4 Career Development Tactics That Build Employee Loyalty

By: CJ Jacobson
making a heart with hands
CFO asks CEO, “What happens if we invest in developing our people and then they leave us?”
CEO: “What happens if we don’t, and they stay?” —Peter Baeklund
Sound familiar?
Conversations like this are at the heart of career development. By encouraging your team to master their positions, you retain a smarter, more agile workforce.
Career development is a huge opportunity for employers. Not only because it makes your current workforce more adept at their jobs, but because it’s an effective tactic for employee recruitment and retention.
After all, no one wants to work at a company that lets its people flounder while the competition passes them by. And no one wants to stay at a company that fails to value the intellect of its team.
The statistics reflect that, too:
  • 76% of employees want opportunities for career growth.
  • 25% of employees would be more satisfied at work if they were given the opportunity to do what they do best.
  • 40% of employees who receive poor job training leave their positions within the first year.
Here are four unique career development tactics companies can employ to support employee recruitment and retention.

Incentivize Ongoing Career Education

Education doesn’t stop once you walk across the stage and toss your mortarboard in the air. (Mark Twain put it well: “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education,” he once said.)
According to a Pew Research Center study, nearly three-quarters of adult Americans learn new traits for their own development, and nearly 40% take a class or get extra training for their career.
Building a culture of lifetime learning promotes a motivated workforce. So, what’s the best way to keep people going on that path?
Try incentivizing career development by rewarding employees who pursue education in these (and many other) ways:
  • Online courses through Lynda, SkillShare, Coursera or another platform.
  • Local community groups related to their roles. (For example, encourage your developers to attend web development group meetings.)
  • Professional organizations related to their role, such as the American Marketing Association, Society for Human Resource Management, DECA and countless others.
  • Support their interest in attending conferences. (One important caveat: they must pass what they’ve learned onto their coworkers.)

Internal Mentorship

According to Doug Lawrence, president of TalentC, organizations that put a mentoring culture into place reduce the difficulty of attracting quality young professionals to their team.

An employee mentorship program is clearly popular for new employees looking to learn the ropes of their company and their new role. But it’s also very important for the veterans of your company—they want to get long-term personal and professional development, network and prove their invaluableness to the organization.

“Providing professionals with a mentor who is focused on their personal and professional growth will ensure that they will stay with your organization for a long time,” Lawrence said.

Having a system of internal mentors that coach and support new team members ensures they do quality work, benefitting everyone around the company. More than that, some studies can draw a direct line between quality mentorship and ROI—up to 1,000%!

Career Lattice, Not Career Ladder

Welcome to your new job as junior accountant at Widget Corp!
Growth opportunities? Sure! In a few years, you’ll go from junior accountant to accountant. Then, a little later, you might be senior accountant! Then—who knows?—you could be managing accountant.
Does this sound like your company? You’re not alone. This single-track approach to career development has stood the test of time, but it’s not right for everybody—and especially not younger generations.
It’s OK for your talent to grow a little bored with their role. It’s not OK to lose them outright to the competition due to the inability to spread their wings and try something new.
Don’t think of each of your employees as climbing a career ladder. Think of them as climbing a career lattice, where your people can move up as well as laterally.
Instead of only moving from point A to point B, offer the ability to find a different, challenging role in another part of the company. This helps retain valuable talent—and even helps your recruiting team find great people in unexpected places.

Peer-Taught Classes

Everyone in your organization has a wealth of knowledge that can help others, even if they’re not in their area of specialization. Give them the opportunity to collaborate and share it.
For instance, graphic designers could learn some great tips and tricks from a front-end developer—CSS, HTML and other languages can come in handy when designing for the web.
And, your marketing team could get some equally insightful tips and tricks from your sales team. In order for marketers to make emails and websites that serve as effective collateral, they need to know what customers are really looking for, right from the people who talk to potential clients on a daily basis.
Even if it’s seemingly irrelevant to the job (knitting, yoga, cooking—whatever it is), peer-taught classes build community between employees. A lunchtime brown-bag course is a great way of getting together, having fun and letting everyone flex their creative muscles.

Create a Career Development Culture

When you invest in your people and their continued advancement, you set yourself apart as an employer of choice. By focusing on engaging your employees and challenging them to achieve more, it becomes much easier to recruit new talent and retain the talent you’ve got. 

CJ Jacobson
CJ Jacobson

As Vice President, People & Culture, CJ provides visionary and strategic leadership to ensure an inspired work culture where team members are empowered to live out ITA Group’s vision and mission. CJ oversees a variety of organizational committees and serves on the Children & Families of Iowa board. When she's not impacting the team and the community (and even when she is!), she's tuning into her eclectic music tastes. Clint Black, Michael Bublé, Chris Botti, Andre’ Bocelli, the Blackwood Brothers and Billie Holiday are all her jam. CJ is SHRM-CP; PHR certified.