Career Development Activities are a Key Contributing Factor to an Employee’s Commitment to the Organization
By Keli Bussell
Organizational commitment is a term used to describe an employee’s relationship with an organization and whether they wish to continue or discontinue that relationship (Meyer et al., 1993). An employee’s commitment to their organization has for decades predicted behavioral outcomes such as absenteeism, turnover, productivity, etc. (Klein & Park, 2015). Although many factors contribute to an employee’s commitment, of particular interest are the career development activities (Blackhurst et al., 1998; Lee & Bruvold, 2003).
Key Roles and Responsibilities for Career Development
One important point to consider when implementing career development activities within an organization is that it is everyone’s responsibility. Leadership, direct supervisors, human resources, and employees all have a key role to play. Leaders are responsible for creating a stable environment that fosters learning, positivity, opportunity, and transparency. Direct supervisors are responsible for supporting their employees through developmental feedback, communication, and training opportunities. Human resources staff are responsible for aiding leadership and supervisors in strategies to support their employees, such as guiding them through organizational structure changes, the effects of workforce forecasting, and leadership development skills. Of equal importance, employees are responsible for their engagement in opportunities for which their organization might provide. An opportunity could be as simple as enrolling in a workshop on how to improve communication skills or engaging in a meeting with their manager quarterly to discuss performance feedback or their career path. No matter what degree of career development activities an organization offers, everyone is responsible for the outcome.
Activities Affecting Commitment
Although there are a number of activities an organization may wish to engage in relative to career development for their employees (SHRM, n.d.), three key activities are recommended here that have shown to contribute to an employee’s commitment to their organization.
Recommended Key Activities:
- Career pathways
Through a proactive process known as workforce planning, organizations are able to analyze the needs of their workforce. For example, an analysis of upcoming retirements or new technology that is entering the industry can help guide an intentional plan in preparing for such needs. Mapping out a process for which employees will gain relevant skills to meet an organization’s needs can assist with the development of career pathways. Career pathways assist both the organization and the employee in clearly communicating mutually beneficial needs and how the end goals of both parties will be accomplished. A career pathways model provides a bridge or collaborative framework for the organization and the individual (Hedge & Rineer, 2017) for which the career development professional can help facilitate through needs assessment, gap analysis, and forecasting. Placing someone in a career pathway is a comprehensive process that involves strategic initiatives, one of which is mentoring.
Mentoring provides an opportunity to engage employees on a number of levels including socialization and skill development such as learning new technical skills from a seasoned expert. Being a mentor is not for everyone and career development professionals can help leaders and employees identify those who would best serve as a mentor. Afterall, an organization wants mentors to be a role model and display the values they desire for every employee and employees must be willing to take on such responsibilities. Although mentorship relationships have been shown to be more successful when voluntary, mentorships in general have been shown to be a contributing factor in employees’ organizational commitment (Payne & Huffman, 2005). Mentors may help employees identify and take advantage of another strategic initiative - skills training.
Training provides employees with the competencies they need to forge ahead in their career path. Career development professionals can help identify, develop, and coordinate training that will ensure technical and soft skill gaps are filled relative to the work expected of employees now and in the future. As Hedge & Rineer (2017) stated in their review of the research, it has been noted time and time again that, “if employees are provided with training and development opportunities and can envision a path to advancement within their organization, they will stay” (p. 3).
Intentional Commitment to Career Development
In summary, organizations that take an active role in their employee’s career development will experience mutually beneficial outcomes as a result of an engaged employee by way of an increased commitment to the organization. Without an intentional approach to their employees’ career development, organizations face vulnerability to their sustainability as a result of decreased employee retention, an unskilled workforce to fill needs, and decreased productivity.
Blackhurst, A. E., Brandt, J. E., & Kalinkowski, J. (1998) Effects of career development on the organizational commitment and life satisfaction of women student affairs administrators, NASPA Journal, 36(1), 19-34.
Hedge, J. W., & Rineer, J. R. (2017). Improving career development opportunities through rigorous career pathways research [Publication No. OP-0037-1703]. RTI Press.
Klein, H. J., & Park, H. M. (2015). Organizational commitment. In J. D. Wright (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences (2nd ed., Vol. 17, pp. 334–340). Elsevier.
Lee, C. H., & Bruvold, N. T. (2010). Creating value for employees: Investment in employee development, The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 14(6), 981-1000.
Meyer, J. P., Allen, N. J., & Smith, C. A. (1993). Commitment to organizations and occupations: Extension and test of a three-component conceptualization. Journal of Applied Psychology, 78(4), 538.
Society for Human Resource Management. (n.d.). Developing Employees. SHRM Toolkits. https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/toolkits/pages/developingemployees.aspx
Keli Bussell, CCSP, is a Training and Development Specialist at The Ohio State University, in Columbus, OH. She completed the Facilitating Career Development training and achieved the NCDA Certified Career Services Provider credential. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org