Creating room for career advancement without more management.
As a manager, how can you cultivate a sense of career growth and development for your people, even when possibilities for promotion are limited or nonexistent? I posed this question to my human resource management students recently. (The context was that we’d just been considering some evidence that “Gen Y” employees are likely to head for the doors if they don’t see short-term prospects for career advancement.) While my students generated several promising ideas, some advocated an approach that dismayed me: Companies should increase the layers of management, they argued, to provide for more frequent promotions.
Of course I understood why they might think so, but this was a “be careful what you wish for” moment. Anyone old enough to have worked in the many-layered organizational structure of the past knows its shortcomings.
But what bothered me most about their idea was the reminder of how many of us feel lost without external signposts to mark our success. Particularly for young people, it is a tough transition to leave the familiar and clear markers of school success behind and learn to thrive on the more ambiguous ones that mark a lifetime of employment. Crafting a truly successful career demands a high level of self-awareness and ability to self-direct, capacities that schools and universities don’t always do a great job of developing.