When I hop in the car, I almost always open Google Maps to get from point A to B. Even when I know the route, I check my phone’s map to see if there’s bad traffic or an accident that would lengthen my ETA. I lean on this guidance to help me make the right turns and avoid fender benders that leave me stuck bumper to bumper. And other times, I just want to make sure I pass Starbucks for my daily dose of caffeine.
Now think about this: like a road trip, our careers are also journeys with a destination – to find a job we love and to see success. And, just like a road trip, careers need maps. What if you could open an app on your phone and find the guidance you need to make the right turns and avoid getting stuck in your career? Imagine if you could see your pathway to success and how to get some pick-me-ups along the way, too.
Unfortunately, there’s no app that can magically map out career paths for you. And it’s up to you, manager, to help construct these kinds of pathways with your agents. If not, your agents’ performance and motivation will suffer in the long-term as they work without a sense of direction.
Career pathing and development is vital for employee retention and job satisfaction in any industry. Some 68% of workers say training and development is the most important workplace policy. Your employees are hungry for career investment. Professional development is a core driver for employee engagement.
But how do you create development plans for your contact center agents? Let’s walk through how to build a development plan for the individual employees in your call center (with examples along the way).
Step 1: Consider Your Business Goals and Objectives
Career development plans aren’t just helpful to your employees. They’re good for business performance, too. For one thing, companies with engaged employees outperform those without by more than 200%. And, companies that increased their investments in employee engagement by 10% saw profits increase by $ 2,400 per employee, per year.
But, career development plans, when made collectively between manager and employee, can play into other business objectives and goals. Before discussing individual development plans, consider your long- and short-term business objectives.
Once you’ve identified your objectives, you can define the necessary skills, knowledge and competencies your agents need to support those goals.
For example, if your business is going through a growth spurt, you may need additional leaders. What skills do these leaders need? Do any of your current employees have the skills or capability and desire to learn the skills?
Hiring within your company often saves costs from recruiting and training, and even affects the quality of work. Look internally for talent and bridge the gap between current employee skill sets and skill sets needed for the future.
Find ways for each individual development plan to benefit your company and set examples for how to retain the top employees around.
Step 2: Get to Know your Employees on Day One
This step may seem a bit obvious, but it can be easy, as a manager, to assume you know your employees’ career goals and skill levels. When you start day one with a conversation about their hopes and dreams, creating a map for them to follow becomes a lot easier.
The most important thing you need to keep in mind when creating individual development plans is that they’re individual. Keep them personal to the employee.
For example, in your 1:1s, ask your employees to assess their own work. What’s the most frustrating part of their role? Is there anything in their day-to-day work that’s pushing them toward a new career direction? What are the areas they thrive in and want to stretch themselves? Everyone likes to think they know what they want in a career, but the reality is, there are many employees who are simply testing the waters.
Some of your agents may already have development goals in mind but don’t know how to get started, or if your company will support those plans. Other agents may not realize you see potential in them and need encouragement to reach for the next step in their career. It’s important to evaluate the hopes, dreams, strengths and weaknesses of each employee in your call center to create a unique path for them.
Step 3: Set Expectations and Process for your Employees
Consistent conversations about your employees’ development and the individual plan you create sets one of the ultimate leadership examples: that you care about their growth. Meet with each employee regularly and kick off the career goals process with clear objectives. Some employees may have no idea what they want to do with their career, but dig in and ask questions to get them thinking, then get more specific as you go.
Examples of questions you could ask your agents in career conversations:
- What role do you want after your next role? More simply, what’s your next, next role?
- What’s your big crazy dream job?
- What skills do you think you’d need to get there?
- What research into those roles have you already done? How can I help you?
- How are you using this job to get to those goals?
- What strengths do you have that you are hoping to cultivate further?
- What are some of your interests outside of your day-to-day duties in your current role?
In the early stages of creating plans with employees, it’s also important to see what professional development goals they may want to achieve in the short term.
Examples of individual development plans to think about for your agents:
- Are there any training sessions coming up that they want to attend?
- What new projects are popping up in your organization and could they contribute?
- Are there certifications your employees can get based on a skill they hope to learn more about?
- Would there be any public speaking opportunities within your call center? Or, within your larger org?
- Are your agents interested in leadership roles? If so, how can you delegate coaching and training tasks to prepare them for that next step?
Before you can get into the specifics with each of your employees, it helps to ask questions and have your employees try some new things before getting into their individual plan.
Step 5: Create a Plan for Every Step Along the Way
Once you and your employees have narrowed down and identified specific learning opportunities, you can create a more concrete development plan. It’s harder to measure an employees’ progress when objectives are vague, overly broad or don’t have a deadline.
One example of how you can develop an actionable plan is through career mapping. With your employees, create individualized career maps and paths to visualize what growth looks like in your contact center, in other areas of your company or even outside your company walls. Document what goals they can achieve to get there. Visual maps that shift as each employee grows are a great way to create clarity around development.
Be sure to note what KPIs you’re watching for within their career map. Note how you want, as their manager, to see them grow with every step so they know there’s accountability.
And then, put it to action! How can each agent or supervisor follow their map and development plan to make their career dreams a reality? Be sure to determine if there’s any prep work to do. Does anyone else need to be involved? Will the employee need to take time away from their queue for added training?
As they step into the specifics, keep up with them every step of the way. There are roadblocks, accidents, and detours in our careers, and you want to be there for them to help your employees pivot.
Ultimately, the goal of using these examples of an individual development plan is to create a space and opportunity for your employees to thrive. Allow them to lead their vision with curiosity. Sometimes, they’ll want to explore new paths, or step off the map to sight see. You might be surprised what you learn as you embark with them.