Can You Really Offer Great Career Development In A Small Company?

Our recent survey into modern jobseeker methods revealed that the second most sought after benefit (after flexible working) is career development.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just larger organisations, with their structured job hierarchies, that can offer career development potential. Small organisations can also offer healthy career development opportunities, largely thanks to the lack of hierarchy and orthodoxy that often comes with being a young organisation. Unshackled by formal processes, small company employees can quickly take on management responsibilities and acquire enhanced professional status.

Also, the all-hands-on-deck environment, inherent in small organisations, means that protagonists can rapidly develop a broader range of skills, potentially making them more adaptable.

However, as in big companies, where favouritism or flawed internal promotion processes can stifle career progression, small companies need to create the right environment for growth and development. Here are 4 tips to provide big career development in a small company:

Put entrepreneurialism in everyone’s job description

Smaller companies rely heavily on differentiation, innovation, speed-to-market, and agility in order to beat the established competition. Therefore, encourage your staff to always be looking for new ideas, products, processes, and markets that can boost revenue, efficiency, productivity or customer satisfaction. Praise all ideas publicly and give awards to those putting forward the best, workable ideas to in order to encourage participation. Empower these mini-entrepreneurs by putting them in charge of these development projects or at least involving them heavily. This virtuous circle of entrepreneurialism will enable staff to evolve and develop their roles and career in areas that engage them and which of course develop your business. It’s a win-win.

Play to your strengths

The relative lack of orthodoxy in small organisations can be a strength if used well.  Lack of bureaucracy and internal politics means that staff can quickly and easily be given stretch projects and new responsibilities, which take them well out of their comfort zone and encourage them to progress and learn new skills.  Once again, incentivise this activity with appropriate pay rises and enhanced job title changes to reflect their greater contribution. Also, think about an annual award for the most improved employee to reward personal development and to demonstrate its value.

Frequent and appropriate job title enhancements help build a sense of career progression

Ensure that all this personal development activity is reflected in a job title change. Research shows that over half of employees think a job title change would improve happiness, even without an accompanying change in responsibilities.  Enhanced job-titles, particularly those which reflect new responsibilities, are seen by employees as a sign that their employer values them, as a career step and of their increasing status in the organisation. Frequent and appropriate job title enhancements help build a sense of career progression

Support certification and external validation of skills

Many jobs have a professional body associated with them which offer some form of certification. For example, Chartered Marketer status is awarded through a combination of experience and qualifications. By providing your staff with the right experience your small business can help your staff progress to an industry recognised professional status.

By deploying some of the approaches mentioned above you can really offer exciting, engaging and often externally validated career development to all employees in your small business.

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