Information Technology leaders and managers are often tasked with maintaining and improving the data operations of businesses. They often spend the majority of their time outing fires and finding solutions to business problems.
With all that effort spent just keeping the lights on, IT leaders don’t put enough emphasis on career development for their IT staff. It’s a shame, because such development can not only help the employee, but the business at large.
I’ve put together five ways that you can help your IT employees to advance their careers, and hinted how it can benefit the business in return.
1. Keep them learning
It is already known that continuous learning is important for career success; however, how many people actually follow through with doing that? The truth is, continuous learning is difficult for people, because the gains are often too far to see; watching your favourite show is much easier to do. You therefore have to build and encourage a learning environment.
Some ways you can do this:
- Purchase learning material such as books, magazines and videos and arrange ‘downtime’ for them to read and learn.
- Arrange regular times each week or month for staff members to share learning and knowledge. You can also create knowledge-bases for staff to write technical articles to share. In my old job, I had a wiki created on our Sharepoint server where we had all sorts of technical articles written and posted.
- Help them build labs by purchasing lab equipment, or repurposing old equipment so that they can practice what they learn without interfering with the production environment.
- Be open to mistakes, as mistakes are part of the learning process. I’m not saying encourage carelessness, but even after due diligence, stuff happens, and it’s important that everyone learns from the process.
With the constant advances in technology, IT departments who are constantly learning will be in a better position to help the business adopt those technologies, allowing it to be more competitive.
2. Give them responsibilities and authority
One of the greatest boost to any career is the realisation that the individual alone is responsible for their own growth. Being put into positions of responsibility and authority helps develop those skills that will be useful to both them and the business.
Give them the opportunity to bring ideas to the table and give them the responsibility to carry them out. Give them the authority to make decisions on projects that they lead with limits, for example, making the choice on a hardware purchase or coming up with the design for the WAN. Guide them, but ultimately allow them to make the final decision.
Such a distributed way of decision making also helps the business to turnaround projects faster, as there is no bottleneck in the decision process. Projects will complete faster, and the business will have a faster return on their investment.
3. Encourage them to grow their network
Networks are important for career and business growth. By network, I mean social networks, and not the data kind — just in case there was any confusion.
Help them to build the soft skills necessary to communicate better and build relationships. This will also help them to be more effective in the workplace as well as in life.
Encourage them to expand their networks outside of the workplace. Send them to seminars and conferences and encourage them to meet and keep in touch with other attendees. These expanded networks allows them to tap into resources they (and you) may not otherwise have access to in solving business issues.
4. Help them to move up — or move on
Career growth implies a movement upwards in the company hierarchy. While some companies are dispensing of multi-level organisational charts, and moving to a flatter organisation, or even a holacracy, most organisations still have defined levels. Even if you may not have multiple levels, you can give additional responsibilities.
Employees wanting to grow their careers will naturally want to get higher jobs, both with more responsibility and more pay. As the business grows, positions may open up, or more responsibilities may be added that causes positions to be created; encourage them to apply.
If there is no space to grow up, then it may mean that you have a difficult decision to make — encourage them to move out, whether it’s from the department or the organisation. Keeping an employee’s job growth stagnant disadvantages both the employee and the organisation; as employees become ‘comfortable’, they will not bring in more value for the business.
5. Grow yourself
Your own leadership growth also plays an important role in developing strong employees. Don’t underestimate your own role in the growth of those around you.
Coincidently, the above four sets of tasks will also help you grow your own leadership skills in the process. It’s as Jack Welch said, “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”
Do you know of any other ways that you can help employees to grow their careers? How about ideas on how you’ve grown your own careers? Add them to the comment section below.