Today we are going to talk about career development, the thing most employees want and need to talk about, but few organizations and managers seem to make a priority. Many organizations and executives understand the importance of career planning, but don’t designate resources or take time to help plan a future for their staff, especially with our younger workers.

A poll conducted by Monster indicated that an overwhelming 72% of employees do not feel like their manager or supervisor cares about their career potential. The problem with this statistic is that while pay and benefits are a key reason employees join an organization, a lack of career development opportunities is the number one reason many employees will choose to leave.

So why do managers and organizations avoid career conversations? Based on my own work with many organizations, while the understanding on the importance of career development is there, there is a more prevailing notion that because many employees are going to leave anyway, the investment in their careers is just not that important. However, this short-sighted point of view fails to consider that it is a focus on career development that leads to reduced turnover, improved productivity, and increased engagement.

So let’s consider how organizations and managers should address career development. To begin with, it is important to note that effective career development must involve the organization, the manager, and the employee themselves.

First, organizations need to layout career paths by position, so that each employee understands the requirements, experience, and expectations to get a promotion. But it’s not only about creating a one-directional career ladder. Beverly Kaye, CEO of Career Systems International suggests that you view career development as a climbing wall, with multiple paths to go in many directions. For those people on your team that are interested in learning new skills, there should be an opportunity for them to do that across your organization.

In addition, organizations should offer learning opportunities for staff. Now, this doesn’t have to be large-scale classroom training opportunities or conferences. Those determined to advance their careers – and especially the Millennials in your workplace – will appreciate flexible learning options, such as sharing relevant articles, providing bite-sized e-Learning, or even offering mentoring opportunities on the job. Organizational support of career development will be appreciated, no matter what form it takes. I talk to a lot of companies today about the importance of developing their own training library of articles, books, courses, and business cases.

Next, managers must be actively engaged in an employee’s career development. They need to challenge the status quo, encourage learning, and most importantly, stop thinking that by developing their people that those same people will take their job. I would argue that managers are the most indispensable when they are developing and delegating to their people. I have also found that when companies make employee development a core expectation and criteria of any management bonus plan that learning and career development are never an employee issue.

GE has taken this concept to a greater level. Lucas Miller, Product Manager of Performance Development said, “At GE, our leadership philosophy is ‘We All Rise.’ This means we believe that when one of us gets better, we all get better.” These manager-enabled conversations can truly make a difference – according to a recent study, employees are three times as likely to be engaged in their own development when they feel that their leadership is committed to it as well.

Finally, require your employees to be proactive and take initiative when it comes to their own career. They should be expected to seek out training and mentoring, rather than just having opportunities handed to them. When your employees become more invested in their own careers, they become more engaged, work harder, and stay longer. Don’t underestimate the value of career conversations in engaging your staff.

A career strategy within your organization is critical. As Anne Fulton, author of The Career Engagement Game suggests, “Your strategy requires individual empowerment, manager enablement, and organizational effectiveness.” When you have all three at play, you can positively impact your employees’ mindset and company culture.

Thanks for reading – don’t forget to check out my book, Culture Hacker, available today. Cheers.