Illustration of two business people in a forest with a flashlight creating a path around the trees

Why companies should help every employee chart a career path

George Westerman and Abbie Lundberg

Providing career development to all employees requires a commitment to clarifying pathways for growth and giving everyone opportunities to build new skills

Ask an HR leader whether their company is good at career development, and they will likely say that it is — and then they’ll talk about the programs they’ve designed for high-potential employees.

Ask them how well the company supports the rest of the workforce, and their answer will likely change. Some will say that they expect managers to be responsible for developing their people. Others will say that employees are empowered to “own” their own career development. The more transparent leaders might add that their approach works for some employees but not for most.

Those approaches might sound good but often don’t live up to their promise. This is a problem for companies, especially when it’s difficult to find and retain skilled employees. Leaders must do much more to help employees see a future with the company and a path to advance toward that future.

Fortunately, a small but growing number of companies are finding ways to improve career development for all of their interested employees. Doing this at scale does not require the same level of investment that the company provides to its high-potential future leaders. It does, however, require the use of modern tools and a coherent approach that helps employees see a path forward, learn and practice the competencies they need, and receive solid feedback and coaching along the way.

In this article, we’ll share insights from a survey of more than 1,000 workers and interviews with talent and learning leaders at more than 25 organizations who are figuring this out...

Originally published on MIT Sloan Management Review.


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