Set the Path for Upward Career Mobility

BY C. Lee Smith
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If you’re among the many sales team managers who have experienced talent drain this year, you’re probably wondering what you can do to avoid losing any more good people. First, recognize that employees don’t always leave a job or a manager because they want more money. Your team members expect upward career mobility. And they don’t want to feel that they’re losing ground professionally when they’re working for you.

Upward Career Mobility

If one of your employees doesn’t seem engaged in their current position, check their history. At the time they were hired, did they mention wanting to transition into a different position in the organization? After doing good work for a year or so, this individual will have expectations. Whether they’re a customer service agent or working in a sales support role, they'll want a promotion.

Promoting an employee into a position before they are ready can negatively impact your organization. And if you move an employee into a job that doesn’t match their natural talents and motivators, you’ll spend a lot of time coaching and cajoling. Before you take that step, use an online assessment tool to measure their skills and motivations. Your team member may tell you that they’re ready to start their career in digital marketing. But after you review their assessment results, you may see they’d be better suited for a position in creative design.

Skills Assessments

You can also use psychometric assessment results to learn more about what motivates this employee and to understand their work tendencies. Use this information to guide your decision about their upward career mobility. What’s most important for a manager in this process, says Becca Carnahan in her article about supporting employee career development, is that “pinpointing strengths can be achieved through assessments, [and] also through conversations with attentive managers.”

When you tell an employee what you noticed about their work habits and styles, you’re also showing that you’ve taken time to think about their strengths. This managerial behavior demonstrates empathy, and your team members may be more willing to listen to you. Nearly 40% of the sales reps we surveyed say the reason they’ve voluntarily left positions is because they didn’t see an opportunity for advancement, or they didn’t think anyone cared about them at the company.

Defining Required Skills

Rapidly changing technology can make all of us feel like we’ll never keep pace. And some employees will worry that technology will make their roles obsolete. But that’s no excuse for failing to define the skills required to perform well in a position. And notice that we’re emphasizing skills, not educational achievement. Until now, it’s been easy for employers to act as gatekeepers to keep out candidates who might succeed in a specific career but lack the necessary degrees or experience. Historically, organizations have hired through networks that tend to lock out potential employees who come from disadvantaged backgrounds.

When you define what success looks like in the digital marketing role, for example, your employee who wants that job will know which skills to improve. These skills might include copywriting that incorporates SEO. Or you might need your digital marketing whiz to master Google Analytics because you require insight into where your traffic is coming from, and which keywords are drawing that traffic.

Career Training and Coaching

Your next step will be to provide resources or a path to train your team member to develop the right skills. Because this process will require significant active management on your part, review the employee’s assessment results to ensure they are highly coachable and professional. 

You can then assign them roles in stretch projects. Be prepared to offer encouragement, review their work and provide concrete feedback. These intense work sessions contribute to upward career mobility. Even if your employee ends up moving in a position that doesn’t quite match what they originally wanted, they’ll feel more engaged and loyal to you and the organization. And you’ll have retained and developed talent that you can rely on now and in the coming months. 

Photo by Ono Kosuki from Pexels