Consider this, the person you hired is a slightly different person a year later, and a few years after that, and so on. You may never completely lock into people who just pass through your company, but for employees who dig into their jobs with you, those jobs become their careers. And a career — just like the individual who has it — has a life cycle, with different stages, each of which carries with it different goals and a different mindset.
If you want to be a great boss, it helps to understand who, exactly, you’re working with at each step along the way. Failure to know where your workers are in their careers will likely hurt employee retention.
SOURCE: O.C. Tanner Institute
Well, you just got your job, and you’re learning the ropes. Official training may be over and you feel like a newbie. But you’re already starting to feel like you’re making a contribution.
You’re feeling like you’re getting the hang of your job and like you’re part of a team. You still want to grow in your role. But you wonder what the future holds if you hang with it.
You’ve paid your dues, made some selfless sacrifices for your team, and you’re feeling more confident. You’re wondering if your job is something to stay with or if you should make a fresh start with something else now that you have all these new skills.
Year 10: Belonging
You feel like your company is your dojo now, and you’ve taken its goals to heart. Your team feels like family. You’re proud of the whole operation and advocate for its values.
You see this job as your career now. You’re protective of your company and its mission, and you are happy to step up and provide leadership when it’s needed. You’re thankful for all the job has given you, and you want to return the favor.
You’ve been around. You’ve seen a lot and the depth of your understanding has become impressive. You’re eager to share the wisdom you’ve acquired, helping and even providing inspiration for others. You’re a committed collaborator and leader with a real connection to your team.
You’re not done, but you have a sense of satisfaction thanks to your achievements. It’s time to savor all that you’ve accomplished. You feel like there’s still more to do, though, including handing off to the next generation coming up.
You’re thinking of what you’ll leave behind as your legacy and of how you can pass on the kindness and knowledge you yourself received when you were new to your job. You’re not ready to retire just yet but you are thinking about it. You’re planning on leaving everyone with a smile.
Being aware of this sequence of phases can help you understand who it is you’re dealing with as you interact with an employee. Where that person is on their arc can tell you a lot of about where they’re coming from and what they need.
It’s also important to honor your people as they move to a new step — after all, it means they’ve mastered the previous one. According to the institute, companies with a career achievement program keep employees two years longer than those who don’t. And if the program’s effective, add another two years to that.
By understanding where all of your team members are in their careers and treating them in a commensurate manner, not only will you increase employee retention, you’ll also make your company significantly more effective.