Traditionally, providing a career path has been seen as a way to boost visibility for training and advancement among workers, but career path development can be a controversial topic with Millennials and Gen Zs. Many would object to an organization dictating the direction their career should take, but at the same time would welcome clarity and guidance to help make independent, informed decisions.
The good news is there are several ways that companies can better support employees today by enabling independence and flexibility while providing the guidance and opportunity they need to succeed. Improved visibility into opportunities across the company can shed light on new options that enable employees to expand their capabilities. Likewise, an openness to non-traditional career paths provides more choices for the employee, and finally, improved mentorship options can help employees build the relationships they need to keep their careers advancing within the organization.
Visibility Into Opportunities
An ability to see a variety of options can make the difference in helping the employee take a successful next step on a career journey within the company. Any effort at creating an employee career path requires detailed visibility into job vacancies, project team roles, or other types of needs across the organization.
For employers, creating visibility across the organization can be a challenge. In larger companies, visibility into opportunities is limited. Many openings are not posted internally, or they may not be posted in places that are available to the entire employee population. Bringing internal systems together is no small task, and the effort involves both human training and technology alignment. The result, however, is a valuable platform that can boost retention of critical talent and provide a tremendous resource for fostering growth and development in-house.
Once a view into opportunities is established, a strong consultative relationship between the employee and a manager, HR, or recruiter is important. The manager can help the employee assess options and make an informed decision about which opportunity to pursue based on her vision or career goals.
Non-Traditional Career Paths
Traditionally, employers offered clear but limited and inflexible paths to advancement and success for their employees. For example, an engineer would begin as an intern, advance through several job levels at multi-year intervals, and, if successful, move into management and leadership. If that employee wanted to explore another path, perhaps into a different but related field, he may have to pursue education and opportunity outside his employer. This desire for exploration can cost companies some of their most ambitious and capable employees.
With the right strategy in place, companies find they can retain workers as they advance on nonlinear career paths. For example, a graphic designer may decide to move into an IT role, or a product development specialist may move into marketing. Such lateral moves are not on the traditional career ladder, but they may ultimately lead to the development of key skills that make the employee a better leader in the future, or they provide an expanded skill set for the organization while retaining its critical talent.
Support for non-linear career paths begins with a focus on employee relationships and company culture. When a manager knows an employee wants to work in a different division, both the manager and the employee should be able to identify new opportunities through a common system of posted roles across the company. The manager must be able and inclined to support the employee, making recommendations and introductions as needed. Eventually, the employee should feel empowered to move to the new position and gain the experience she needs.
This ideal situation is based on several employer strengths. For example, managers must be willing to allow employees to move to new positions, with the trust that other departments may allow employees to migrate to their teams. Organizational commitment and visibility into opportunities are also key, along with the available resources to allow employees to develop new skills.
One of the most valued areas of guidance for workers is mentorship. One study found that 68 percent of Millennials intending to stay longer than five years at their employer have a mentor. Of those not intending to stay, only 32 percent have a mentor. In organizations that have mentorship programs in place, 61 percent of these workers report that they benefit from the advice and leadership development support of their mentors.
Millennial and Gen Z workers embrace several mentorship types. Traditional mentorship pairs a senior level employee with a more junior worker to share insight and coaching. In another case, junior team members may be assigned to teach the use of new technologies and communications to more senior level employees through a “reverse-mentorship.” Each employee learns from interaction with the other. Finally, with digital access to talent across the organization, employees may also benefit from “micro-mentoring,” connecting with an expert or leader to help them learn a skill or practice, explore the workings of a particular role, or help with a project.
Through multiple types of mentorship, the Millennial or Gen Z employee builds capabilities and forges relationships that can lead to career advancement in ways that break free of the limitations of the linear career path. The result is an employee who is engaged and likely to remain longer with the organization.
Download our Report to Better Engage the Millennial and Gen Z Workforce
Learn how to keep up with the Millennial and Gen Z worker’s hunger to learn and succeed in a new Allegis Group report titled, “Employers, It’s Time to Grow Up: Engaging the Millennial and Gen Z Workforce.” Based on a survey of 1,000 HR leaders, the report explores the trends and opportunities associated with NextGen talent, including cultural and demographic shifts, changing career expectations, and the influence of technology. Get the best practices you need to help move your organization’s talent strategy forward.