Career growth opportunities—all you need to know

How to maximize engagement and retention by prioritizing career mobility

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By Nicole Schreiber-Shearer, Future of Work Specialist at Gloat

August 24, 2022

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The days of predefined, vertical-only career ladders and unfulfilling development opportunities have ended. Now that talent shortages are tipping the power dynamics of the employee-employer relationship in workers’ favor, people are coming to expect a purpose-led approach to career growth opportunities.

Putting employees at the helm of their professional progression is essential for retaining and engaging top talent in the new world of work. Employees are placing a premium on internal development opportunities, with two out of three workers claiming they’ll quit jobs when internal mobility isn’t a possibility.

Consequently, creating impactful career growth opportunities is a non-negotiable for organizations looking to sidestep the high costs associated with soaring turnover rates. To ensure their workforce grows with their business, leaders must prioritize career mobility and equip employees with the tools and resources they need to achieve their full potential.

What are career growth opportunities?

Although most people use career growth and career development interchangeably, the terms don’t describe the same thing. While career development is achieved by building skills in the short term, career growth refers to the big picture and the overall progress an employee is making throughout their professional life. Career growth is typically defined by the different roles and responsibilities that an employee takes on throughout their professional journey.

To fuel career growth, employers must increase access to meaningful career development opportunities that will enable people to build the skills they need to take their roles to the next level. The most comprehensive career growth strategies tap into different types of development opportunities, including experiential learning like mentoring and projects and gigs, as well as training courses and L&D curriculums.

Why are career growth opportunities important?

Career growth opportunities have always been important, but the talent shortages many businesses are experiencing today have raised the stakes. As the half-life of skills shrinks and the hiring landscape gets increasingly competitive, leaders recognize that access to career growth opportunities can make or break their talent management strategies.

While workers may have settled for one-size-fits-all, linear career paths in the past, employees are no longer content with being treated like cogs in a machine. Instead, career growth in the new world of work is all about creating portfolios of lateral and vertical opportunities that connect people to a sense of purpose.

Rather than watching top talent leave, employers are striving to ensure their employees can find the purpose-led career growth opportunities that they’re looking for. Prioritizing internal career growth opportunities is a powerful way to enhance retention, as a lack of internal mobility is the second-most common reason that employees cite in their decision to call it quits.

Exploring different types of career growth opportunities

All career growth opportunities aren’t one and the same. The term encompasses many different types of learning and development, from content-based coursework to projects and gigs. The most impactful career growth strategies are comprised of various opportunities, including:

  • Mentoring and shadowing
    Mentorships pair employees who are looking to develop specific skills with colleagues who have expertise in a related knowledge area. Similarly, shadowing provides opportunities to see how a specific task or role is completed by watching a coworker perform it.
  • Projects
    When employees take on projects or gigs, they have the chance to hone new skills, collaborate cross-functionally, and network with colleagues who they may not typically have the chance to work with.
  • Temporary roles
    Taking on a temporary role enables workers who have additional capacity to step in for a colleague and get familiar with an area of the business with which they may have less experience. Depending on the nature of the assignment, employees may fulfill temporary roles on a part-time or full-time basis, generally for a predefined period of time.
  • Learning and coursework
    In addition to experiential learning opportunities, employees need access to L&D content to take career development to the next level. Content may include coursework, videos, and modules that align with the skills that someone is looking to build.

5 tips for creating career growth opportunities that inspire and engage

There are several steps that leaders can take to enhance the career growth opportunities their organization has to offer.

#1. Look beyond full-time openings
While taking on a new role within an organization is a noteworthy milestone, it’s far from the only thing that employees can do to grow their careers. Rather than solely prioritizing full-time openings, employees need visibility into various types of growth opportunities, including part-time projects, temporary roles, and mentorships.

Many organizations that excel at career growth harness a talent marketplace to democratize access to career development opportunities by aligning employees with hands-on learning experiences that relate to the skills they’re looking to build.

#2. Prioritize skills
When career development and L&D don’t work in tandem, meaningful career growth opportunities cease to exist. Instead of sticking to the same vertical career ladders, employees need the chance to participate in skill-building activities that are tailored to their professional ambitions.

With the help of a workforce agility platform, leaders can put skills at the center of their career growth strategy. Workers can harness the platform to seek out skill-building opportunities that align with their career goals, while employers gain ongoing insight into the capabilities their workforce has and the competencies they need to prioritize.

#3. Emphasize mentoring
When it comes to career growth, mentoring is a win-win. Employees gain valuable leadership skills by mentoring their coworkers, while their colleagues have the chance to develop new expertise based on their professional ambitions.

The most impactful mentoring initiatives look beyond job titles and seniority levels. Instead, skills and interests are the deciding factors that shape mentor-mentee pairings. Workforce agility platforms generate suggested matches based on these criteria to maximize the value employees derive from their mentoring experiences.

#4. Give your people a sense of purpose
Today, most employees are putting a premium on purpose, especially if they’re part of the younger generations of workers. Nearly 60% of millennials note that they’re driven by their organization’s values, while 80% of Generation Z employees express a similar sentiment.

Volunteering opportunities enable employees to feel fulfilled while also honing the skills they need to grow their careers. Leading enterprises tap into workforce agility platforms to connect people to community service experiences through an open platform approach that integrates volunteering into the range of career development opportunities that employees can access.

#5. Tap into a workforce agility platform
Workforce agility platforms are quickly turning into an essential tool for leaders who are looking to streamline access to personalized career development opportunities. By pairing a talent marketplace with workforce intelligence, the platforms create a continuous loop of insight to action.

Real-time data on companies, employees, competencies, skills, and aspirations provide hyper-relevant information that business leaders can use in workforce planning and decision-making. At the same time, employees can tap into the talent marketplace’s career pathing tools to pinpoint skill gaps they need to bridge and learning opportunities that will help them get up to speed.

How Mastercard enhanced career growth with a workforce agility platform

Mastercard harnessed its workforce agility platform to break down silos and empower employees to unlock priceless career development opportunities. After the enterprise’s CEO encouraged all team members to step up to help colleagues during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the idea of a platform to facilitate the seamless exchange of talent quickly came to life.

The organization soon introduced a workforce agility platform to put people at the helm of their career progression and empower employees to pursue skill-building opportunities across the business. Mastercard even used its platform to create an NFT community devised to get employees up to speed as the organization moves into the cryptocurrency space.

To date, Mastercard has unlocked more than 100,000 hours and saved $21 million through its internal mobility initiative. In describing the impact their platform has had, Mastercard’s Chief People Officer Michael Fraccaro notes, “With [our workforce agility platform] Unlocked, we can collaborate across regions and business units, uncover new ideas, challenge assumptions, and push one another to think in bold new ways. Unlocked is allowing us to open up the boundaries of our teams and expand our talent reach to ultimately grow and develop with each other.”

To learn more about how to take career growth opportunities to the next level, find out how workforce agility platforms can help you grow and develop your people.

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