Why employee development is crucial in driving career growth

Cornerstone Editors

Employees are your organization’s most important asset. Yes, they’re more important than your server capacity, office chairs and even, shockingly, PowerPoint presentations. No matter what else is on your “2023 priorities list,” nothing at your organization can work without working people.

By now, you’ve probably heard the words buzzing around, like The Great Resignation and Quiet Quitting. These aren’t new ideas, just new terms for age-old issues. They’re the current response to people not feeling like their organizations are investing in their growth and development. It’s the classic “if you’re not investing in me, why would I invest in you” scenario.

In a recent Cornerstone study, we found a large Skills Confidence Gap between how well organizations think they’re investing in their people's development and how well the people feel their organizations are actually doing. The organizations that were falling behind were the ones with the largest gaps.

As an organization, your HR and talent leaders need to help their employees develop and hone their strengths and grow their skills. When you invest in your people, you better equip them for their current roles, align them with the company trajectory and prepare them for internal mobility opportunities. This investment in your people adds more value to their work, directly benefiting your organization.

When your people feel their work is challenging them and pushing them to grow (or they have more skill development options outside of their day-to-day role through Gigs or CRG groups), they can better connect to your organization and picture their future with you.

Two of the best ways to ensure you’re working to connect your people more with you and their work are through creating meaningful 1:1 check-ins and aligning your organization’s goals to theirs.

The importance of regular 1:1 check-ins

When was the last time you had a 1:1 check-in with your manager or employee? Hopefully, you had one recently or have one scheduled because 1:1 check-ins are critical for boosting employee productivity, engagement and development.

A 1:1 check-in is an effective way for employees and managers to:

  • Give and receive feedback on their projects and performance
  • Share their professional goals and skills they would like to acquire
  • Ask questions
  • Understand workloads
  • Support learning and development

With a consistent 1:1 check-in schedule, your organization can build stronger relationships between employees and their managers, foster open communication and transparency about expectations and provide employees the opportunity to navigate their own career development.

How to create a successful 1:1 check-in

Scheduling regular 1:1 check-in is just the first step in improving your employee development strategy. Ensuring these meetings are productive requires shared preparation and meaningful action items.

It takes two to have a successful check-in

A meeting where only one person is prepared isn’t a meeting. It’s a lecture. Successful 1:1 check-ins are a shared responsibility between employees and managers, so both need to prepare accordingly.

Before the meeting, employees can focus on accomplishing the three R’s — Reflect, Report, Record:

  1. Reflect on their performance and document the projects they’ve worked on since their last 1:1 meeting — how they went, any blockers, how they could improve, etc.
  2. Report on their progress on their personal and professional goals and where they still want to grow.
  3. Record any questions and feedback they have for their immediate manager.

When managers are preparing for 1:1 check-ins, they have many of the same requirements as an employee. They need to reflect, report and record while responding to all the employee's needs and planning for what’s next. To ensure they have a great 1:1 check-in outline, managers need to:

  • Provide a brief review of the last meeting and ask questions about how the employee is feeling about their current projects
  • Discuss new opportunities that might interest the employee
  • Provide the employee with feedback on their performance
  • Ask the employee what they want to learn more about and how you can support them
  • Establish action items for the next meeting

Overall, having regular 1:1 check-ins between managers and employees fosters a more transparent and comfortable working environment that provides room for learning, growth and development.

Align the skills your employees want with the ones they need

It’s no secret people want to do meaningful work, expand their career opportunities and understand their impact. As a talent leader, you help your employees and organization connect learning to career growth. With this connection, employees can unlock new opportunities to advance their careers and transform themselves and the organization, and the organization creates longer retention because engaged people stay.

Skills are your compass to success. In the Cornerstone 2022 Global Skills Report, 74% of employees worldwide want more tailored, comprehensive career guidance. Integrating skill and career guidance makes it easy for employees to chart their desired career path by seeing a holistic view of the skills needed and how it translates to internal mobility. These three crucial steps can help you provide your employees with the resources to adapt, expand their skill sets, and grow within the organization.

Ask your employees what matters to them and what their personal career goals are

Understanding your employees’ motivations and personal career goals allows you to provide them with the skills needed to achieve their goals and show how their work reflects their goals.

Create career growth opportunities within the organization

Providing employees with stretch projects that pertain to their personal career goals can help them better grow and expand within your organization, resulting in longer retention.

Use AI talent solutions to identify already existing skills and skill gaps within the organization

Understanding your employees’ skill sets can help you discover what skill gaps exist within your organization. As a talent leader, you can create personalized growth plans to accelerate career growth, close skill gaps, and boost your organization.

Finding employee development success in 2023

Ensuring employee development is at the top of your organization’s 2023 priorities is one of the most direct ways you can ensure you’ll find success next year and every year after.

Check-ins and skill alignment are critical for building a people-centric organization. The benefits for your people are only matched by the benefits for your organization. Increased retention and employee engagement, reduction in skill gaps, and improved productivity are only a few benefits on the ever-growing list of why prioritizing employee development is the key to organizational success.

People aren’t just a line item on a spreadsheet. They’re an essential part of any organization.

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