How to Help Your Team Advance

With many managers wanting to help their employees expand their skill set and talents, they are continuously working side by side with their employees to define their goals and achievements. Read this blog post to learn more.

Working for a company that invests in career development is often a top priority for employees, and if the company doesn't provide those opportunities, employees will take their talents elsewhere. A 2019 iHire survey found that 51.7 percent of professionals voluntarily left their job in the past five years. One of the reasons professionals cited for quitting was the lack of advancement opportunities (reported by 11.7 percent of respondents).

Managers can help combat this talent drain by working with their direct reports to define the employees' career goals and then help them achieve those milestones. "If you want the best team and want them to perform at their highest level, you have to invest in developing them," said Iris Drayton-Spann, SHRM-CP, vice president of human resources and organizational development at WETA, a public television station in Arlington, Va. "Then they will bring their 'A' game."

Investing in your team doesn't necessarily mean paying for high-priced training programs. There are plenty of low-cost and free development opportunities managers can offer employees, such as suggesting certain trade publications to read, or introducing them to a staff or board member who is a subject matter expert or thought leader in a field they want to pursue, said Jody Fosnough, SHRM-SCP, a senior consultant and executive coach for Right Management, a leadership development firm in Fort Wayne, Ind. The key is to find out what skills each team member is looking to develop or what type of position he or she hopes to grow into.

Ask Thought-Provoking Questions

Drayton-Spann carves out 45 minutes every two weeks to talk with her four team members individually about their goals, training needs and anything else they want to discuss about their work. It's up to each employee, though, to set the agenda and tone for the meeting.

"Some of the meetings are casual, some are very formal," she said. "I listen to them, they ask me questions, and then I ask them questions. It gives them ownership over their career development. It's not me telling them what to do." If they make a commitment to work on a project, meet with a mentor or look into a professional membership organization, Drayton-Spann follows up with them at the next meeting to see if they completed the task and to figure out what the next step will be toward their milestone.

To help employees set realistic goals, Fosnough said, managers need to ask more pointed questions than simply "What do you want to do?" Ask employees questions that force them to think critically about their strengths:

  • What's a compliment you received about your work?
  • What recent problem have you solved?
  • How have you surprised others on your team?
  • What are you most proud of this month?

These questions will help employees to consider why their colleagues value their work and help them see what types of roles they should gravitate toward in the future.

Find In-House Opportunities

One of the best ways to help team members advance is to invite them to work on a stretch assignment—a task outside their job description—that allows them to learn new skills or interact with colleagues they normally wouldn't have access to, Drayton-Spann said. Instead of telling an employee to take on a new project, Drayton-Spann asks the employee to work with her on a project. She also takes time to explain how the project would benefit the employee's career. Perhaps the worker will learn a new skill or have an opportunity to interact with members of the C-suite, she said.

In addition to stretch assignments, managers can offer plenty of other in-house opportunities to help employees grow into a new position, including cross-training with another department, telling other managers at the company about an employee's strengths, and allowing an employee to shadow someone who holds a position he or she is interested in growing into, said Kimberly Coan, a 20-year HR professional in the Dallas area. Job shadowing allows employees to learn what skills they might need to develop and the type of training they should focus on. And sometimes it reveals that a position they're interested in isn't actually a good fit for their skills, she said.

Career development can also focus on soft skills and help the employee gain confidence. For instance, an employee once asked Coan how to become more comfortable interacting with company leaders outside his immediate department. Coan encouraged him to invite a regional director out for coffee and ask the director how to best help the employee's department director do her job.

If an employee asks to participate in a specific training program, make sure it's appropriate for the employee's goals, said Andrea Raggambi, CEO at PerforMore Coaching and Consulting, a leadership development firm in Falls Church, Va. Often employees will want to earn a certificate or participate in a training program because they heard another colleague just completed the program.

"Sometimes they see their colleagues do certain things, and they think that is the correct career path for them even if it's not," she said. Ask the employee to explain why he or she believes the training will help achieve his or her career goals, how it will have a positive impact on the team, and how it will help advance the company's overall mission, Raggambi said.

