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Feb 20, 2023

Pretend to be a candidate and take a look at your company’s career site or job ads. What are the top selling points that you’re pitching to candidates?

I recently picked a dozen random name-brand companies, and the selling points I gleaned from their career websites were robust compensation and benefits packages, safe and inclusive work environments, strong values (like teamwork, excellence, integrity, etc.), and innovative or important work.

Occasionally, a company would mention tuition reimbursement or professional development, but those selling points were typically further down the list of benefits, and it was rare to see an organization explicitly tout career growth. That’s a glaring missed opportunity.

A new study from Leadership IQ, called “Career Growth Or Stalled Progress,” discovered that one of the biggest factors attracting people to work for a company is the availability of career growth opportunities. Compensation, benefits, and work-life balance were the top three factors, of course, but career growth opportunities came in fourth, ahead of flexible working arrangements, job security, and strong corporate values.

That doesn’t mean that you should avoid mentioning flexible working arrangements, job security, and strong corporate values, but it does mean that most companies would benefit greatly from more explicitly touting career growth. If you’re currently doing a great job of offering legit growth opportunities, highlight your offerings. And if what you’re currently offering is subpar, then perhaps this gives you a push to bolster your initiatives.

For example, the study found that only 19% of people always see a path to advance their career at their current employer, while 30% never or rarely see a path. Perhaps the real kicker is that those who always see the career pathing toward advancement are literally 174% more engaged than those who never see that path.

One way of interpreting that data is that companies are largely failing to offer robust career development. But there’s also a more positive spin: Most employers are so bad at growing employees’ careers that you don’t have to be world-class to really outshine your competition.

Are you offering training for employees that not only develops their current skills but prepares them for future roles? Do all of your managers conduct career coaching conversations with their employees? Do employees’ annual goals extend beyond their current roles to foster development for future roles? Do people have opportunities to serve in leadership roles outside of the normal corporate hierarchy (e.g., serving in leadership roles on task forces or employee resource groups)?

Those are only a few of the ways that you can foster employees’ career development and growth. And if you’re doing any of those, you should be highlighting your efforts on your career site and in your recruiting pitches. All of the workplace awards that companies pursue are great, but they don’t address career growth, an issue that could be significantly more important to job seekers.

And think about the potential return on investment for prioritizing employees’ career development and growth. Is any organization going to suffer because they bolstered their employees’ skills or forced managers to learn some new techniques for career coaching? Given that employees at companies with great career growth are so much more engaged, it’s not like employees are going to run screaming for the exits once they’ve developed a new set of skills.

Even if, hypothetically, a few employees did leave for better opportunities, think about how much bigger and deeper your candidate pool will be if your company highlights its great career development opportunities.

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