As the COVID-19 pandemic and the Great Resignation reshape the global workforce, many people believe that their opportunities for career development are drying up. In fact, between 2020 and 2021, Gallup polling trends show the percentage of respondents who say they are “completely dissatisfied” with their chances for a promotion doubled from 5 to 10 percent.

Organizations looking to attract and retain top talent recognize that creating opportunities for advancement is no longer a luxury or a perk—it must become a priority at every stage of their team’s experience, from recruitment and hiring to company culture and engagement.

A panel of industry experts discussed the importance of integrating career development into growing organizations and offered tips and best practices to make those goals a reality in HiBob’s webinar “Prioritizing career development and internal mobility throughout the employee lifecycle.”

Here are some of the key takeaways from their conversation.

Hire people who want to grow

Taking time during a job interview or phone screening to discuss a candidate’s next position—i.e., the one that comes after the job for which you’re considering them—may seem unusual. But talking about internal mobility and career development early on is essential for attracting the right people to your organization.

Bryce says that the best people she interviews are not just looking for any old job, but rather a place where they connect deeply with the culture, mission, or product—a place where they can invest themselves.

“By giving them the opportunity to grow within that workplace,” she says, “and by being straightforward with that from the beginning, it gets those top-tier people invested in you as you are becoming invested in them.”

In today’s competitive hiring market, showcasing advancement opportunities can also give you an advantage.

“When you’re competing for talent out there, you want those A players,” Amanda says. “So to highlight in the job ad, in the initial phone screen, etc., that there’s a chance to grow within this company is really going to attract the right people. And it also helps facilitate a culture across the organization of bringing in people who want to grow.”

One place organizations can spruce up their career development branding is on the careers page of their website.

“Does it list all of your industry awards, or does it list the person that started off in customer support and then moved to customer success, and now they have a completely different job where they’re loving it and doing well?” Kevin asks. “Because that’s ultimately what’s going to matter more to people than your industry awards.”

And despite its cliché status, Bryce and her team swear by the oft-dreaded interview question: Where do you see yourself in five years?

“We have uncovered so many secret talents with this question,” she says, “and we’ve been able to match people up with tasks or positions that take advantage of those hidden talents and let people shape positions into something that they’re really excited about.”

Use performance reviews to create a growth-oriented culture

Once new hires are on board, it’s time to follow through on the promises, and one standard HR function offers a unique opportunity for leaders to play an active role in creating a culture focused on growth: the performance review.

Reviews can be stressful, but Bryce says that the right framing can bring balance to the conversation, especially if you start with a self-assessment focusing on strength and achievement.

“Let people not just assess the areas where they need to improve or the areas where they fell short, but also let them give themselves a pat on the back,” she says. “Figuring out where people feel like they excelled or they’re doing a great job can really give you insight into the work they’re passionate about, the places they want to grow, and where you can give support with professional development.”

Done well, performance reviews can kick off a positive cycle, Kevin says.“There is a relationship between a great employee experience and great performance,” he says. “When people perform better, they think more highly of their employee experience. And when they think highly of their employee experience, they perform better. So I think one of the big questions that we have to ask around performance evaluations is, are they actually improving people’s performance? Because if they are, it’s going to improve their employee experience, and it’s going to have a really positive spiral.”

Reenergize the process with multiple reviews per year

At JazzHR, Amanda and her team do weekly self-assessments that take about five minutes and ask people how their week went. 

“It really helps as a manager to be able to see the pulse of your team,” she says. “It also helps to be able to look back on weekly check-ins when it’s time to do the big performance reviews annually.”

Bryce says it’s tough to try to evaluate a year’s worth of work, behavior, learning, and goals in a one-hour meeting.“It’s not going to be a successful conversation,” she says, adding that she prefers to do performance evaluations at least four times a year. “Nothing is harmed by having more conversations. They become less stressful. They become better conversations when we’re used to having them.”

Become known for promoting from within

Making internal mobility a pillar of your organization can be as simple as creating a policy to list new positions internally before opening them to a broader applicant pool.

“It is hard to keep track of the evolving skill set of your employees, especially as your organization grows,” Amanda says, “But allowing them to be the first to apply and get preference for that is always going to show who’s raising their hands, who’s eager for movement.”

Bryce advises going one step further to collect information about current people. She keeps the practice fun by calling her survey the “Tinder profile.”

”What areas are they passionate about?” she asks. “What areas would they like to contribute to growth in? What kind of crazy secret talents do they have? Where are those likes, interests, dislikes? Then as opportunities come up in the company, we have this cool, kind of fun data that we can pull and see if we have an internal match for things.”

Encourage managers to advocate for growth

Managers can play a vital role in supporting their team members’ career development.

“When you signed up to be a manager, you signed up to be a career coach,” Kevin says. “You might not have realized it when you took the job, but part of what you’re doing is helping people figure out what their next step is and helping them make the connection between that next step and the work that they’re doing on a day in, day out basis.”

It may sound counterintuitive to encourage a team member to “grow and go,” he says. But, in his experience as an executive coach, he’s seen these development conversations keep people around longer.

Amanda says it’s important for people to know their leaders are in their corner, helping them take on new responsibilities or find opportunities to move in a new direction.

“It’s about keeping an honest communication with your team,” she says, “hearing what they want and then advocating for what they want to see if you can help facilitate that growth. I know that’s a lot easier said than done, but it’s an important team-building tactic, and frankly, it helps with retention of your team when they know that you’re going to bat for them, too.”

Bryce doesn’t hesitate to share her priorities with her team, especially when it comes to conversations about growth. 

“I’ve told my staff before that it doesn’t matter what the job pays or what the hours are like,” she says. “If you’re in a job that doesn’t want to help you grow, it’s a bad job. It’s ultimately bad for the company because keeping people stuck gives you resentful employees that are looking to check out eventually. By encouraging growth, by encouraging people to take steps up or out, you’re going to have happier employees.”

This article is based on the panel discussion “Prioritizing career development and internal mobility throughout the employee lifecycle.” Watch the full webinar to hear more about creating a growth-oriented culture at your organization.

Shelby Blitz

From Shelby Blitz

Shelby is the Director of Content at HiBob. She's passionate about the written word and storytelling. In a past life, she was a music journalist. When she's not writing and editing you can find her baking sweet treats in the kitchen.