By Chuck Wilson, NSCA Executive Director
In the days before GPS navigational systems and online map search engines, the gas station attendant used to have all the answers. Day or night, rain or shine, drivers who found themselves lost could drive up to one of countless 24-hour roadside assistance help desks known as gas stations. There they would find guidance from a local who possessed knowledge of the area’s highways and streets, and they might even know a short-cut or two.
Today there are many technological tools that help guide us through life and work, but sometimes it all comes down to the personalized touch of someone like that trusty gas station attendant. Someone who knows exactly where you’re headed, who’s been there before and can help you get there yourself.
A road map isn’t just beneficial for travel. It can be a powerful tool in our work lives as well. Most people, whether they’re on the road or clocking in for another day of work, like to know where they’re headed. This is the key to recruiting and retaining quality employees.
It may seem like a difficult prospect to inform each member of your staff what incremental steps they can take to arrive at their next career destination, but it’s worth it over the long haul. Your team members will prove more dedicated and loyal if they feel like they’ve received personalized instructions on how to get from point A to point B.
The process begins with your hiring practices. When an applicant arrives for an interview, you should have a job description and a list of possible career path goals.
Once you’ve determined whether the prospective employee is qualified to meet the standards for the open position, take the time to discuss various options for the future. A new employee will be more enthusiastic about accomplishing day-to-day tasks if they have an idea of where their job could take them.
Just as the resource at the local gas station alters their directions to accommodate detours and maybe even weather considerations, you’ll need to tailor employees’ road maps to match their individual needs and goals. Of course, further considerations will need to be made to reflect the local talent pool and competitors’ offerings. Create incentives that appeal locally and universally to anyone seeking fulfillment from their work. Industry certification, continuing education and increased responsibility are just a few of the potential rewards you can offer to employees on every level.
Creating a career roadmap is not a one-way street. It is crucial to remain open to suggestions, questions and even complaints from members of your team. The issues that effect their working day are the ones you need to see as inhibitors to productivity. Sometimes remedying what are too often labeled as “little things” will help show responsiveness and consideration for the improvement of work conditions. Updating paperwork to reflect a new way of doing business, providing training on technology fundamentals, or even adding more refreshment options in the break room can prove how dynamic your business can be.
Sometimes it’s difficult to know what’s ahead when the sales funnel is full and personnel issues threaten to prevent completion of projects. This is where communication with team members becomes key. Make sure there is inter-communication between personnel in regular meetings and that issues are elevated to the management level so that solutions can be obtained. Sharing information and experience can be empowering. Organize “lunch and learns” or plan to have technicians reveal their new knowledge after they return from training.
Once you start to plan ahead, there will be no looking back. With everyone on the same page in terms of where the company is going and how day-to-day operations influence the final outcome, profitability and productivity will increase. The future will evolve in accordance with how you handle the past and present, so keep your eye on the road and don’t miss any signs along the way.