If You Aren’t Nurturing Growth, You’re Failing Your Employees

Empower your employees with honest communication and clearly defined goals, and you’ll see just how hungry they can be for a bigger role in your company’s success.

Throughout my career, I’ve always chosen to be transparent with employees because I believe it’s the best way to give clear directives and help them grow. I’m going to take the same brutally honest approach here because I believe you can develop your people in a way that makes your company more productive.

The truth is, most executives rarely live up to the well-worn motto “our employees are our most important asset,” even when they are. But when employees are working to benefit themselves, develop new skills, and grow, any project (and the extra hours that go with it) becomes a motivator.

Are you nurturing employee growth within your company? If not, you could be stifling your company as a whole.

How to Hire Talent Poised for Growth
Cultivating employee success starts before you even hire employees and continues for their entire time with you. To hire employees seeking upward opportunities, you must:

1. Empower first-line managers to recruit. Contrary to popular belief, HR doesn’t always handle hiring. In fact, many companies have transferred this responsibility to specialized recruiters who search for talent from like-minded companies. Depending on the size of your organization, HR might not even know about the actual work being done on a daily basis, making them minimally useful for ongoing employee development.

The responsibility for recruiting ultimately falls to managers, yet many don’t realize this is part of their jobs. Avoid the rush to fill a new position by encouraging your managers to actively recruit suitable talent.

2. Disregard resumes. Companies use titles and resumes as shortcuts, but most people have skills that aren’t on their resumes and career ambitions beyond what they discuss in their interview. The day after the employee is hired, toss the resume in the garbage and ask, “Where are your strongest and weakest skills? What do you want to learn next?”

3. Eliminate job descriptions. These only limit employees and managers. Build job descriptions around the people you have. Find what’s missing in your company, and develop those skills in your current staff.

How to Retain and Motivate Your Employees
Retention is a major issue at most companies, which is why investing in willing, motivated employees is often preferred over recruiting new ones. Employees usually leave to earn more money (Why can’t they do that by staying?), to take on a new challenge (Why can’t they do that by staying?), or to learn. Are you getting the idea?

Ask 10 people, and you’ll find at least nine dissatisfied with their current positions. Ask those nine whether they will ever be satisfied at your company, and most will say no. This is because their potential career paths haven’t been clearly defined, and their growth is not being nurtured.

Here’s how to fix that:

1. Give honest feedback so people can improve. Emphasize that you care about employees and that the company wants them to do X — provided they learn and demonstrate the additional skills necessary to make it happen. Once you establish an honest relationship, you can shift your dialogue toward career ambitions.

2. Encourage better communication across all management tiers. Managers need to give critical feedback. A second-level manager should verify whether the first-level manager is doing this.

When I worked at Facebook, I asked managers about their employees. Then I would go to the employees, ask questions, and take notes. I’d revisit the middle manager and say, “Here’s what the employee told me. Does that match what you tried to convey?” This forces managers to find ways to concisely and effectively communicate with their teams.

3. Communicate career opportunities internally. Most companies have internal job postings, and these should be readily available to all staff — not just managers. Likewise, if a high performer expresses a desire to resign, managers should present all relevant openings in hopes of retaining the talent.

Even if the person would have to apply for the role, this improves the chances of keeping him. At the very least, the person will leave with a more favorable impression of the company, keeping the door open for future opportunities.

During the course of my career, I’ve learned quite a bit about ambition. For example, at Google, my manager asked me where I wanted to be in five years. I told him I wanted to be at the level of his boss.

He laughed. I quit.

A few years down the road, I held the same position at another company because I was ambitious and had people supporting my growth.

Empower your employees with honest communication and clearly defined goals, and you’ll see just how hungry they can be for a bigger role in your company’s success.