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Nurturing a culture of career growth and development: a blueprint for success

In today’s workforce, employees seek more than just a job – they desire a fulfilling career that aligns with their aspirations and provides opportunities for continuous development.

For some, this might be a change in direction; looking for a new position within their current organisation, and for others it could mean acquiring new skills to further their development in their role. Whatever it looks like, building and nurturing an open organisational culture in which individuals can grow and thrive will help you attract, develop, and retain the best talent, which is critical in an enduringly competitive landscape.

But what does this look like in practice?

There’s no simple or single solution, but reflecting on the past year, here are my thoughts on some of the key themes that businesses could consider to strengthen their culture and support colleague wellbeing, development and performance in the year ahead.

 

Nurture individual growth to bolster organisational growth

Acquiring knowledge and new skills allows people to grow, develop as leaders, and ultimately achieve their career goals. As well as being a powerful investment in colleagues, thoughtful career development also helps lay the foundations for a company’s future success.

Yet career development looks different for everyone. For some it may mean seeking out a lateral or new skills orientated move within the organisation, others may want to remain in their current role but access training that supports them in bolstering their existing skills or confidence in a particular area. It is critical that career development plans are therefore tailored to the individual, and that they recognise that growth is rarely a linear path.

To help deliver this at scale we introduced Career Growth @ Amex last year which provides clear guidance for colleagues and their leaders to have powerful conversations and navigate their career growth journey at the company.

 

Be flexible about the opportunities to progress 

A sense of progress as well as visibility of new opportunities can help any of us feel motivated and inspired at work. Although dependent on the size and scale of the organisation, giving colleagues the opportunity to move within the company is a great way to invest in them and help support career development within your organisation. This could mean helping colleagues to move across roles horizontally as well as via upwards progression or with exposure to new areas that expand their skill set. These opportunities can also help bring fresh perspectives and ideas into play in new business areas.

Leaders for some larger organisations therefore may have an important responsibility to highlight the wider opportunities available to colleagues – for example, moving overseas or across departments in roles that are regional, global or even multi-country, dependent on where their colleagues’ interests lie. This can also help colleagues connect with others across departments and countries to raise their profile and foster stronger organisation wide relationships.

At American Express, career growth and development are essential elements of the colleague experience and we place a big emphasis on colleagues identifying the opportunities that will support their continuous learning. I can speak personally to the benefits of this having worked both in Australia and the UK, taking on roles with increasing responsibility, in new areas and leading teams across multiple countries. In fact, moving across business disciplines has been one of the best things I’ve ever done for my career and development. As well as learning a lot about myself and my transferable skills, it gave me broader experience of the business that has been invaluable.

 

A sense of belonging matters

It’s well recognised that colleague wellbeing is supported by an inclusive culture where colleagues can bring their authentic self to work. Assisting colleagues to connect with others across the organisation and fostering relationships across teams, departments and geographies all add to their sense of purpose and inclusion.

At American Express we have 14 Colleague Networks that bring together people who share common experiences, interests and backgrounds and are an important part of creating a culture of inclusion and community. These groups offer networking, growth opportunities and the ability for colleagues to get more involved within the company.

 

Create conditions for colleagues to thrive 

One major difference between a good workplace and a great one, is likely to be openness.  Instilling an open culture where conversations on topics such as mental health are normalised is a key step to ensuring it is top of mind and helps to tackle stigmas. Organisations can then better empower their colleagues to seek help when they need it, reduce workplace stress, and promote a more positive work-life balance.

To help leaders better support their colleagues, businesses could encourage them to connect regularly with their colleagues to check-in and see how they’re doing – particularly when working remotely, as it can be harder to detect if they’re struggling. Putting in time to connect with colleagues helps to create a safe space for them to raise any issues they have.

Companies can also consider what resources they could provide that could help, such as developing programmes that connect colleagues to mental health care professionals. At American Express our industry-leading Healthy Minds programme offers colleagues and their household members personalised mental health services, which include easier access to a high-quality network of licensed counsellors as well as peer supporters.

 

If you are thinking about fostering growth, personally or as an organisation, empowering your people and supporting their wellbeing, development and performance, will undoubtedly be key to ensuring success in the year ahead.

 

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