers, make an internal switch, or get promoted aren’t well publicized. In a time where “who you know” can be just as helpful as “what you know”, employees want to network within their own organizations and make connections that can help them with their career. Help them by becoming a mentor (or pairing them with one), introducing them to other leaders and executives in the company, or organizing meetings where they can meet people from all over your organization.

4. Be part of something great. Everyone wants to be part of something great. Aligning your employees to a meaningful purpose, empowering them to suggest and make changes, giving them ownership, and appreciating their efforts and achievements all help employees feel they are growing, developing and making a difference. Open the doors for employees to be great, and they will find their own opportunities to thrive.

By christina chau
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