How to Help Employees Own Their Career Development

Less than one-third of organizations believe they have an effective career development program, according to Brandon Hall Group’s study, Career Development: Are You Considering What Employees Want? 

How Organizations Empower Career Development

Organizations with an effective career development program embrace it as a business strategy. This includes giving employees visibility into their career options. Some employees want to move up the management ladder while others seek to expand their skills and responsibilities within their current role or job family. Employees must have tools to explore career options to take ownership of their career development. 

Top talent won’t remain at your organization unless they believe they can advance along a path that aligns with their personal and professional aspirations. Brandon Hall Group research shows that high-performing organizations enable employees to explore flexible career paths that fit their aspirations while aligning with organizational needs. It’s up to employees to do what’s necessary to grow into new roles. But employers must provide them with the tools they need to make it happen. 

Enabling Employees to Own Their Career Development 

  • Are we treating our internal job candidates (current employees) as well or better than we treat external candidates during the recruitment and hiring process? 
  • How do we better enable employees to drive their own career development? 
  • How can technology improve career development? 

Employees should be active participants in their performance development and career growth. That includes: 

  • Seeking feedback. 
  • Proposing performance goals and revisions. 
  • Suggesting agenda items for performance check-ins. 
  • Participating in 360 reviews. 
  • Being advocates for their own career development. 

However, driving employee ownership of their development and growth is difficult for several reasons, one of which is the lack of robust career path options. The traditional performance management process also is a major disincentive. Our research indicates that about half of organizations believe traditional performance management focuses more on the outcome of a specific initiative, project or business goal rather than the individual’s overall performance. 

The research also reveals shortcomings in managers’ ability to rate performance objectively, so many employees feel disenfranchised. A modern approach to management — fueled by continuous feedback and performance, and career conversations — can help by showing employees that development is not an event but an ongoing, continuous process in which they must be active participants. 

But a better management process is not enough. Organizations must also leverage technology to create tools for employees to manage their careers. Those tools are missing in most organizations, but they can have a huge impact. Here are five examples:

Organizations Using Technology to Drive Career Development  

Here is what one Fortune 500 company, a perennial Brandon Hall Group Excellence Award winner, does to empower employees to own their career development: 

  • It has a self-service career tool through which employees can see job roles and career paths in every line of business within the company. Employees can access roles of interest directly through a dropdown box that lists every role across the businesses. 
  • A high-level career map includes key roles across each line of business. On each line of business page, employees are given key information about the function and type of work involved. Licensure requirements are incorporated into the page so employees can plan their development to qualify. 
  • Role-specific drop-down boxes allow employees to navigate directly to a job of interest. When the employee selects an option, the career map for that business area appears. Career maps provide powerful visuals that make it easy to see and understand the many internal career mobility options. Employees can see both lateral and upward movement possibilities on the map. 

It’s a new world. To compete and keep your talent, you must empower them to see all the possibilities. Done well, you make it much easier for employees to stay with the organization they know rather than rolling the dice with another company. Creating such a consumer-grade experience is important in a hypercompetitive talent marketplace. 


Brandon Hall Group Strategy Briefs answer the critical questions learning, talent, HR and business leaders must address to manage their human capital. To tackle these critical questions in more detail, we built tools, frameworks, research summaries and business builders based on up-to-date research and case studies for you to implement best and next Human Capital Management (HCM) practices. To gain access to these valuable resources, contact [email protected].

Leading minds in HCM choose Brandon Hall Group to help them build future-proof employee-development plans for the new era. For more than 27 years, we have empowered, recognized and certified excellence in organizations around the world, influencing the development of over 10,000,000 associates and executives.

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Mike Cooke



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Mike Cooke

Chief Executive Officer of Brandon Hall Group Mike Cooke Prior to joining Brandon Hall Group, Mike Cooke was the Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of AC Growth. Mike held leadership and executive positions for the majority of his career, at which he was responsible for steering sales and marketing teams to drive results and profitability. His background includes more than 15 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, and operations in the research, consulting, software and technology industries. Mike has extensive experience in sales, marketing and management having worked for several early high-growth emerging businesses and has implemented technology systems to support various critical sales, finance, marketing and client service functions. He is especially skilled in organizing the sales and service strategy to fully support a company’s growth strategy. The concept of growth was an absolute to Mike and a motivator in starting AC Growth, in order to help organizations achieve research driven results. Most recently, Mike was the VP and General Manager of Field Operations at Bersin & Associates, a global analyst and consulting services firm focused on all areas of enterprise learning, talent management and talent acquisition. Tasked with leading the company’s global expansion, Mike led all sales operations worldwide. During Mike’s tenure, the company has grown into a multi-national firm, conducting business in over 45 countries with over 4,500 multi-national organizations. Mike started his career at MicroVideo Learning Systems in 1992, eventually holding a senior management position and leading all corporate sales before founding Dynamic Minds. Mike was CEO and Co-Founder of Dynamic Minds, a custom developer of software programs, working with clients like Goldman Sachs, Prentice Hall, McGraw Hill and Merrill Lynch. Also, Mike worked for Oddcast, a leading provider of customer experience and marketing solutions, where he held a senior management position leading the company into new markets across various industries. Mike also serves on the Advisory Board for Carbon Solutions America, an independent sustainability consulting and carbon management firm that specializes in the design and implementation of greenhouse reduction and sustainability plans as well as managing the generation of carbon and renewal energy and energy efficiency credits. Mike attended University of Phoenix, studying Business Administration and Finance. He has also completed executive training at the Chicago Graduate School of Business in Chicago, IL.