New professional development strategy: People movement

| March 14, 2017

In an age when employees seemingly have little attachment to their employers and are constantly searching for their next gig, is workforce development a waste of time?

A new survey by Dale Carnegie Training of 3,300 full-time employees around the world, including 515 in the U.S, finds that only 23 percent of U.S. workers intend to stick with their current job for the long-haul. Forty-one percent of employees say they are either looking for a new job now or plan to do so within the next year.

And yet, argues Ryan Holmes of Hootsuite, the social media management platform, companies should embrace their workers’ hunger to move on to bigger and better things by providing them opportunities to do that within the workplace.

In a column for Fast Company, Holmes calls on companies to champion what he calls “people movement.”

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“Part of this will be promotions,” he explains. “But an even more critical piece is the lateral and diagonal movements of employees leaving one team for another.”

Traditionally, a “lateral move” is not a flattering way to describe a position change within a company. But Holmes says that such changes are key to developing better-rounded employees who are in a stronger position to take on leadership positions in the future.

“In my company, we’ve seen salespeople transition to product management roles and marketing specialists shift into corporate development,” he writes. “Talented people who enter the company with one skill set are able to level up and acquire expertise in a whole new area. The result is happier, more fulfilled employees who stay with the company–but don’t necessarily stay put.”

To that end, Hootsuite has set a specific “people movement” goal: 20 percent of its workforce should change positions within the next year.

One natural objection to Holmes’ model is that the constant changing of positions leads the company to spend an inordinate amount of time on training. But Holmes suggests the opposite: the company’s focus on professional development has led it to develop extremely efficient training processes that allows it to more quickly onboard new employees.

When people are constantly moving around the company, the reasoning follows, departments are less likely to stagnate. That makes it less likely that a team will experience the drop in feedback and communication that tends to occur as employees get set in their roles and receive less support from their superiors.

The Carnegie study provides support for the view that what employees yearn for is frequent feedback from higher-ups. The survey finds that only about a quarter of workers prefer a boss whose only expectation of them is a solid performance. Three-quarters say they want to work for somebody who encourages them to improve and grow on the job.

Encouraging improvement was by far the top employer characteristic cited by employees, followed by giving praise and showing appreciation for employees, recognizing and highlighting improved performance, admitting their own mistakes or shortcomings and allowing employees to save face in difficult situations.

Similarly, a 2015 survey of 1,100 millennial workers by Boston College’s Center for Work and Family found that the young generation of employees will stay with a company as long as they are provided with ample opportunities for professional growth.

“We’ve heard in the media that millennials move quickly from one job to another, but that’s not what we found in our study,” explained Fred Van Deusen, who led the research.  “We found that they preferred to stick with one company, as long as they felt they were learning and advancing.”