5 Proven Ways To Encourage Career Advancement at Your Company

Our thoughts on the industrial workforce, tech, SaaS, augmented reality and startup culture.

If you think that empowering your employees will make them leave for greater opportunities, think twice. We’re returning to our blog series “Retain Your Manufacturing Workers With These 7 Modern Benefits” with a compilation of career advancement programs and tools that will keep your workers wanting to work for you. 

LinkedIn found that 94% of workers would stay longer at their company if their employer gave them resources to learn and grow. Implementing both programs and tools that promote personal and professional development are proven strategies to earn workforce loyalty. In this blog, we’ll go over five tactics:

  1. Mentorship Programs
  2. Reverse Mentorship Programs
  3. Career Coaching
  4. Onsite Training Resources
  5. Job Rotation Programs

Unlike apprenticeship programs or trade school classes, these aren’t training scenarios meant for the incoming and inexperienced workers you’re onboarding. These programs and tools are for the workers who have already given time and dedication to your company. You know that these employees are valuable teammates so invest in them.

1. Mentorship Programs

Mentorships aren’t just for those in school, but they’re also key programs to foster personal growth in the workplace. Only 37% of workers currently have a mentor, but 76% of workers think having a mentor is important. Skilled labor and trade industries have room to grow—only 44% of these workers have ever had a mentor.

Source: Olivet Nazarene University

Sure, mentoring is beneficial for the worker, but how does it help your company’s bottom line? Loyalty. According to Deloitte, 68% of millennials who claimed they would stay at their job for five-plus years had a mentor. 

A.W. Chesterton Company, a sealing solutions manufacturer, has a 12-week-long mentorship program that consists of shadowing, meet-and-greets and ride-alongs. At the end, the mentees give a 10-minute capstone presentation to senior management. Michaela Stickley, the assistant director of human resources, tells Valve Magazine:

“Every time we run a group, it just so happens that we see at least one participant change jobs, get promoted or be transferred within six months after the program ends. They have learned about other areas of the company or managers have discovered them.

“We have had countless mentors make the jump into formal management roles after building up their confidence through mentoring. We’ve seen a senior manager who thought he would retire in the role he was in who participated as a mentor and two years later joined the company’s leadership team as a vice president.”

2. Reverse Mentorship Programs

Now, we’ll throw you for a loop. What if the mentor became the mentee? That’s exactly what Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, wanted when he established “reverse mentoring” as an acceptable practice in corporate America all the way back in 1991. “In his pilot project, he paired 500 senior and junior employees, in hopes the latter would teach the former about technological advances and tools,” (Forbes).

Reverse mentoring may have been around for a quarter-century, but it’s not widespread, and there isn’t too much hard data to review for its effectiveness. What we can go off of are anecdotal stories. The Society for Human Resource Management interviewed three companies with reverse mentorship programs that paired senior executives with millennial and Gen-Z workers “who help them understand and leverage new trends in social media, mobile technology or today’s consumer preferences.”

One such company they interviewed was OgilvyOne Worldwide, a marketing firm in New York. CTO Brian Fetherstonhaugh tells SHRM that “with the world moving with such speed and uncertainty, older people are highly vulnerable” to being replaced. “A critical way of inoculating yourself is by waking yourself every day and saying, ‘What do I do today to stay fresh and relevant?’”

Fetherstonhaugh brings up an interesting point of vulnerability. You want your older workers to feel empowered in their job role and in the ever-changing technological world; you don’t want your baby boomers deciding it’s time to retire because the work world has outgrown them. 

Sharing knowledge is a two-way street. By pairing seasoned workers with younger workers, you can transfer innate knowledge from the digital generation to those who entered the workforce before the computer did. 

3. Career Coaching

While mentorships pair together workers in the same field but at different levels, you can go another route by employing a career coach on staff to give guidance to any worker. If you’re unfamiliar with this increasingly popular profession, they’re counselors who are experts at helping others transform their careers. 

Career coaches can tackle the basics like resume building, negotiating and interviewing...which isn’t exactly why you would want one on staff. They can also tackle the complex like confidence building, time management, teamwork skills and leadership development....which is exactly why you would want one on staff. 

The Coaching Tools Company claims that 86% of companies who hired a life coach made a return on investment. They also found that 80% of those individuals who received coaching improved their self-confidence and 72% improved their communication skills.

