3 Tips for Helping Employees Achieve Their Career Growth Goals

3 Tips for Helping Employees Achieve Their Career Growth Goals
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By: Zeynep Ilgaz

There’s a new sheriff in town when it comes to employee retention. According to a recent survey, lack of career development has dethroned pay as the top reason employees quit their jobs.

Today, if workers aren’t learning, growing, and achieving their career goals, no amount of money will make them feel fulfilled. In fact, as revealed in this bestselling book, modern workers are so enthusiastic about developing their careers that 75 percent of them are willing to seek out learning opportunities on their own time.

However, this self-initiative doesn’t mean you are off the hook. Companies and their leaders still have a critical role to play in helping employees set — and, more importantly, achieve — their career goals.

A License to Achieve

When companies don’t make a concerted effort to support employees’ career goals, they send a discouraging message and promote disengagement. Whether intentional or not, this perceived indifference gives the impression that they don’t care whether their workers grow and achieve their goals.

Throw your youngest employees into the mix, and you’ve got a real problem on your hands. After all, 87 percent of Millennials say development is crucial in a job, yet fewer than 25 percent feel satisfied with the current learning opportunities at work.

Supporting your employees as they work toward achieving their career goals demonstrates just how much you value and respect them — and, to me, this is one of the most important messages a company can send to its workers.

The following three strategies will help you make that message loud and clear:

1. Create a two-way street.

Oftentimes, setting and discussing career goals only takes place at annual performance reviews. However, in reality, circumstances change all the time — and goals can be fluid. That’s why leaders should open up the lines of communication, make career goals an ongoing conversation, and check in with their team members throughout the year to discuss their progress.

When sitting down for the first time to set goals, strive to identify objectives that are mutually beneficial. In other words, when an employee achieves his or her goals, your company should benefit from this accomplishment. Doing so will ensure all parties remain motivated and invested in the process.

What’s more, less is better. Set no more than three goals at a time — a combination of short-term and long-term — and be sure to keep them realistic. According to a study, 33 percent of employees feel like they aren’t on track to hit their career goals. That’s why our company, Confirm BioSciences, takes extra precautions to ensure the goals we set are actually achievable. Being too aggressive will only set false expectations and ultimately lead to disappointment and demotivation.

2. Invest in holistic development.

Make a genuine investment in your employees’ personal and professional development. Take this very seriously because seven out of 10 people factor growth opportunities into their decision to stay or leave an employer.

Take the time to understand every team member’s specific goals and aspirations. Then, provide training and development opportunities that send them in that direction. This can be anything from online training courses to trips to conferences or trade shows. Google even went as far as to create a "School of Spiritual Growth" for employees looking to advance in that particular area of their lives.

At our company, we listen closely to our staff members when they talk about their personal and professional goals, and we’ve taken action based on the insights they’ve provided. For example, we turned a room of our office into a library because some team members wanted access to books and reading material that advanced their professional knowledge. Further, we invested in an on-site gym and Fitbits because several employees mentioned physical fitness as a personal goal.

3. Personalize your recognition.

During your goals meetings, you’ll learn many things about what motivates every single team member. Through this feedback, customize your recognition. Acknowledge the specific milestone each person hits as a reminder that you’re aware of his or her unique personal aspirations.

Personalized recognition and rewards will encourage staff to go the extra mile for your company. In fact, 37 percent of employees would likely improve their performance with more personal recognition at work.

So show appreciation for your employees both verbally and by giving them perks they care about. If one of your workers is a coffee connoisseur, get her a gift card to Starbucks. For parents in the summertime, consider offering extra time off so they can spend time with their kids.

The times have changed. Modern employees now have a thirst for knowledge that outweighs their thirst for compensation. As a leader, your best bet is to support this new top priority.

Set your employees up for success as they set out to achieve their goals. An investment in personal and professional development is an investment in your company’s long-term health.


Originally from Turkey, Zeynep Ilgaz and her husband immigrated to the United States with two suitcases, their love for each other, and a desire for entrepreneurship. They co-founded Confirm BioSciences and TestCountry in San Diego, and Ilgaz serves as president of both. Confirm BioSciences offers service-oriented testing technologies for drugs of abuse and health.

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