We’ve all heard it. Nobody likes their job or the company they work for. Well maybe it’s not quite that dramatic but it is true that a Gallup poll indicates that disengagement is at a whopping 70%. Not only that but since Gallup started tracking it in 2000, this statistic has barely budged. We’ve tried washing it out, scrubbing it out, soaking it out and still we have the stain of a disengaged employee base.

Are they disengaged because they aren’t being promoted? Nope. An interesting HBR study revealed 66% of employees don’t want to be managers. The research continues to tell us that only 7% say they want to pursue C-Suite Executive Leadership level positions.

In an article by Dr. Tiffany Sanders, she notes “Employees want to be on a winning team whose growth and development can provide them with new skills and opportunities for professional advancement.”

Is it time to change the language of career success?

It is time for organizations to realize all successful career paths do not have to end on the senior leadership team. Employers don’t need to try to motivate with money or rewards and recognition.  Of course, those things are nice but they don’t keep anyone coming to work. Instead, they need to help employees become realistic about their career futures rather than trying to tempt them into climbing the career ladder which might not be appropriate for their skill-set or sustainable for the organization. Ultimately it is up to the employee to guide their own success to feel engaged on the job and the company has to provide the framework for them to do so.

A great tool to aid in providing this framework is to educate your employees on the 4E’s Career Pathways Model. It’s pretty simple really. Let’s look at this from the employee perspective.

Enrich – This is the most obvious but the least researched career path because it will show little movement on your resume. The enrichment strategy is really about seeking new ways to challenge yourself in your current role and develop new skills. The most practical way to enrich your current role is to become involved in a new project, this could be a cross functional project, or becoming skilled in a new technology that makes you more marketable.

Explore – This pathway is about seeking opportunities in different divisions or departments across your organization. It often involves taking a leap of faith into a new area that may make you feel vulnerable. Career growth only occurs when you step outside your comfort zone. It should never be about only wanting more financial reward but the longer-term reward of becoming more employable. This strategy requires building relationships outside your own function that have the power to make things happen for you.

Elevate – This is the traditional route of upward career growth. One word of warning; make sure you complete a series of career assessments in advance of seeking a people management role. Secondly, invest in developing your people management skills as part of seeking any promotion. It’s tough managing people you once worked alongside in the trenches. Relationships change and you have to be ready for being unpopular and making hard calls. The road to promotion is littered with shattered egos and stressful sleepless nights. The glow of promotion soon wears off, so best be prepared as it’s not just about the increased monthly paycheck.

Exit – Now this is not going to be a popular option with your current organization but you can choose to leave for the “right” opportunity. The operative words here are right opportunity. Don’t be swayed by the recruiter promising the earth moon and stars in the new shiny company down the street. Like promotion decisions, think carefully about what enriches you personally and what you want. The lack of research people put into career moves is quite startling. Don’t just accept information as gospel truth without doing your own digging. Always fully exhaust all internal conversations before this becomes the only option left.

So, remember, engagement is not about offering dry-cleaning pick up and drop off. It’s about taking charge of your career to remain engaged and loyal to the company and when that isn’t possible, find the opportunity that does allow for those things.

Susan currently serves as Chair for OI Partners and is a founding partner of ICC Inc. She is responsible for leading operations, finance and strategy. With more than two decades of business experience, Susan has developed the ability to end “business bloat” (inefficiencies, cross-purposes and miscommunication) and retool companies into sleeker, smoother, more strategically focused organizations.

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