Photo: marchmeena29 / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Photo: marchmeena29 / iStock / Getty Images Plus

According to the Gallup State of the American Workforce Report, lack of development or career growth opportunities is the No. 1 reason employees leave a job. This fact presents a challenge for many employers, especially those with seasonal businesses and high turnover. In fact, some employers are simply unwilling to invest in employee development because they don’t believe it’s worth the investment.

Other employers are willing to invest in development but struggle to find quality resources that are affordable and that make sense. Offering to reimburse tuition sounds great, but if a person isn’t in a position to enroll in college courses, the offer is somewhat meaningless. And, college courses are often not all that applicable to the specific development needs of employees. Development has to be relevant for it to be meaningful.

The desire to be developed by one’s employer is something that previous generations didn’t prioritize. My generation — the Baby Boomers — were, as a whole, more concerned with our personal satisfaction in the moment. Millennials are often accused of wanting free stuff to appease them, but it was actually the Baby Boomer generation that wanted to be appeased. The new generation wants to be developed along a clear path. Patronizing efforts at appeasement will fail.

What does this look like? Great question. It begins with a commitment to ongoing development. This should be a key discussion topic during an interview so that the foundation of a development plan is already in place before a new person’s first day. The first 90 days of employment is often consumed with onboarding and basic training — what many companies are already doing quite well.

After this initial 90-day period, the development plan may be clarified and put into place. Best practice is to establish 90-day goals for development and revisit these goals during a quarterly meeting between each person and their manager. This process will result in everyone being on the same page and progress being made each and every quarter.

It is also advisable to implement career-laddering positions throughout your organization. Every position should have three levels — beginner, intermediate and advanced — with requirements to advance to each level. The advanced level is the “bench” for the next position, creating a systematic laddering system.

None of this is easy. It takes effort. But, if the alternative is not developing your people and continually watching them come and go, there really is no other choice that makes sense than to go all-in on employee development.

Now go forth.

This article is tagged with and posted in Blog, Expert Insights

About the Author:

Phil Harwood is a Senior Advisor with Tamarisk Business Advisors. Contact him at

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