In a recent article, Why Employees Stay, I shared seven reasons why employees would want to continue working for a company. No. 5 on the list was that the company offers career growth and promotes from within. Let’s unpack that one, as it seems to be a top reason some companies are able to attract and keep good employees.
There are two parts to this idea. Growth and promotions. They don’t always go together.
Growth comes from training and on-the-job experience. Employees like to grow their skills, knowledge and capabilities. Even though good employees may come to the job with certain skills, they are often onboarded with training. In some cases, the training takes weeks—even months.
Zappos.com, the online retailer known for its stellar customer service, puts new employees through four weeks of training. “The whole point of the four weeks is to build relationships and make sure you’re comfortable in your role,” says corporate trainer Stephanie Hudec.
That’s four weeks before the employee is actually ready to do the job. That’s a hefty investment of time, energy and dollars, just to get someone “game ready” for their job. Or is it?
Zappos built its reputation with an emphasis on customer service. Putting someone in a customer-facing role who isn’t properly trained and ready could diminish the brand’s reputation.
But the training isn’t a one-and-done effort during the onboarding process. Employees are looking to grow. A few weeks in the beginning gets them to a level of proficiency for their current role, but many want more. They want to add to existing capabilities.
Promotions are career opportunities within the company. It’s obvious that someone who has been at their job for months will be far better than the first day they started. They have to learn the system and processes, adapt their skills and abilities to their responsibilities, and more. Day one is the beginning of “ramping up” to a place where the employee is meeting the employer’s expectations. And then they go beyond.
Often, growth occurs due to training and education. Employees are trained, and the result is that they get better, smarter and more capable. But it takes something more, and that comes from the employee. The employee who is intent on growing must also take initiative and push themselves to grow to the next level.
Employers need to recognize this growth in both capabilities and initiative and take advantage of it, moving that employee through the ranks. Companies that are known for “promoting from within” are very appealing to employees. They attract good people and are better at getting them to stay.
Starting At the Bottom
We’ve all heard of “rags to riches” type stories of employees starting at the bottom in the mailroom and ending up in the boardroom. Some executives who started in the mailroom of their respective companies:
· George Bodenheimer, president of ESPN
· Dick Grasso, former New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) chairman
· Krista Bourne, COO of Verizon
Maybe all three of these executives had ambitions to be successful from the beginning, but did any of them ever think they would be in the boardroom after starting their careers in the mailroom? Maybe, maybe not. But they didn’t get to those positions on their own. It’s important to recognize that employees who went to work in the mailroom and grew into important roles in their organizations didn’t get there on their own. They had training, great managers, caring coaches and helpful mentors.
There are plenty of stories of successful executives starting at the bottom. Many of them move and grow from company to company. Recognize that a chance to grow is important to today’s employees. A company that invests in the continuous growth of skills (customer service, leadership, technical, etc.) is better at recruiting new employees and keeping existing employees, but not always forever. Yes, in the perfect world, this growth would coincide with promotion opportunities inside the company, but it doesn’t have to. Just know you may be “growing” the employee to move on if you don’t move them up.
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