What managers of tomorrow need to know about employee development

The workplace—and the players within it—look quite different than previous decades. How, and when employees want to receive feedback has changed. What they value most has definitely changed. How we even communicate with them has changed.


So, how are managers supposed to develop modern employees in ways that are effective now, and in the future?


There are two skill categories that need to be developed, and according to employees, one is more valuable:


• Occupational, or job-related skills - these skills are the most straightforward, those needed to do the job today. Companies may be guilty of being too narrow in employee development, focusing only on job-related skills and skimping on those more tied to career growth.


• Transferable, or soft skills - human skills like active listening, empathy, communication and the like are more crucial to train for. Because they can be carried from role to role, company to company throughout a person’s career, no matter which direction(s) it takes, transferable skills are more valuable to employees.



Many managers get caught up in developing only job-related skills, which is understandable because, hey, there’s a lot of work to be done around here. But, modern workers won’t stick around for long if all you want to do is develop the skills they need to work faster in their current gigs.


Read on for how to give the modern workforce more of what they demand, err, want.



Forget training. Revamp your convos first.


The magic formula for developing both types of skills begins with manager-employee conversations. Think back to the last 1:1 you had with a direct report. How much of the time was spent covering more transactional, status-related topics vs. where that employee would like to go next in their career?


According to research by Steve Arntz, Director of Product Marketing for Bridge, 72 percent of employees stated their conversations with managers focused on status rather than substance. What they really want to discuss is what drives them, and how can they develop in the areas that will help them reach their long-term career goals.  


Substance conversations engage modern employees, and one of the best ways to determine true career drivers is to ask open-ended questions. That’s exactly what Bridge did in conducting research on employee career development. 


We asked people in several roles the following questions:


• How did you get to this place in your career?

• What does the pinnacle of your career look like?

• How do you plan to get there?



Of course, we had a working hypothesis of what we’d find … What we actually discovered was much more powerful.



Roles aren’t the ultimate career-development goal—meaning is


While we assumed that people had very specific ideas about the roles they wanted to grow into, the exact opposite is what we found to be true:


• People don’t have a concrete vision of their future roles

• People do enjoy talking about their values, the type of work they enjoy and learnings from others they have worked with, both good and bad


Asking employees highly personal questions about what motivates them can get really awkward, real quick. Fortunately, our research inspired a fun and engaging way to get to the heart of what moves each employee—Career Drivers.


Through a simple deck of cards, employees can identify which drivers are most and least important to them, as well as which ones are currently being met. They can prioritize drivers like recognition, autonomy, creativity, achievement, innovation and collaboration in an order that is truly relevant to them alone.


This exercise helps managers and employees work together to map out the development activities that will help them achieve what matters most. Goals needn’t be tied to future roles, as titles are less important than the actual outcomes they deliver. Think impact, purpose and work-life balance, to name a few.


Managers don’t need the actual cards to put the insights behind them into action (but they sure can help):


• Focus on drivers first (with roles bringing up the rear) in any career development conversation

• Empower employees to develop transferable skills in addition to the job-specific skills they need now

• Think outside of formal learning when developing their teams—workers also want stretch assignments, mentorships and ways to Practice their soft skills



If you’d like to learn more about Bridge’s Career Drivers development approach, we’ve got you covered with our infographic.