Do you want to see your employees engaged in their work? As a manager, creating growth opportunities is one of the best things you can do. This article from Entrepreneur talks about how growth opportunities can inspire employees.
One of the most important factors in employee engagement is whether employees feel as if they have opportunities for growth and development. Those who grow are far more likely to engage than those who stagnate in their roles. Comparing and contrasting significant surveys of workers during two very different periods — though just seven years apart — provides insight into this mindset.
In 2010, employee perception of internal growth opportunities across 70 countries was at its lowest in the 15-plus years that our company, DecisionWise, had tracked engagement. Overall levels of employee engagement also had dropped correspondingly.
These surveys covered several thousand organizations and more than 24 million responses. We asked employees to rate their agreement with the following statement: “This company provides attractive opportunities for growth and development.” Only 57 percent of employee responses to this question were favorable. Nearly half of employees felt they were stagnating.
Consider the environment at that time: Nations around the globe were experiencing their highest levels of unemployment in decades, training budgets had been cut across the board, and fear of a dismal job market led many employees to hunker down in place rather than search beyond their current organizations. Those who stuck around chose to play it safe even within those confines instead of looking internally for challenges and calculated risks.
Growth opportunities simply might have been less available. Certainly, promotions were less frequent than in the years leading to 2010. Managers explained it this way: “Our employees are disengaged because we don’t have promotions and titles to hand out like we used to.” It was an easy washing-of-the-hands excuse, even if the argument did carry a degree of merit.
Many managers assumed that employees needed promotions to feel as if they were growing in their careers. And with fewer promotions to disperse, managers said they had little control over the “growth” component of engagement. The math worked like this: Fewer promotion opportunities equal slower growth and lack of growth equals lower engagement. Or so they said.
But that was then. Today is different, right? Not so fast.
In 2017, the labor market is tighter than ever. Companies actively are reducing bureaucratic layers of management and working to increase efficiencies. We live in the “Age of the Employee,” and employees have choices. The result? Reduced management strata (just ask Tony Hsieh and employees who are part of the Zappos holacracy experiment) — and quite possibly no more opportunity for promotion than in previous years.
Interestingly, employees who respond on the topic of growth aren’t focused on near-term promotions. Yet many managers still assume that employees will disengage if the ladder isn’t available for climbing. In reality, that’s a management cop-out. Growth goes beyond a higher position or a better parking space. Our survey research has shown that growth doesn’t always equate with a promotion.
The answer for many organizations seems to be “grow where you’re planted,” and that’s not a bad thing. Virtually anyone can grow within his or her position, and opportunity needn’t be directly tied to a new title. Employees need to take a greater degree of ownership for their own growth, but that doesn’t mean managers are off the hook.
Managers must think beyond the old standbys of promotion and training courses.
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