Setting Career Expectations: How to balance employees desire vs actual opportunity

Career development is a common objective among most of today’s employees. Millennials, in particular, tend to place an emphasis on consistent progression and may be inclined to look elsewhere if a company can’t offer advancement opportunities. Unfortunately, there are often limitations to employee development, and an individual’s desires can’t always be met. It’s important to take the right approach when setting career expectations.


Assessing Employees

There are typically two factors that prevent employees from ascending their way up the company ladder – lack of talent, skills, and knowledge and/or inadequate budget.

It’s important to be completely honest about an employee’s aptitude and overall abilities. Maybe someone would love to be promoted to a position in senior management, but they simply don’t possess the skills for that to become a reality.

When setting career expectations, you need to be open and honest in terms of how much advancement a particular employee can expect based on their talent level. In some cases, you can work alongside an employee to fill the gaps. Other times, substantial career advancement isn’t in the equation.

Either way, you should be upfront about what the likelihood of progression is within your company. This ensures that you’re on the same page right out of the gate and prevents resentment when an employee doesn’t get the push they were anticipating.


Addressing Budgetary Restrictions

The second factor that often stands in the way is a lacking career development budget. While some companies actively invest in employees by paying for educational training or offering financial assistance to undergraduates seeking graduate degrees, it’s not in the cards for every organization.

Be honest about the situation. If it’s unlikely that a person will ever have the opportunity for advancement, you definitely don’t want to fill their head with false hopes. Explain your company’s circumstances and that career development may not be a reality.

However, companies can establish an employee development program even with a small budget. There are innumerable digital materials on the Internet that can be used to train and educate the right employees. You may also want to consider the idea of mentorship where senior staff members provide guidance to promising workers. Resources from ClearCompany and the SBA can provide further insight.

Employers obviously want to see employees grow and progress. Their personal success ultimately spills over and improves your business as a whole. It’s only natural that you’ll want to give your employees the opportunity for career advancement.

At the same time, it’s crucial to set career expectations the right way. Take a realistic approach by balancing employee desire with actual opportunities to keep everyone happy and your business on track.



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