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Why Growth Opportunities Give Employees a Reason to Show Up

BY: Sara Martin, MS // Interim Chief Executive Officer • WELCOA

GROWTH: Feeling like you are progressing in your career. Learning and being challenged to use and expand on your strengths.

Why is GROWTH critical to making the workplace whole again?

“I am a very growth-motivated person, and if you tell me that I don’t have any trajectory at my job, or I don’t feel like my company really cares if I grow personally, then I’m like… what’s the point of going?” This was a quote from a dear friend of mine this week as he and I caught up about how things are going in a post-COVID world. He works for a large corporation, and has increasingly felt since March that there have been fewer and fewer opportunities to grow professionally. He has felt that it has halted his career trajectory. I asked him how that made him feel. “It is jarring to learn you cannot roll into your job and be successful with the skills that made you successful before.” And no one in his company seemed to be investing in helping him grow in this new world of work. His story is not rare. Many millennials were citing lack of growth and learning opportunities as the reason for leaving their job—even before the pandemic.

Many of us may find ourselves struggling to get our footing as we return to work. Whether you are still remote and grappling with it as the new normal or you are physically going back into your office and coping with how foreign it feels post-COVID, the skills that formed the base of how you navigated your job may not have the same impact they did before. We cannot forget the importance of feeling like we are moving forward in our careers and expanding on our strengths. Many things may feel halted or unsure, but work can continue to be a bright light of progress that helps us feel whole.

How does fostering GROWTH affect the working human?

As made evident from the anecdote about my friend, without growth, it is very difficult to continue feeling engaged and dedicated to the work. But less obviously maybe is the trickle-down effect of feeling stifled in our career. When we are growing and learning in our jobs, work begins to feel like an extension of ourselves. It is one of the positive inputs that helps our lives function with ease, even if we are challenged. But when work does not support our growth—or worse—stifles it, then it grinds our human flourishing to a screeching halt. A work structure that is rooted in growth allows for a lifestyle structure that is also rooted in growth. When we feel like we are progressing in our career, we are empowered with a sense of self-worth that can fuel us to make other choices to keep us moving forward, like fueling our bodies with good nutrition, maintaining our fitness routine, or simply investing in our own self care. Do our practices for growth at work send the message to our employees that they are worth investing in? Or do we put all the pressure to perform on the individual, sending the message that employees need to invest in themselves so that they can perform better for the company? Like my friend expressed above, if an organization does not care about employees’ growth and trajectory, what reason are we giving employees to show up?

What are the first steps to improving GROWTH in the workplace?

In a recent WELCOA Connect Fireside Chat, Jeff Jernigan spoke about how to help employees feel more connected to their organizations. He talked about using receiver-oriented communication. In simple terms, he told attendees to use the words that resonate with the employees to make them feel heard. The first step in investing in employees is to actually listen. What are their roadblocks? What are their barriers to success? What is hindering their growth? The second step is to provide employees with projects and goals that are challenging, whether it be in your wellness interventions or in the work itself. But here is the one thing that has to be true whether we are talking about a wellness challenge or a work challenge: growth requires following up a challenge with the scaffolding, structure and resources for success. Setting a challenge to walk more steps a day on top of heavy workloads and limited physical spaces to be active is just going to result in one more failure in a world that feels more defeating than ever. Listen, challenge and set employees up for professional and personal growth success.

How is WELCOA implementing strategies for GROWTH in our organization?

I frequently disclose that working at WELCOA is the hardest job I have ever had—even in 2014 when I joined as a mid-level individual contributor. We are a small team trying to achieve a whole lot, and we all find new opportunities for development and growth in our work daily. This can be very uncomfortable. While we do not lack opportunities to grow in our careers, be rewarded for that growth, or feel challenged to continue to progress, it is often the access to resources and support that has to be addressed more deliberately. To be honest, our approach is not always perfect, but it is very human. Managers meet with employees every week and always ask the questions, “What are the areas where you need additional support this week?” and “what are your barriers?” Each year, every employee is encouraged to attend a conference, workshop, training/certification or coaching opportunity for professional development and growth. These opportunities can be taken advantage of during work time and WELCOA covers associated costs. Most of the time these choices are self-directed by each employee based on individual growth needs.

What are WELCOA resources that support GROWTH?

  1. To connect with Jeff Jernigan and others developing new ideas for the future of work, there’s still time to connect with the Idea Collective on the Future of Work and Social Connection.
  2. This COVID-19 employee education packet developed in partnership with Maggie Gough, Founder of Realize Wellbeing supports your employees’ wellness needs in all seven areas of WELCOA’s Definition of Wellness including health, meaning, safety, connection, achievement, growth and resiliency.
  3. This toolkit is an employee education packet developed in partnership with Erin Coupe, Founder of Authentically EC, Inc. to support your employees as they navigate the process of returning to the physical workplace after the global pandemic. It includes ten modules geared toward employees when considering things like communicating feelings with an employer, self-care practices, effective interaction with others, among other topics.

Sara Martin
Sara Martin, MS // Interim Chief Executive Officer • WELCOA

Sara has launched award-winning wellness programs and engineered work environments to create cultures of health across multiple industries. At WELCOA, her role is to ensure you continue to have access to the best products and information so you can achieve your professional and personal wellness goals.