After the excesses of the holidays, a lot of people start thinking about “middle management” and it generally involves cutting back.  For a talent development consultant, middle management has another meaning.  Here, I’m going to do a 180 and suggest you do some fattening up. As companies recalibrate for 2014, I’d like to propose a new course of action for HR and business leaders – namely, to feed the great middle of your organization a richer diet of career development support and tools.


In most companies, the bulk of the workforce is starved for career development attention. There are programs for top executives, for onboarding new hires, for nurturing high potentials, even remedial plans to lift the lagging performers. But the middle layer of consistently high performers who make the organizational engine run, day in and day out, typically get scant attention when it comes to their career aspirations and options.


That’s one reason employee engagement levels are so low. Right Management research shows, and other studies confirm, that when organizations provide career development opportunities, employees are six times more likely to be engaged. In fact, six of the top ten global drivers of employee engagement are linked directly to career development. And when employee engagement rates rise so do key business metrics such as productivity, profitability, and customer satisfaction.


Companies are also beginning to recognize that a structured career development program is a smart investment for retaining talent and avoiding recruiting costs, especially with the re-orgs, mergers, and other organizational dynamics today.  When employees are prepared and motivated to manage their own careers within an evolving organization and given the tools to support both lateral and vertical mobility, the company benefits at all levels.


I recently helped a large multinational implement a career development program that is currently targeting all 120,000 employees globally.  The initial pilot covered approximately 50 employees from their internal recruitment organization and a cohort from their diversity program. Dave was one of the first employees to use the program. Seeking a senior level role, Dave dove into the career management self-service portal, taking advantage of brand-building exercises to craft and articulate a personal brand that reflected his strengths, and tools to help him upgrade and polish his resume. The program helped Dave recognize two facts that many employees looking to make a vertical move fail to see. First, he had to rebrand himself to dispel preconceived notions about who he was based on his current position in the company. Second, he had to compete against candidates (many from outside the company) who would be highly prepared and at the top of their game. This included interviewing skills. Dave used our iView web-based technology to record himself digitally, with voice and video, in a simulated interview. Working with a coach made all the difference; Dave got objective feedback on how to improve his interviewing skills and how to position himself, which helped him build confidence and increase his competitive advantage.


Of course, Dave got the job. I wouldn’t be telling you the story if he failed, would I? But the larger point is that with a minimal investment in online tools and one-on-one career coaching, the company was able to meet Dave’s career development expectations and goals, retain a valuable employee with clear star potential, and create an engaged and enthusiastic advocate for the organization. Multiply those results by hundreds of Daves and Dianes – who yearn to develop in place or grow into new roles – and your great middle will become a well-toned asset that can help the company achieve its objectives.

Reprinted from Right Management's Talent+Work Blog