Here’s how hiring a career coach can help your company’s productivity:

  • Establishes a welcoming space for “Stay Interviews” instead of ‘Exit Interviews.” Learn what’s not going right in your company before an employee walks out.
  • Smooths out any workload imbalances among teammates, which can cause bitterness, rivalry and burnout. A third-party listener (the career coach) can identify the imbalances and advocate for change.
  • Fosters a positive work environment and a healthy company culture where people are heard and appreciated.
  • Empowers your workers to grow within your company. An internal leader can help workers set and meet goals on a day-to-day basis or on a long-term basis.

Employing a career coach shows your workforce that you’re investing in their well-being. If it’s not in your budget to hire a career coach, you can also train managers with career coaching skills so they can fill the role as needed. 

4. Onsite Training Resources

It can be intimidating for workers to ask for help when they’re on the job. Their superiors are often busy so they might feel hesitant to interrupt, or maybe, they just don’t want to look weak. Workers may even expect their superior to flat out say no. A Cornell study suggests that people underestimate the chance of getting help when they ask for it by as much as 50%

There are ways to give your workers help when they’re afraid to ask. At Ario, we discovered that companies are unable to reach their potential because 1) employees are cut off from resources and 2) companies don’t have effective ways to share knowledge among teammates. We build tools so frontline workers don’t have to ask for help every step of the way, yet when a situation requires them to ask for help, they’ll also have an easier and more reassuring way to request assistance. 

The Ario Platform puts answers right in front of workers when they need help maintaining equipment or troubleshooting. You can take any of your company’s digital resources like directions, checklists, training courses, how-to videos, etc., and use augmented reality to stick them right onto a piece of equipment for your frontline workers to tap. Within the platform, you can even develop training courses for your workforce to access onsite while using their day-to-day equipment.

By delivering a technical helpline, workers can also feel more confident reaching out for help from a superior. Ario Connect is a 2-way video calling app enhanced with augmented reality that lets frontline workers contact your remote experts to receive hands-on guidance.

Your workforce wants accessible training resources...not to self-improve then jump ship to another company, but to rise the ranks inside your company. LinkedIn found that 73% of employees would remain at their company if they were given the chance to build their skills. Investing in onsite resources like Ario is a bet worth taking when three-quarters of your workforce is at stake.

5. Job Rotation Programs

Compared to other industries, manufacturers are no strangers to job rotation programs. “Industries that were more likely to have rotational programs included utilities (66.7 percent); chemical manufacturing (58.3 percent); miscellaneous manufacturing (55.6 percent); and finance, insurance and real estate (54.2 percent),” (NACE).

When manufacturers implement job rotation programs, you often do so to prevent frontline workers from physically burning out doing the same manual task over and over, stressing muscles and joints. That is a critical reason in itself to job rotate, but there are also unexpected positive side effects that can manifest. 

Job rotation programs can accelerate a worker’s personal and professional development. A third of workers don’t feel engaged at work, and a change could inspire them. Every new task builds skills and creates a challenge to master, which in turn fosters confidence. Workers will form bonds with people not on their usual team. They’ll see for themselves what other opportunities they can grow into at your company. And, you will organically implement a succession plan where natural leaders will emerge ready to take the place of those retiring.

Source: NACE

Although job rotation programs can greatly increase employee retention rates, it's best to offer this program as optional, not mandatory. For some employees, there could be negative side effects like frustration and anxiety due to repeated job changes. Like any program you want to create, it’s always a best practice to check your audience and make sure it will work for your company.

So there you have it: five career advancement programs and tools that will keep workers wanting to work for you. If anything, just remember that 54% of your employees’ immediate retention correlates with your efforts towards their personal and professional development. 

For more useful tips, visit our other blog posts in the series “Retain Your Manufacturing Workers With These 7 Modern Benefits.” You’ll discover unexpected ways to foster company loyalty and keep your best employees on board. Next, we’ll be taking a look at vacation benefits and offerings. 

Retain Your Manufacturing Workers With These 7 Modern Benefits

Table of Contents: 

Part 1: Family Benefits & Incentives

Part 2: Career Advancement Programs & Tools

Part 3: Vacation Policies & Work-Travel Practices 

Part 4: Employee Engagement Activities

Part 5: Flexible Hours & Location Policies

Part 6: Wellness Stipend & Mental Health Benefits 

Part 7: Access to Innovative Technology

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