Global leaders know that engaging workers is a challenge, but one unexplored area that could lead to positive results is career planning. In essence, this type of planning is the process of helping workers map out a long-term career plan.

This isn't just a localized issue, either. According to the ADP Research Institute® (ADP RI) report, The Evolution of Work 2.0: The Me vs. We Mindset, workers around the world are facing challenges with this aspect of employment, and employers still have a way to go before reaching maturity with this approach.

As far as importance, career development ranks as a top factor for job choice across Brazil, Chile, Mexico, France, China and India, according to ADP RI. Employers need to focus on laying out clear career paths, focusing on employee strengths and customizing their approach based on the individual.

Lay Out a Clear Path

When navigating to an unfamiliar destination, the first thing most adults do is pull out a GPS in order to find the right route. In many ways, the workplace is no different. When employees — whether in Asia, Europe or elsewhere — want to move up in their careers, they want to see a clear path directing them toward their ultimate goal. According to ADP RI, this isn't a reality for many employees.

"Workers remain skeptical that they have a clear and fair path for advancement, especially in the U.S., Australia, Singapore and Europe," reports ADP RI. "In fact, employers are more likely than employees to say workers can make a difference and have more flexibility in shaping their careers. Given these attitudes, it's possible that employees expect more help from employers to manage their careers than employers realize."

The key here is that employees need to take some responsibility, but it's also incumbent on employers to provide a framework for what career advancement looks like at their organization. For instance, CLO Media reports that FedEx Ground encourages employees to look not only up the career "ladder," but laterally and cross-functionally as well. Employees are provided just enough information about opportunities to apply it to their own situation and then decide where they would like to go.

Focus on Strengths

Encouraging employees to focus on their strengths is going to drive more value for the individual than taking the majority of the time to focus on their weaknesses. This is similar to cost-cutting and revenue generation in a business: cost-cutting has a fairly hard cutoff point where further cutting can damage production, quality and more. On the other hand, focusing on increased revenue generation has virtually no ceiling, as long as the firm continues to explore new markets and concepts. By focusing on employee strengths and leveraging them to the fullest extent, employers can likely have that same upside. However, employers could use help with this kind of practice, according to ADP RI.

"Employees feel undervalued and under-recognized, but still believe strongly in their own abilities to excel and be successful on the job," reports ADP RI. "It's clear that employees believe in themselves, but don't think their employers believe strongly in them. Given this, a first step for HR professionals to motivate workers may be to approach employees on their own terms: focusing on employees' individual positive attributes and strengths."

ADP RI also reports there is a global divide in this area. For instance, North American and European workers stay at their jobs longer than other regions, but they also have the lowest satisfaction and sense of feeling valued among the global population. On the other hand, Latin American workers move more often for career advancement opportunities but express higher satisfaction overall.

Drop the One-Size-Fits-All Approach

More employers than employees believe that workers have to leave their current employer in order to advance their careers and generate higher income, according to ADP RI. This translates to the idea that employers are always looking for other talent simply because they have created an expectation that workers will leave. If businesses want to change this narrative, they need to think about how to differentiate themselves from other employers.

"Conversely, employees may choose not to move companies if the pay, benefits, actual job or career advancement opportunities are not noticeably better than their present employer," notes ADP RI. "It may be useful for employers/HR executives to differentiate their companies from competitors when wooing talent—similar to how companies use segmented marketing strategies to attract specific customers." By targeting individual interests and desires, each worker can feel like the employer values and appreciates them.

When workers think their employers care less about them than they actually do, the result can be high turnover, low engagement and low productivity. It's a talent nightmare, frankly. This needs to be flipped so that employees are always being engaged in career planning conversations that drive individualized results and higher engagement — worthy targets for any business.

Stay up-to-date on the latest workforce trends and insights for HR leaders: subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter.

Tags: HCM Strategy Talent Global Workforce