Keep Plans Flexible

Keep in mind that not all employees will be interested in advancing their career. Some employees are content staying in the position they have, and managers need to respect that, Coan said. There might be reasons outside of work that influence their decision not to pursue a promotion. For instance, they might be taking care of an aging parent or sick child. But, Coan said, keep in mind that just because employees aren't interested in career development today doesn't mean they won't be interested in three months or a year from now.

Employees' goals can change. Raggambi recommends asking employees to revisit their career plans every three to six months. Managers should always ask, "Does this career plan still look good for you? Are you still excited and energized by this?" It's important to allow employees to reassess their plans and make adjustments.

SOURCE: Rabasca Roepe, L. (09 June 2020) "How to Help Your Team Advance" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from

Companies prioritize learning and development in the wake of coronavirus crisis

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, many employees are still working remotely, which may cause a lack of learning and development in their careers. Many companies are now prioritizing their employees learning and development. Read this blog post to learn more.

As the coronavirus pandemic creates uncertainty within the workforce, more employers are investing in learning and development as they seek to keep their remote employees engaged and promote strong mental health. Indeed, 66% of learning and development professionals say that their roles within their organizations have grown substantially in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, according to a recent LinkedIn Learning report.

Of the 864 development professionals and 3,155 workplace learners — employees who interact with learning content provided by their employers — surveyed, 68% of learning and development professionals say employers have been placing a larger emphasis on launching learning programs designed to teach employees new skills with an eye on boosting internal mobility.

“The appetite for learning coupled with the fact that the needs of remote employees have shifted, has created a spotlight on L&D to develop and deliver the sorts of engaging and relevant learning experiences that employees want and need during this challenging time,” says Mike Derezin, vice president of LinkedIn Learning.

To that end, companies are investing in technologies including virtual instructor-led training (VILT) — live training done digitally, and online learning — recorded digital learning content. The report found that 66% of learning and development professionals expect to spend more on VILT than they did last year, with 60% saying the same for online learning. Furthermore, the report says that developing the right mix of VILT and online learning — blended online learning — will be essential going forward.

“Blended online learning is especially beneficial for employees during a time where they feel isolated because it’s a form of social learning,” Derezin says.

The LinkedIn Learning platform has seen a 301% rise in enrollment and a 153% increase in courses shared between members and their networks in March and April, compared to January and February of this year.

“We’re also seeing instructors engaging more, and companies tapping subject matter experts to create learning moments. What’s more, social learning drives up learner engagement and helps learners remember content,” he says.

About 75% of the professionals surveyed by LinkedIn expect social learning, including online learning groups, to increase over time and play a large role in their organizations.

Employers are placing strong emphasis on reskilling the workforce. Since the coronavirus hit the U.S., nearly 43 million Americans have filed for unemployment, having lost their jobs when businesses were forced to close down in an effort to promote social distancing.

“Employers are still focused on keeping high-value employees, even when faced with the task of moving them into new positions as a result of changing business dynamics,” Derezin says.

One employer that took this approach was tech retailer Verizon. When the company had to close down some of its retail locations it allowed many of those employees to apply transferable skills to other areas of the business. Verizon gave employees a choice of career paths and then implemented personalized learning, with the goal of enabling these workers to close any skills gaps before moving on to new roles.

“By offering online tools and training, Verizon was able to help brick-and-mortar employees work from home and contribute in roles like customer service,” he says.

The LinkedIn research also shows that 69% of learning and development professionals feel responsible for their employees’ mental health and well-being. Over the last several years, employers have become more focused on supporting employee mental health as it is a strong attraction and retention tool, and as employers realize that supporting employees is about work-life integration, rather than work-life balance.

PayPal has had success with practices that support employee mental health, like holding more frequent all-hands meetings, promoting company-wide access to its executives, and conducting weekly wellness surveys.

As employers and employees navigate the new normal of the workplace, managers are expected to become more active in curating content that will help build up the skills of their workforce. In March and April managers were spending twice the amount of time on learning and development than they did in January and February.

“With the rise of AI, remote work, and widening skills gaps, the value of an always-on learning culture has never been more clear,” Derezin says. “By supporting learners in the moments that matter to their present and future careers, you’ll not only have happier employees, but retain them.”

SOURCE: Del Rowe, S. (05 June 2020) "Companies prioritize learning and development in the wake of coronavirus crisis" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from