How Career Opportunities Drive Business Performance

Felix Kugel
Vice President Manpower Inc. (USA) and Managing Director of Russia & CIS

The case for developing talent has always been clear: If an organization is to achieve its primary objectives, it must align talent with strategy by developing a work force with the necessary capabilities. Career development not only equips employees to perform, but also inspires them to do so. It motivates them to make the most of the skills and capabilities they acquire.

In a recent poll of more than 900 workers across North America, Manpower found that a remarkable 60 percent of respondents “plan to pursue new job opportunities as the economy improves in 2010.” A further 21 percent indicated that they are considering making such a move and are actively networking as a result. Only 13 percent said they intended to stay.

This trend is quite understandable. Employees can have all the skills and talent in the world, but if their job and organization fail to engage them, they are unlikely to put their skills and talent to the best and fullest use. Employees are looking for challenge in their jobs. They want to contribute meaningfully to their organization’s success. By equipping employees to find greater challenge and meaning in their work, career development promotes engagement and enhances the individual and the organization alike.

A recent Manpower study showed that organizations providing career development opportunities are six times more likely to engage their employees than organizations that do not, over four times less likely to lose talent in the next year, and almost 2.5 times more likely to be productive. On the contrary, companies that fail to fully engage their employees will never perform at their best. In fact, they risk losing their most talented people, their ability to respond quickly and effectively change market conditions, and their competitive edge.

So what steps in career development should organizations take to not lose talented and gifted employees? Below are Manpower’s best practice recommendations that might help attract and retain the very best applicants on the labor market.

Implement Key Career Development Measures to Drive Performance

Our advice on how best to provide employees with learning and development opportunities begins with our organizational effectiveness study, involving more than 28,000 employees in 10 business sectors and 15 countries worldwide. Among the 100 statements constituting our survey, we tested for drivers not only of engagement, but also of career development. Encouraging employees to take ownership of their work, providing development focused on helping them do their job well, and showing them how they can progress in their organization emerged as the top three learning and development drivers. Other top drivers included investing in learning and development, providing performance incentives, preparing people to move into jobs when they become available, and facilitating discussions about career development.

Create a Work Force Development Plan Based on a Skills and Needs Inventory

To avoid having to hire externally, organizations must create a comprehensive work force development plan based on a carefully crafted skills and needs inventory. To help empower employees and show them how they can progress in their careers, immediate managers must engage them in regular career discussions. At present, our research shows that a surprising 37 percent of employees never engage in career discussions with their managers, while a further 29 percent do so only once a year.

Employees Must Play an Active Role in Managing Their Career

For their part, employees must play an active role in charting a course for their careers. With guidance and support from their organization, they must explore their own desires and aptitudes, the needs and priorities of the organization, and the career options available to them.

Working together, organizations and their employees can meet common goals through career development. Career development ensures that work remains challenging and meaningful. It aligns the skills and capabilities of the employee with the business strategy of the organization, satisfying the need of employees to make a difference and contribute to the organization’s success. It drives engagement, productivity, retention and performance.