Retaining Talent Using Career Development

November 22, 2017 in
By Ben Porr

It’s been a great career development month! I hope all of you have enjoyed learning and reflecting on your career development program (or the hope to have one in the future). For my last piece, I’d like to focus on the retention benefits that accompany career development programs. The notion that employees don’t tend to stay in their jobs long enough to invest in career development anymore has been widely circulated. However, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that people actually do stay in their jobs slightly longer than they did 10 years ago. Why? It is both difficult and costly to find great leaders. An organization is using its resources much more efficiently if it’s developing leaders internally. This is why career development impacts the bottom line.

Below are a few tips designed to help you and your organization use career development programs to retain your best and brightest employees.

First, as described in my article at the beginning of the month here, when organizations take the time to define positions, and then subsequently lay out how employees can develop in those particular positions, employees can clearly see the variety of opportunities available to them. They can envision what their future career path and impact within the organization could potentially be.

A strong career development program provides employees with the following information:

  • Main functions of each role that contribute directly or indirectly to the mission of the company
  • Key competencies important in their role. Employees need to understand the behaviors they should consistently demonstrate in order to prove that they are proficient in those listed key competencies
  • Competencies and behaviors to demonstrate proficiency as they move up in their job (i.e., the career path), especially into leadership positions
  • Training and on-the-job experiences (i.e., developmental experiences) they can proactively seek to improve in specific competency areas
  • Guidance that helps them understand how to define their career goals, assess their current proficiency, and identify areas for improvement. This can be a formal individual development plan or simply part of their check in with their supervisor. The key is to have employees set goals, conduct a self-assessment, and develop a plan on how to be successful.

Second, career development supports a leadership development process. A beneficial career development program shows both the technical and leadership competencies a person should develop. Employees should understand that leadership can be developed at the individual contributor level, while also at the more advanced leadership level.

A basic model will show the competencies important for:

  • Leading oneself (e.g., continual learning, interpersonal skills, problem-solving, resilience, flexibility)
  • Leading a project team (e.g., decisiveness, influencing/negotiating, team building)
  • Leading direct reports (e.g., accountability, conflict management, developing others, leveraging diversity)
  • Leading a business line (e.g., partnering, political savvy, strategic thinking, external awareness)

Third, supervisors should use career development resources to engage in conversation with their employees to understand their goals and interests. During these conversations, supervisors should guide their employees appropriately, but they should also assess each individual’s motivation and potential. High potential is a hot topic these days, but we find that it is difficult to identify high potential without an agreed upon framework to measure it. Using career development as a basis provides all managers with a common script for them to assess their employees on. This will help manager identify and communicate why a certain individual seems to have potential. Finally, all leaders should share this information with their organization to help build a succession management pipeline for critical technical and leadership positions.

Hopefully, you have found these tips and strategies helpful. It’s important to keep in mind that career development is not all or nothing. Most robust programs started as a small informal idea that grew organically. Following all the tips in the blog series will help you and your organization set a solid foundation. Most importantly, remember that it is critical to consistently evaluate and improve your program based on feedback from your workforce.

To learn more about FMP’s career development capabilities, visit our website or email

To reach out to author, Ben, directly feel free to email