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5 Reasons to Emphasize Career Development During Sequestration

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Picture this.  You’re a Federal executive, responsible for an important mission critical program with national significance.  You have 500 employees that haven’t received a pay raise for three years. Frustrations are high and they are leaving in droves – 25 in the last six months alone. And now you’re under a hiring freeze.  When you think about your organization in a year or two, you can imagine a workforce below 400, with critical vacancies and skill gaps across the board impacting the ability to provide vital services to our Nation.  You don’t want to panic, but what other option do you have?

How about career development?  Career development is the intentional and deliberate process of growing your staff to support your business needs. When done well, it aligns individual career aspirations with the organization’s vision and mission and results in increased satisfaction, decreased turnover and higher productivity.  

Some say that in today’s budget environment, they can’t afford to train and develop employees. Though this might meet your short term budget needs, it undercuts your longer term human capital development needs. Career development can be a powerful – and affordable – way to engage your workforce and deliver results especially in tough times.  Consider these five reasons to develop your employees now:

1. Workforce planning. Having a strategic approach to career development allows organizations to identify and allocate resources according to an employee’s skills within their respective career path, while also planning for future organizational needs. In effect, this lets you be proactive in workforce planning through prescriptive career development maps that account for and are aligned with organizational needs.

2. Recruiting. Career development will not only help improve your current workforce, but will position you to attract top talent when the time comes to hire new employees.  Agencies with career development programs are more attractive to prospective employees because it sends a clear message that the organization is invested in them.  For example, based on our research, once job seekers became aware of an agency’s career development tools, they were more likely to identify the organization as forward thinking and results oriented. As a result, the awareness of an agency’s career development program led to a 30% increase in the applicant’s likelihood of applying for a job. Prospective applicants were also more likely to indicate that the organization cares about its employees and that the agency is a place to pursue a long-term career.

3. Engagement. Research tells us that investing in an employee’s career increases engagement and job satisfaction, which in turn has a direct link to better performance, higher productivity and reduced turnover.  Developing career paths and linking training to career development and organizational goals allows agency leaders to send a clear message that employees matter. Strategically aligned career development lets organizations benefit from employees’ higher competency and skill levels along with the resulting improved productivity across the organization.  What could be more important today than improved productivity?

4. Retention.  Years of studies have shown that employees stay in jobs that give them opportunities.  Organizations need to think about this and offer developmental opportunities that support career aspirations, give employees opportunities to develop their skills, and help them understand the path to other positions. Employees who don’t understand their career paths are less satisfied and more likely to leave. As most agencies know, turnover is incredibly costly. In difficult times, agencies need to do everything they can to retain employees!

5. It’s the law. A recent report issued by the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), Managing Public Employees in the Public Interest: Employee Perspectives on Merit Principles in Federal Workplaces, documents the need for Federal agencies to improve their stewardship of the Federal workforce. The Report reminds us that  the Merit System Principles require not only the efficient and effective use of the Federal workforce but also that “employees should be provided effective education and training” to improve organizational and individual performance.

Strategic career development is an extremely effective tool for creating an efficient and effective workforce.  By aligning employees’ career goals with the organization’s mission, you can ensure your agency has a solid, high-performing workforce! 

Jacob Flinck and Nicole Benn are Senior Consultants specializing in career development and talent management at Federal Management Partners, Inc.

Image via IdeaStepConceptStock/

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