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Friday, July 8, 2016

The Three ‘U’s of Building a Career Development Program

By Lindsay Moroney, Chief of Staff for The Muse

When it comes to creating a career development program, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Employees today expect different programs at different types of companies and stages in their career. Each team member is also unique and has distinct needs and wants. But if you want to grow and nurture your team the right way, there’s one consistent truth: U make the difference.

Here are the three Us I recommend when contemplating building your career development program:

1. Understand what makes your team different

Researching other companies’ policies is tempting and can help to generate ideas, but remember that what works at one workplace won’t necessarily address the challenges at yours. Also keep in mind that what you implement must be specific to not only the team you have, but also to the team you seek to grow. Here at The Muse, we regularly survey the team to see what their growth goals are and which opportunities, if given the choice, they’d want us to spend our money and time on. It’s simple, but it ensures that we’re constantly learning from our team and building programs that will impact them most.

2. Build programs unique to your team

Jack Welch, former chairman and CEO of GE, increased the company’s value with management programs like his “up or out” model—if employees aren’t improving and being promoted, they must eventually be let go. While Welch’s style worked wonders for GE, this specific idea wouldn’t work at a rapidly growing startup like The Muse: We need individual contributors as we scale; the institutional knowledge each team member holds is priceless for us; plus, as we’ve learned from our people, not everyone wants to become a manager! So our programs aim to support all types of employees—which leads me to the third U:

3. Uncover the power in each team member

Programs that support career development can come from anyone on the team. Google’s Laszlo Bock wrote in Work Rules! about a spontaneous program where one Googler set up office hours for anyone who wanted to talk about his or her career path. It was filling a need the company hadn’t thought to ask about or to create a program for. But when it became popular, it was formalized into a program now called Career Gurus. The lesson? Good ideas can come from anywhere. Make sure your team knows they are welcome to share their ideas or even create their own career development opportunities.

If you’re strapped for resources, consider starting small with a specific group that needs your support—like new managers or rising stars—to build a program that satisfies their unique needs. However you choose to do it, though, make an effort to understand what your employees want and need, build unique programs for them, and uncover the power in each team member to act when they see a need. You’ll develop your employees’ careers for their benefit and your company’s benefit.

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