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Building a Culture of Career Development

Structure, boldness, lack of boundaries, and a win-win mentality are all signs of a robust, sustainable career culture that will help businesses attract and engage talent. 

In the changing world of work, the only job security lies in professional mobility. A new “contract” is needed in which career development is embedded in culture, so organizations can enhance competitive capabilities at the same time individuals can enhance their professional skills and employability. Here are the key characteristics of a culture of career development.  

Structure and accountability 

A career development culture has a management framework designed to facilitate an individual’s career growth. It is not just a loose collection of resources. A career culture provides a structure to align career goals to business needs to competencies valued by the organization and to available opportunities. This requires clear paths for advancement, growth for specialists who want to advance but not necessarily to leadership, talent assessment to identify workforce skills and focus career development, processes to create connections between career aspirations and specific business needs and leadership accountability to achieve team members’ career aspirations.  

Win-win opportunities 

Leaders need to learn how to identify intersections where business objectives meet individual career aspirations in order to create win-win opportunities for growth. The skills acquired in a project should be well-aligned to the needs of the organization while enabling the individual to advance toward career goals. Given an opportunity to take on more career projects, employees are more likely to be engaged in work and loyalty to the organization will increase.   

Understanding that talent doesn’t belong to a department or an organization 

In a seeming paradox, to keep a valued employee longer, managers may need to talk about where an employee sees herself working next. When a manager is open to discussing career development, the discussion moves to a deeper, more meaningful level. This is a foreign idea for managers who don’t even want to let a talented team member work outside their own department, much less outside the organization. This mindset needs to change to one in which leaders actively support career growth for the employee no matter where it leads.  

Allowing employees to fail 

In a developmental culture, employees are given assignments that test their strengths and skills. They are allowed to fail and to learn from that experience without retribution. This is particularly critical for high potential talent who need stretch assignments. Cycling people through different roles and exposing them to a variety of challenges will accelerate their growth and flexibility. This approach involves risk and some leaders may fail, but an agile organization makes quick adjustments. A culture in which vulnerability is accepted is sign of maturity. It enables people to perform to a level that may even surprise them.