Ron Ricci writes about a new toolbox for the “post-everything” era, which is basically after all of the other big things come and go and we’re left with the same problems we’ve always had. This, for me, was the one thing I take away from his piece:
“Think for a moment about your career. Ask yourself this question: Have you ever seen an employer dedicated to providing a single, consistent, unified process that helps managers set expectations about career opportunities for team members? Is this happening where you work now?”
As he points out, younger workers will absolutely leave if they don’t have an opportunity to grow and while many organizations talk about it a lot, how many of us can really say that there’s a clear career path at our current jobs? One that doesn’t require us to wait for our current boss to leave or die? Let’s talk about this:
In my experience, there are a number of faux-promotions that have been introduced into the workplace to give the appearance of growth but I’m not really sure anyone is growing. Think about this, when you’re an Accounting Clerk I, II, or III, what’s really different about the work you do? Sure, there are benchmarks, things like years of experience, possibly a certification or an added skill but an Accounting Clerk is an Accounting Clerk, is an Accounting Clerk. Where’s the major step up in responsibilities, and pay?
We can say the same about Junior Consultants, Consultants, and Senior Consultants. In whatever industry you’re talking about these stair-step promotions mostly serve as a delay between where you are and where you want to go because where you want to go isn’t really available. Not always. There are some companies where there really is a difference between these steps, a somewhat significant pay raise, highly-level work, etc. but all too often they exist almost as a gamification of the workplace, just reach the next level, then the next, etc.
Ask yourself this question though, which of these “levels” prepares you to manage, assuming you want to become a manager? Again, all too often the answer to that question is none of the above. Where is the clear path to becoming a manager? Most managers can’t provide that to you because they don’t know what that looks like. They got to be a manager because they were good at doing the work, and the previous manager left.
Continue to be great at what you do and hope for an opening in management is not a career plan. That is what appears to be on offer at many companies though. They aren’t preparing anyone to be a manager in the future, and they aren’t increasing headcount that might require more team leads and managers, so how long do we expect people to wait? Add in the number of “senior” folks with higher salaries who find themselves part of a reduction in force, or the number of people who’ve watched their current job change over and over until they find themselves doing work they never signed up for in the first place, and it’s no wonder that workers are taking responsibility for their own growth, by choosing workplaces that give them better opportunities.
No one has to stay and work for you for the next 20-25 years. They can, and will, go elsewhere if there’s no clear path forward. I don’t blame them.
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