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What I’ve learned about how employees view and pursue career growth

Originally published in The Tennessean, March 2024

I’m often asked about career development and if there are differences between what employees valued pre-COVID vs. today. At our most fundamental level, I believe people haven’t changed.

We want to be our best selves and grow in our careers. What’s changed is how we’re able to accomplish that.

I think about this like a microscope that’s zoomed in much closer than how we looked at things pre-pandemic. Our daily work often occurs at any point during the actual workday. We have so many more employees working remotely, but they’re often spending less time engaging with people in person, less time moving to other spaces, and more time looking at the screen in front of them.

They’re getting their work done, but often are asking themselves, “What else am I getting out of this activity? What more can I learn to do?” They want to flex that muscle. 

Where leaders come in

The key for leaders is to ensure their employees have these opportunities to learn, grow, interact, and see new possibilities even within their current roles.

I manage talent development initiatives in my role at BlueCross, and we’ve taken a fresh look at everything. In our remote-first environment, we needed to create programming to bring our existing employee resources to life, increase accessibility for all, and help team members unlock the pathways in front of them.

As a company, we’re focused on these components:

  • Improve collaboration, culture and connection
  • Enhance well-being programs and participation
  • Recruit and retain tech and digital talent
  • Create a signature onboarding experience
  • Launch comprehensive leader development program

Our starting point was engagement and conversation, with leaders working with their teams to identify key areas of commitment.  Then together they can set individual goals that align with desired outcomes for our company and for our members’ well-being. It’s part of our intentional approach to ensuring every employee knows they’re valued, they have a path, and we’re helping them get there.

Our ultimate goal for this initiative is growth and success for every individual.  But we also had to recognize that some employees are comfortable with their jobs and aren’t necessarily looking to advance in a traditional sense. How do we provide opportunities for them to broaden their capabilities and see the value in doing so? This goes back to communicating to these employees how they contribute to organizational success, and that they’re valued.

Offering tech training for all employees

As an organization, we’re also looking to the capabilities of generative artificial intelligence to help us enable employees to be more proficient and efficient in their work. We’re so often driven to just complete the next task. So when sometimes-mundane tasks take up more time than they should, we don’t get to bring all our passion and heart into our most meaningful contributions.

By creating a common language for our employees to be comfortable with this technology, the quicker they adopt it — and we’re better able to provide opportunities for strategy and innovation at every level, no matter the role.

Leaders are teachers, so we must remember that no matter who we’re talking to, we have the ability to influence their path to accomplish more than perhaps they thought possible. And for every company, helping employees reach their potential ultimately translates into better customer experiences.

About Michelle Sermon-Davis, Chief Learning Officer

A photo of the authorMichelle leads our talent acquisition and organizational development teams. She’s responsible for recruitment and career development efforts including the design and implementation of initiatives that help BlueCross employees grow their careers.

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