Want to Keep Your Employees? Invest in Career Development

With unemployment rates steadily hovering around pre-pandemic lows, the power in the US job market has shifted into the hands of applicants — with competition that goes far beyond who has the best craft beers on tap. But while job-seekers aren’t struggling to find roles, companies are finding it difficult to hire talent that wants to stick around.

Leaving a job is no longer an anxiety-inducing endeavor. Nearly 50% of Americans who changed jobs during the pandemic are now making more money, with a third making 30% or more than their previous role. Changing jobs can also mean more workplace flexibility, career growth opportunities, and more general satisfaction for employees. 

So what keeps employees around? 

The Pew Research Center found that pay and opportunity for advancement were the biggest drivers for people who left their jobs in 2021. The emphasis that companies put on compensation over career development is greatly skewed: 92% of employers plan to give or have given base-pay increases this year, but only 29% say they have a clear learning and development plan for employees.

Why Does Career Development Matter?

Career development contributes to the well-being and evolution of your employees and your business. Whether you’re looking to find talent in a hot job market or trying to boost retention, investing in career development can make the difference.

You’ll attract better talent 

Employees who work at companies that prioritize learning and development are 31% more likely to recommend their company to their peers. Even if your company pays referral bonuses for successful applicant recommendations, employee word-of-mouth is one of the most cost-effective ways of attracting talent.

You’ll hire faster 

You won’t get stuck searching for the perfect candidate if you give your employees a chance to improve. With an effective career growth strategy, you can higher more entry- to mid-level positions and know that they’ll become experts over time. Plus, you can focus your hiring efforts on specialized positions that may require more interview scrutiny. 

It creates a better culture 

“Opportunities to learn and grow” is the strongest driver of work culture, according to a recent Glint study.  Promoting an environment of continuous learning shows your team that you are invested in their success. 

You’ll save money long-term 

Teaching your current employees new skills, or making an effort to improve existing ones, is cheaper than hiring someone new, especially in a tight job market. According to Glassdoor, the average cost to hire a new employee is $4,000 — a number that can quickly add up if you have consistent turnover. Compare that to the average of $1,678 per employee that midsize companies spent on training in 2020. 

You’ll curb turnover 

Giving your employees a clear career path keeps them motivated to stick around. Equipping them with the tools and information to progress in their career promotes workplace happiness, employee productivity, and overall engagement.

You’ll build a stronger, more knowledgeable team 

There’s a big difference between building great employees and hiring skilled people. While it may sound more appealing to hire the most qualified candidate, they are likely to be costly and might have behaviors that work against internal processes, like different selling tactics. 

Team members who have grown with you know your product, customers, and workplace expectations better than anyone else. For example, ZoomInfo’s account executives who are promoted from sales development representatives have tended to outperform AE’s who were hired externally.

“The knowledge obtained by talking to prospects and customers, learning our process, and believing in our culture arms these employees with a greater understanding of the everyday problems that we are supporting our customers in solving,” ZoomInfo President and COO Chris Hays says. “ZoomInfo also benefits greatly from their progression, as we are able to derive meaningful value — even as they’re still learning the business — and the returns compound as they grow in their career.” 

How to build a Solid Career Development Strategy

Career development starts on Day 1. Your employees need to understand what’s expected of them from the start and where you see them heading. 

Create a 30-60-90-day plan

On the first day of onboarding, give your employees a glimpse at what they can expect and what’s expected of them. A 30-60-90-day plan lays out the target projections, competencies, and knowledge for each new employee. These plans should have general requirements, like familiarity with brand guidelines, as well as role-specific responsibilities, like the ability to run a full solo demo after three months. It’s a great soft launch for employees, and an easy way to measure their success from the get-go. 

Build a core competency program 

Core competencies are the essential skills that an individual can use as a reference for their development and to track their progress. A core competency map can be created for any job and should detail the necessary abilities for employees at various stages of their development. Building out a core competency map helps identify strengths and weaknesses, and gives a clear picture to employees of what’s required to move to the next level in their career. 

Offer training programs

In addition to a growth plan, equip your team with the tools needed to get to the next level. Creating a specialized training program will create more well-rounded employees at a much more rapid pace. 

At ZoomInfo, we created the SDR Academy, a training program that gives SDRs the tools, lessons, and metrics they need to get promoted to the next level within 12 months. This academy gives employees full visibility into their training and a clear growth path from their first day with the company. We also don’t require SDRs to have a sales development background, making the role and training program more accessible. 

“This journey over eight to 12 months allows our employees to learn the skills necessary, not only to be successful as an SDR, but to prepare themselves for a variety of roles, such as SDR management, account executive, account management, all the way to marketing and revenue operations,” Hays says. “This tailored investment in our talent development programs demonstrates a strong commitment to the success of our organization, our employees, and our customers.” 

Set up a mentoring program

A mentoring program can offer employees the chance to explore other career options. Create a program that allows interested employees to sign up for a week of job shadowing each quarter. This promotes career mobility and a better understanding of what other teams do, allowing work to become less siloed.

Consider a continuing education stipend 

Professional development may come in the form of a three-day conference or an online course. Allow your employees to explore opportunities that may not fall within the boundaries of your office. They’ll increase their knowledge base, and likely return with tools that can be used to make your business more efficient. 

Prioritize internal promotions

Looking internally rather than externally for promotions is a smart move for your wallet and employee retention. At ZoomInfo, we look to our current employees to fill open senior positions before considering an outside hire. Over 50% of our hires for account executive positions are filled by internal candidates. There’s no point in creating career growth paths if you’re not allowing your employees the opportunity to progress.

Build around your team

There will inevitably be gaps in your org chart, especially at newer companies. Designing roles around the strengths of your team helps to close these gaps and drastically improves efficiency, all while allowing your employees to form a unique career path that they’re excited about. 

ZoomInfo built our Trojan AE program for this very reason. We recognized a pretty substantial problem that often accompanies high growth — managing the high volume of demos and leads flowing through the funnel. 

We found that our AEs, while looking for the most valuable deals, would often overlook the value of less traditional fits or harder deal cycles. We needed to find a way to recapture the value and ensure that they were working these opportunities in an efficient way. So we created a role we call the Trojan AE to address this gap. So while improving our overall organizational effectiveness, we were also able to craft a completely new role.

Building career paths leads you and your employees to a better chance at success, and it’s an investment that will continue to benefit everyone. 

And if you’re looking for an opportunity to grow, Employees at ZoomInfo have 2.5 times greater career mobility than the average SaaS company. Check out our careers page here