Outside the Mold

Employee Development

Organizations need to reinvent growth strategies by providing opportunities to all levels of employees.

By Meghann Arnold

When it comes to developing a strong workforce, organizations too often provide opportunity to only “traditional” employees: Those who have college degrees and a resume full of experience, volunteerism, and organizational involvement. To put it lightly, organizations don’t always give opportunities to those who don’t fit the mold of advancement.

However, by ignoring an entire workforce of people, HR leaders are in jeopardy of missing out on valuable talent that could have a prolific impact. Organizations are also missing the mark when they don’t give employees a fair chance to grow and evolve as individuals. After all, 34 percent of employees say they plan to leave their current role in the next 12 months, according to a Mercer study. Presumably, many people who feel overlooked by their employers will have a stronger desire to leave or will be unhappy at work.

Focusing on underserved employees may not currently be the norm, but there are several reasons why concentrating on this group will greatly boost a company’s workforce. They include:

  • Professional DevelopmentFosters loyalty. Employee loyalty is crucial to any successful company. These are the people who are driving the organization forward and putting the manpower behind the products and services. Oftentimes, however, many of the people who put in the grueling work are hourly, entry-level employees, and these individuals are too often underserved. They’re not given the same opportunities to grow, develop, and advance at their organizations, and this inevitably leads to low employee engagement and satisfaction.

ReportLinker found that 83 percent of employees with opportunities to take on new challenges say they’re more likely to stay with their organization. This should be an encouraging statistic for any employer who is unsure of entry-level employee development programs, as it’s proof that people will stay longer with a company that invests in them. Investing in each employee will have an impact on the individual.

When time and resources are invested in everyone in the workforce, organizations become an employer of choice for those looking to develop. Not only will this foster loyalty among the team already present, but it’s also a benefit when it comes to hiring.

  • Prepares a team to pivot. While it’s convenient for employees to remain in their same positions for a long time, this is simply unrealistic. People evolve, grow, and eventually move on. That’s why it’s so important to remain vigilant and forward-thinking as an organization. By focusing on underserved employees and providing them advancement and growth opportunities, organizations are able to help teams pivot or shift focus in unexpected moments of need.

This proactive mindset can take shape in a number of ways. First, provide all employees—regardless of title, pay, or experience—the opportunity to take part in professional development programming. One way to do this is by creating an annual program that allows the individual to dictate the terms of their growth. In other words, allow each employee to determine what programming, education, or projects they will take part in to contribute to their advancement. This individualized approach will signal to all employees that as an organization, HR takes each person’s growth seriously. For those who aren’t normally afforded these types of opportunities, it will allow them to go outside of their comfort zone and expand their skill set.

Internal advancement is another way companies can prepare for unexpected pivots. When organizations grow teams from within, people who might not otherwise have an opportunity to advance can grow. Organizations will also provide all employees with a sense of excitement and pride that they, too, might one day be promoted to a new role. This further enhances a team member’s engagement and will boost their willingness to work hard and refine their skills. This can be monumental for an employee who doesn’t normally feel valued.

  • Creates a diverse workforce. Granting all employees the opportunity to grow will ultimately result in a more diverse team. Organizations will find benefit from employees who have had different experiences. The mold of a “perfect employee” isn’t always the most diverse. When opportunities are opened up to underserved employees, organizations will benefit from individuals who bring a wealth of knowledge and multitude of backgrounds to the table, which will greatly assist in the long run.

Far too often, organizations set their sights on employees in professional positions for internal advancement opportunities. Once these people are determined, they’re given resources and opportunities to help them grow and are often groomed for these higher roles. While employee development is important, this mindset prevents companies from identifying valuable talent that often lies in underserved employees. When offering these opportunities to all employees, however, organizations will find enhanced loyalty, a prepared team, and a strong, diverse workforce.


Meghann Arnold is director of team success for Readers.com.

Posted April 18, 2019 in Engaged Workforcein Learning

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