Career planning can help boost staff’s motivation

Do you have a young and eager employee who’s chomping at the bit to get new projects started? Do you have an older employee who’s hit a plateau? Do you have an employee whose skills seem underutilized? Career planning with your staff can lead to increased job satisfaction, involvement, commitment and productivity.

Here’s what you need to know:

Where to begin. Start with the employment interview. Before employees begin working for you, find out their career goals. Raising the question might focus their thinking, or it may reveal they have well-defined objectives about what they want to learn and where they want to go. Either way, it captures good information for you to have. For your current employees, start with the next scheduled performance review.

How to do it. Introduce the topic by saying “What do you like best about your job?” Then lead into “What’s your least favorite duty?” Along the way, ask “What would you like to be doing in 10 years?”

Supplement these simple but important questions by asking employees to complete a self-assessment. A simple one can work like this: Ask employees to list three skills they have used well in their lifetime (whether on or off the job). Then ask them to identify three areas of work or life in which they have exceptional knowledge or interest. Finally, ask them to identify three kinds of organizations with which they have experience. (Three is a good minimum, and they should identify the same number for each area.)

Now, looking at these three groups, ask employees to imagine jobs—either real ones or hypothetical ones—that would each combine one item from each column. Have them mix and match the items to generate additional possibilities. You should ask them to come up with at least 10 different jobs.

Then, ask them to rank the jobs in some way that indicates which ones they find more or less appealing. Again, these may not be real jobs, and they certainly don’t need to be ones that really exist in your enterprise. But the exercise is a good eye-opener and shows how good career planning often comes down to rearranging the skills, knowledge and experience you already have.

How to use this insight. Using these career-planning efforts as a guide, work with each employee to set goals that can be achieved in his or her present job. When people feel their career goals have been considered in setting up their daily work assignments, their motivation increases.

As they carry out their regular assignments, they can see progress toward their longer-term goals. That’s a good feeling that builds not just short-term motivation, but long-term job satisfaction and loyalty.