Today’s business landscape is one of ongoing disruption and change. Organizations are forced to continuously adapt and transform to remain agile and competitive. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the need for transformation and exacerbated ongoing challenges with retention and engagement.
During the last several years we’ve seen global engagement levels improving. However, Gallup reports that in 2020 “engagement levels have fluctuated more than ever before.” No surprise, given the unprecedented set of challenges most faced in 2020.
Organizations have responded impressively to the challenges presented by the pandemic. From offering special wellness programs to amping up work-from-home setups to flexible work hours to virtual team building, entertainment, and even gifts, significant attention, and investments have been made. These just-in-time engagement strategies have helped organizations through a difficult time and hold on to top talent along the way. But what will happen as we turn the COVID-corner?
Career Development Has Taken on New MeaningIt’s been known for some time that career development is one of the top drivers of employee engagement. However, before our lives were turned upside down, most organizations were challenged with negative employee perceptions about their ability to grow their career internally. You might have heard rumblings like “I’m not getting feedback,” “I’m not offered enough training,” or “I don’t see a path forward.” Prepandemic, most organizations were acutely aware that employees, especially those early in their careers, expect formal career development and a lot of it.
Fast Forward to the Present DayThe pandemic has only heightened employees’ needs for guidance in navigating their career paths. Regardless of age, profession, or stage of career, most of us were unprepared emotionally, structurally, and financially to address the challenges we’ve been faced with.
We’ve been triggered to think more deeply about our lives and the role our careers play in our overall success and happiness.
Our Approach Must ShiftThe expectation that the companies we work for will make targeted investments in our personal and professional growth continues to increase. Although we’ve been aware of the need for some time now and may have already made efforts to address it, it’s time to revisit our approach.
Previous Gallup research has shown “employee engagement is very changeable inside organizations when leaders focus on the right practices.” The question for many, then, is where to start. Regardless of what you have in place today, you can take a step back and acknowledge this unique moment in time.
Your Employees Have the AnswerOrganizations that succeed will do so because of a deep and abiding understanding that elevating engagement in large part boils down to facilitating the career development employees crave. And the good news is that it doesn’t have to be complicated. The solution lies in the ability to see career development through the eyes of your employees.
- What questions are they asking themselves?
- What’s most important in their lives right now?
- What do they expect from their career?
- What types of resources do they see as most valuable?
- What do they perceive as the challenges standing in their way of success and happiness?
These are important questions to ask in a business-as-usual world; however, asking employees now will provide insight into the type of career development they really need.
We have an opportunity to meet employees where they are and invest in strategies, programs, and resources they will recognize as an investment in their future. Whether at an organizational, team, or individual level, human-centric career development will have immediate impacts not only on the well-being of employees but to your organization’s ability to remain competitive.