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No one wants to stay in a dead-end job. When employees see outside talent getting hired for higher-level positions instead of employees being offered opportunities to advance, don’t get changes in pay, title, or responsibility, and don’t get any face-time with the boss, they will leave. Maybe not this week, or even this year, but they’ll leave, probably in less than five years according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Today’s worker stays only 4.4 years at a job, and millennials stay only half that long. The main reason younger workers move on so quickly? To have opportunities for career advancement and greater job fulfillment, according to a study by St. Olaf’s Sociology Department. Do your employees have to leave your company to get the growth opportunities they want?

If you need to retain top talent and control the cost of turnover in your organization, you need to give employees good reasons to stay. You need to carefully build engagement into your company culture, and one of the biggest drivers of employee engagement is opportunity for growth. Understanding and providing opportunities for employee growth are an important factor in business success.

 

Build Growth Opportunities into Your Culture

Recruiting software company Jobvite President and CEO Dan Finnigan knows the importance of providing growth opportunities for employees in both employee retention and talent attraction. He says it’s not only for the benefit of employees. It’s also important to the entire company. And he reminds everyone that younger workers especially are probably viewing entry level roles as having a short shelf-life on their career path and will move on regardless, but that shouldn’t keep employers from building a growth culture that attracts the best candidates and treats them well while they are with the company.

Twitter’s head of organizational effectiveness & learning Melissa Daimler advises employers to provide training and growth opportunities that employees want and need rather than just offering what people in charge want. It’s important to remember that helping employees reach their career goals builds engagement and loyalty and has a big impact on retention. Include growth offerings such as employee development plans at evaluation time, skills assessments so employees can understand what areas to focus on, and formal assistance with tuition reimbursement.

 

Types of Growth Opportunities Employees Want

Do you know what types of growth opportunities your employees want? Collaboration software and services provider PGi’s 2015 Workplace Resolutions survey found that the top five things employees want this year include a raise or promotion, better work/life balance, better technology, to be more organized, and continuing education.

Forbes contributor and Wolf Management Training founder Victor Lipman explains four types of growth: financial, career, professional, and personal. Financial growth includes more than raises and retirement benefits and encompasses bonus opportunities, recognition for length of service, and financial incentives for goals achievement. Career growth includes clear career paths and opportunities for advancement and progressively more challenging work. Professional growth includes acquiring new skills, being set up for success to meet sales and productivity goals, and opportunities for “stretch” to explore work beyond current roles. Personal growth opportunities include programs for peer recognition, work/life balance in the work environment, and employee programs for wellness and charitable giving and volunteering.

 

When There are no Resources for Growth

Building a growth culture is the key to business success in today’s modern working world. With high employee disengagement, global competition fueled by advances in technology and social media, and a continuing skills shortage, employers can’t afford to neglect employee engagement. As with most business development issues, a successful growth mindset must start with business leaders. Human Solutions LLC founder and owner Barbara Osterman says leaders have to make growth culture a high priority, measure and monitor it, and focus on it as a key business initiative.

Employers can’t use lack of resources as an excuse not to build a growth culture. There are ways to provide growth opportunities for employees and make growth an integral part of the company culture without a big budget. Fill positions from within when possible instead of always hiring from outside to show employees there are opportunities to advance without leaving the company. Make employee development plans part of the performance evaluation process to better understand employee needs and demonstrate that the company cares about their development. Start a mentoring program that pairs up senior employees with entry level employees, and make cross-training part of every manager’s responsibility.

When there are opportunities for growth and especially when your culture is a growth culture, employees have more reasons to stay with the company to continue their careers and fulfill their interests and ambitions. That translates to better employee engagement, lower turnover, better retention, and improved employer brand that attracts the top talent you need in a competitive job market and challenging global economy.

Check out the top 25 companies for career opportunities per Glassdoor’s online company review survey and see how your company compares for the growth opportunities that drive engagement.

Take a look at your work environment and consider whether your company culture incorporates the five elements of engagement discussed by Josh Bersin, principal of Deloitte Consulting LLP and founder of Bersin by Deloitte. Do your employees feel they are doing meaningful work? Do your managers provide hands-on management? Do employees describe and talk about a positive work environment? Is there widespread trust in leadership?

The Recruiting Division will take a look at each of these elements in more detail in upcoming posts in our Elements of Engagement series so you can better understand employee engagement and how it affects your employees and your bottom line.

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