by Shayne Thomas
26 Mar 2020
Guide Your Employees Along the “Career Lattice”
4 tips that every manager should embrace in their approach to employee development and succession planning
There are very few people these days who start a new job without thinking about where they will end up next. It’s just human nature. Even when we’re in the best job ever, we’ve always got one part of our brain focused on career growth. After all, who wants to be stuck in the same job forever when there are so many opportunities to develop and grow these days?
This is just one of many reasons why we here at Cornerstone talk less about the importance of climbing the “career ladder” and more about working your way up the “career lattice.”
As a quick refresher, this career lattice that we speak of is not a vertical career path. It can go in all directions (but down) and is more focused on gaining new knowledge versus simply getting a fancier job title. It also aligns more closely to an employee’s broader career goals. While it’s fairly safe to say that no one would ever turn down a promotion, the goal of employees today, especially at a time when the world is facing so many unexpected economic and business challenges, is to keep their eyes on the bigger prize: experience. This is the foundation for true career growth, which has a lot more to do with how seriously employees take their learning and development and very little to do with how many months or years they’ve been in a given role.
Managers must lead employees along the career lattice
However, knowing that today’s employees—especially new millennial and gen-Z recruits—are always keeping their eyes on the next big prize, it’s up to managers to help them set realistic goals (and expectations) for achieving future career objectives.
To help you do that effectively, we’ve created four easy-to-implement tips that can help guide your employee development and succession planning process.
Tip 1: Have ongoing development conversations
This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’ll never know what your employees’ goals are if you don’t ask them and regularly engage them in conversations about their development and growth. This is the key to building development plans and skills training objectives that can be tailored specifically to an employee’s broader career growth goals.
By maintaining a regular cadence of development conversations—which you can easily build into the ongoing feedback conversations you should already be having with your employees—you can assess progress against these goals and create a clearer path around how they can realistically grow into a new opportunity. That is, once they’ve mastered the competencies to grow into that role.
As a manager, it’s not only your job to help employees grow, but to give them a light at the end of the tunnel: if they’ve voiced an interest in rising up the ranks or trying something new, help them get there. Just keep in mind that, with the career lattice, growth doesn’t always necessarily happen within a particular team’s “pecking order.” So, even if an opportunity for growth doesn’t exist within your immediate team, there could be lateral moves within other teams in your organization or other growth opportunities in other organizations across the company that could offer your employees the new challenge they’ve been looking for.
Tip 2: Lean into 360-degree feedback
You may think you know your employees through and through, but there’s a good chance that your experience with them—and their day-to-day work—is vastly different than the experiences that other people in your company have with them. This is why we are big believers in 360-degree feedback.
By gaining insight from others who work with your employees, you not only can uncover hidden talents and potential leadership skills, that you may not have otherwise ever known existed, but you can also pinpoint areas for growth or skills development that can ultimately make employees more successful in both their current role as well as any future roles they’ll hold.
So, don’t be afraid to lean into 360-degree feedback as much as you possibly can and be sure to give your employees multiple opportunities to work with other teams, not only so you have more ways to gain 360-degree feedback but also so your employees can discover new areas of interest outside of your team’s purview.
Tip 3: Be transparent about succession planning
We hinted at this above, but let’s take a moment to reiterate it here: if you put employees on a growth and development plan, there needs to be a reward at the end of that journey—that is, as long as all key competencies and necessary training have been successfully achieved.
This process needs to be 100% transparent, otherwise you risk making employees feel as though they’re being pulled along a string with no end in sight. Not only will this create a more tense manager-employee relationship, but it could also expose you—and your company—to complaints about discrimination (which never end well for anyone involved).
Long story short, if your employees are eager to make a move along the career lattice, make it crystal clear for how they can get there and, once achieved, open the doors to make it happen. Also, be sure to set clear expectations and help employees understand that there may not always be opportunities for immediate moves within a company (much less during a recession). However, don’t string them along for too long either; once they’ve reached all of the milestones on their growth and development plan, you need to actively help them make the next step.
Tip 4: Leverage technology to automate this process
What if we told you that all of this could be simplified, streamlined, and, in many ways, automated through technology? The good news: it’s true! With tools like Cornerstone Performance with succession planning, you can integrate each competency or skills training into your performance management program to help support employee growth at all points along an employee’s life cycle within your company.
By having development and growth integrated seamlessly into your overarching talent management system, you’ll be able to more easily track development against goals, conduct annual reviews and ongoing performance assessments, identify important leadership skills, and create realistic and achievable paths for growth.
Additionally, with all the pieces of the performance management puzzle connected, you’ll have access to meaningful insights that can help you take real-time action on performance—whether to help employees reach their next step or to correct for existing skills deficiencies. Not only will it save you valuable time (vs. doing this all manually), but it will also help you be a better manager, empowering you to make better, more informed decisions as you help your employees work their way across, up, and around the career lattice.
It’s time to enable development and growth along the career lattice
If you’re ready to take your succession planning to the next level, Cornerstone is here to help. Our performance management solutions—with succession planning tools built right in—can help you improve employee retention and boost employee happiness while also removing many of the tedious and time-consuming tasks that once went into employee development and succession planning.
So, why not make this process a better experience for you and your employees? Learn more about Cornerstone’s performance and talent management solutions today.