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Invest in your team and culture by giving your staff a chance to visualize and ultimately improve their future. — Getty Images/PeopleImages

Employee advancement opportunities encourage strong job performance and motivate workers to push through complex tasks or trying times; however, small businesses may have a limited number of positions available and smaller budgets for promotions. Overcoming obstacles to internal employee development can help your company stay competitive and retain top talent.

Invest in your team and culture by giving your staff a chance to visualize and ultimately improve their future. Empower your team by taking the following actions to create advancement opportunities for employees.

Reduce barriers to professional progression

According to a survey from CareerAddict.com, 82% of respondents said they would quit their job because of a “lack of career advancement opportunities.” Likewise, 35% “would consider returning if they were offered a better salary or a higher position.”

Look at your business as a whole and uncover barriers to advancement, such as:

  • Policies requiring a certain length of time in a position before promotion is possible.
  • A general feeling that promotions rely on whom you know versus how hard you work.
  • Management that lacks coaching and career pathing skills.
  • No internal job posting system.
  • A lack of employee training and development opportunities.

Provide new tasks and responsibilities

Although promotions are great, many employees who work at a small business realize they won’t move into a new role every year. But, they may outgrow their position and become bored. Adding new responsibilities is a form of career advancement.

According to a Clutch survey, 67% of employees “expect to receive more responsibility at their job each year, but only 46% actually receive more responsibility.” Training employees for new jobs and offering a variety of tasks helps people grow professionally, even if their job title stays the same.

Map out various paths to [your employee's] goals, what needs to happen to get them there, and a rough timeline to meet their learning objectives. In addition, keep these conversations separate from performance reviews.

Create a timeline for career advancement

Work with your staff to define goals and create employee development plans. Focus on what type of career your employee wants, including when, how and where they want to work. Ask them what they care about doing most and how that relates to their life intentions.

From there, come up with a plan that connects their professional development to their personal interests. For instance, an entry-level receptionist may be a numbers person and eventually want to move into accounting instead of customer service. Another may want to transition into management.

Map out various paths to their goals, what needs to happen to get them there, and a rough timeline to meet their learning objectives. In addition, keep these conversations separate from performance reviews.

Offer non-linear career advancement opportunities for employees

As noted above, not every employee wants or should move into a management role. Others may prefer exploring options in other departments or taking on new responsibilities that suit their talents, traits or preferred working style.

Lateral career advancement opportunities empower employees to shape their roles at your company. They can leverage their unique abilities while contributing to your organization’s success.

Develop alternatives to conventional career ladders by offering:

  • Job shadowing or rotation opportunities.
  • Cross-departmental collaboration groups.
  • Access to job training that isn’t role-specific.
  • Support through a mentor or coach.

Maximize staff through development and learning initiatives

Knowing how to work smart and cope with challenging situations is critical to professional growth. Boost employee morale and their skill sets by providing educational and career growth opportunities. While it’s important to cross-train staff, professional development takes this a step further. It supports the individual as a whole.

Don’t be afraid to tackle challenging subjects, such as networking for introverts or achieving work-life balance. Each of these topics affects employee advancement opportunities. Invest in employee development by offering relevant workshops, webinars and courses related to your business or industry.

[Read: A Guide to Continuing Professional Development]

Next steps: Create a growth-oriented culture

With a culture of mentoring and development, you can create advancement opportunities for employees in your small business. Doing so requires investment in your management team to understand how to coach employees and design supportive environments online and onsite.

Plus, it’s vital to keep the lines of communication open. Share news about potential advancement opportunities as your company grows and encourage team members to give feedback regarding their job roles. Each action you take can drive employees to show up and put in the time every day.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published October 27, 2021