Does Your Company Stifle or Nurture Ambition?

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Businessman Being Pulled By Rope On Both SidesResearch tells us that candidates are more ambitious and self determining than they have ever been. In 2001, research from PwC showed that around 20 percent of staff were leaving primarily due to lack of career development. But, by 2008 this figure had grown to 32 percent, according to a survey from Gallup. And remarkably, in 2012, Randstad’s Employment Survey showed that a massive 86 percent of staff who are leaving voluntarily  are doing so primarily due to a lack of career development opportunities. Of course, other factors contribute to them leaving, but lack of career development is meant to be one of the primary factors driving talent away from your business.

With the assumption being that you want to retain your talent and minimize unwanted turnover, it seems vital that you create an environment that is warm and welcoming to ambition and not cold and hostile. But, the question is are you doing it? Is your business stifling or nurturing ambition?

For example, does your organization regularly recruit from within? Many companies are good at promoting internal employees but many employers offer positions externally without considering external applicants. This approach of not advertising internally is career limiting for internal staff, stifles ambition and doesn’t make business sense, as a Wharton Business School study shows that internal hires are 18 – 20 percent cheaper and perform better than external applicants hired to comparable posts.

And/or does your organization use ‘Stretch Assignments?’ Stretch assignments are jobs, often on a temporary basis, which internal hires can be promoted into. In these scenarios internal hires may take on a new role, which is beyond their current experience level and requires them to learn new skills and extend themselves (stretch) in order to succeed. If they succeed, they will have developed and progressed in the competency level. Stretch Assignments are a great way to nurture ambition and develop potential.

There are two important conditions of stretch assignments in that there should be organizational support in terms of mentoring and coaching and a “soft landing,” meaning employees can return to their former roles if things don’t work out. It is about stretching, not breaking, employees.

Also, does your company have a competency framework making clear what skills are needed to progress within the business? If employees don’t know what skills they need to develop to progress, they are working blind and are not self empowered to learn in a way that can help them reach their career aimsand their  ambition is being stifled. So, make sure to let employees know what qualities are needed to succeed and nurture their ambition.

Do you provide access to mentors? A study by Sun Microsystems of 1,000 employees over a five year period showed that staff who had been mentored were 20 percent more likely to get a raise than those who had not been mentored. Another study by Sylvia Anne Hewlitt showed that mentored staff are more likely to ask for more responsibility. Mentors are clearly a great way to nurture ambition.

Are all learning opportunities, internal vacancies, project opportunities, job rotation opportunities advertised internally? If you don’t advertise these things you are creating a closed environment for career progression, as employees do not see any opportunities to progress and this stifles ambition. Try and create an open and transparent market for career opportunities .

Is your organization accepting of failure? If you want to encourage your employees to learn, develop and extend themselves, the best way to do this is to build a culture that is tolerant or even accepting of failure when an employee has attempted to push his/herself. If employees who extend themselves and fail are crucified, then this may discourage other employees from pushing themselves beyond their current personal boundaries.

If you find that your business is answering no to a lot of these questions it may be that your current culture is stifling ambition, which could suggest there is a need for some change in order to  cultivate  and ultimately retain top talent.

Read more in Career Goals

Kazim Ladimeji is a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, and has been a practicing HR professional for 14 years. Kazim is the Director of The Career Cafe: a resource for start-ups, small business and job seekers.