Career development: how to advocate for your team

Article by Sathya Smith, CEO and Founder, Piper

If you are a manager and aren’t advocating for your employees, you are stunting their career growth. It’s as simple as that.

When 95% of employees report that a bad manager worsens their working life, it’s undeniable that management and employee growth are inextricably linked. In fact, according to Humu, 69% would leave their current job if offered better professional growth and development support – without pay motivation.

Employees feel appreciated, engaged, and incentivised when offered clear career progression. Research shows that, on average, managers who build resilient teams see 3.2 times year-on-year revenue growth.  Teams will naturally feel more focused and productive at work, with OfficeVibe finding that 69% of employees would work harder if they felt appreciated. All the evidence is there. Now, it’s your responsibility as a manager to advocate for your team and help them and your business grow.

Confronting unconscious bias

As a female engineer with brown skin, I’ve experienced bias throughout my life and professional career. From being the undergrad asked to take notes while my peers undertook experiments in the lab to misplaced assumptions about my competencies, unconscious bias has hindered my professional development countless times. Even good-intentioned managers treated me differently, unaware of their behaviour.

As a manager, you must take a proactive approach to confronting bias. Otherwise, you risk stunting the growth of your team. I recommend following these steps:

  1. Be intentional – Remove gut instinct from the equation and consider how you approach interactions, give feedback, delegate duties, and offer promotions. Interactions with each team member should be equal.
  2. Seek other perspectives – How do you know your viewpoint is right if you’ve never considered another perspective? Challenge your outlook – daily.
  3. Build a safe space for open communication – We all have unconscious biases, and to combat yours, you must be comfortable with acknowledging them – it’s not an attack but rather an opportunity to better yourself.
  4. Use data – Cover your blind spots and use data tools such as the Harvard Implicit Association Test (IAT) to determine where your biases lie. You can’t tackle them if you aren’t aware of what they are.

It’s easiest to assume you don’t have bias, which is why so many people do it – to their team’s detriment. Take conscious action and ensure you treat every person in your team fairly. That way, you won’t inhibit career development unjustly.

Effective communication

It’s important to have open communication with both your team and senior members of the organisation. I consider communications as threefold: weekly 1:1s, feedback, and internal advocacy.

  • 1:1s

Employees need to feel that their opinions are heard and actioned to stay motivated and engaged. Weekly 1:1 meetings provide a structured opportunity for your employees to share feedback, raise any concerns, and track career development.

Don’t prioritise client meetings over 1:1s, or move catchups ‘as something else has popped up’. As a manager, your team are your priority. Moreover, weekly meetings allow you to reflect on the team’s achievements. Without regular 1:1s, you risk losing touch with progress and missing opportunities to help with your teams’ career and personal development, as well as catching any issues involving performance, team dynamics etc.

  • Feedback

Your employees need to know where they are excelling as well as potential areas for improvement. Without feedback, some will fail to recognise their strengths, and others will perceive their own success differently from the businesses’ outlook. Both experiences will hinder career progression.

I approach feedback formulaically to ensure all team members receive it regularly and fairly. My priorities are as follows:

  • Give feedback immediately
  • Give negative feedback in private
  • Give positive feedback in private and public
  • Be specific and provide resources for improvement
  • Track feedback and recognise and commend development

Equipping your team with regular feedback is hard work, yet one of the best ways to boost career development. Armed with resources and understanding, employees can progress much quicker than when left in the dark. The benefits to your business are notable too, with Gallup finding that employees who receive feedback daily are 3x more engaged than those who receive it once a year.

  • Internal advocacy

As a manager, it’s your responsibility to recognise outstanding work and share it internally. The leadership team won’t be aware of the day-day, so don’t wait for them to suggest progression opportunities. Make sure there are regular interdepartmental meetings to discuss performance and career development and bring examples. No matter your organisation’s size, no employee should go unrecognised for good work. If they do, as their manager, the accountability lies with you.

Opportunities for learning

Undertaking training courses, partaking in webinars, and attending networking events, will fast-track career development, with Talent LMS finding employees are 90% more likely to improve development with regular training. Not only will it put your employees in a stronger position for promotions, but it will bolster your team’s skillset – enhancing productivity and performance. Take the time in your 1:1s to identify learning opportunities, so you can regularly share relevant resources with your team.

Fight for your team

Don’t leave your team to fight for themselves: if the great resignation has taught us anything, it’s that employees won’t wait around. Behind the best teams, you will find leaders who prioritise management, investing in their team and approaching it as a role in itself. So, take note. Advocate for your people, or risk losing talent.

About the author

Sathya SmithSathya has 15 years of management and leadership experience, and previously worked as Head of Partner Technology at Google for 12 years. While there, Sathya ranked in the 98th percentile of Google’s managers and took part in its 10-year-long ‘Project Oxygen’, a study aimed at uncovering and productising the attributes that make a high performing team manager.

An engineer by training, Sathya started her career at Ericsson as a Software Engineer. She went on to work as Chief Technology Officer at one fine stay (acquired by Accor) and a Venture Partner at London-based venture capital firm Local globe.

In her free time, Sathya enjoys angel investing in women-led companies and mentoring women in STEM.


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