Actionable Ways to Invest in the Development of Your Team Without Offering Them a Management Position

The traditional story goes that career success comes from climbing the ladder to higher and higher management positions. 

But, not just anybody can be a great manager.

And truth be told, not everyone wants to be a manager. 

Today individuals want careers that are customized to their life experience. 

For instance, Bruce might be starting a new family and doesn’t want the extra stress of a management position to impede his personal life until he’s settled in. 

Meanwhile, Mariane might be looking to find career success early and life and defines management positions as milestones in her career. 

Ultimately you’ll find that not all of your team members are meant to be promoted into management positions, which is perfectly normal. 

There are specific characteristics that identify individuals as having the potential for great management. 

Your company must treat management roles as unique and a position that requires a specific skill set. 

While some team members will have what it takes to take on management responsibilities, some employees will be better suited for other senior roles within your company. 

An organization must be open to allowing employees to develop in their careers beyond management positions for both the good of the employees and the company. 

This article shows you how your company can develop its employees without offering them management positions. 

☑️ First, you’ll learn what employee development really is. 

☑️ Next, I’ll introduce the three elements of career growth your company should focus on.  

☑️ Then, I walk you through a career development plan for your employees.

☑️ Finally, you’ll understand how to develop your employees beyond management positions.

An organization must be open to allowing employees to develop in their careers beyond management positions for both the good of the employees and the company. 

What is Employee Development?

Good employee development involves working with individual team members to improve, refine existing skills, and develop new talents that support the organization's goals while also enhancing the employee’s career within the company. 

Employee development is more than just employee training. It’s an investment plan that pays off in the long term. 

When companies take the time to invest in their employees they see lower turnover rates, less training and on-boarding costs, improved employee performance, and overall business growth. 

Below you’ll find opportunities your organization can offer to help employees in their development within your company. 👇   

The Three Elements of Career Growth

In the long run, companies who invest in their team through learning and development opportunities will stand out. 

Top talent is looking for corporations who offer the following:  

1. Opportunity to Make a Difference

Employees no longer work to put food on the table. They want jobs that allow them to develop personally and professionally. 

Today, people look for jobs where they can make a difference and feel like they’ve made a greater contribution to society. 

The best talent look for companies with visions that align with their value systems. 

Companies need an inspirational vision statement and the work to back it up. 

Read my article, How to Create a Shared Company Vision that Will Energize Your Entire Team, to understand how you can create a motivating vision statement and an impactful company culture. 

A strong company culture will not only help your company stand out to the best talent, but it will also help employees understand the impact that their work makes. 

When employees understand their importance within the organization, they become committed and engaged with their work and team. 

2. Success

Everyone is motivated by success. 

People will excel at what they’re good at. So, your company should develop employees in subjects they thrive in. 

If your employee on the graphic design team is particularly good at recognizing design and copy that fit well together in Facebook ads, perhaps managers should push this employee towards a creative director's career development.  

When employees focus on a set of skills they excel at, they will naturally be more successful and happy within their career development journey. 

Help employees grow in their strengths by celebrating employee wins and achievements. 

Learn how to set up an employee recognition system that will motivate your team in my article, Here’s How to Make Your Employees Feel Valued at Work

3. Alignment with Career Aspirations

The next most crucial aspect of career growth is to ensure that employees’ career development aligns with their career aspirations. 

If Devon has no desire to become a director, then perhaps a promotion towards managerial roles is not the right fit. 

Employees want customizable career paths that fit with their current circumstances and future goals. 

Employees must be directly involved in the conversation of their career growth within your company. 

Learn how to involve employees in their career growth by reading my suggested career development plan.

How to Create A Career Development Plan

Understanding how to effectively set up employees for career success as they develop within your company is no easy task. 

Below is a five-step employee development plan you can use to help your team achieve their career goals. 

1. Assess Business Goals 

Employee development must align with business strategy. 

When you create an employee development plan, start by analyzing your business on a macro level scale. 

Ask yourself: 

  • Where does the business want to be in the next 2-10 years? 
  • How could your business be more competitive?
  • Where do you think your business can improve? 
  • What new technologies exist to support your business goals? 
  • How does the business plan to expand? 

Ultimately, you want to review what’s working and what’s not working in the organization. The questions listed above will help you, but I recommend that you also conduct interviews, surveys, and look at past feedback to get a clear picture. 

Understanding how your business needs to develop will help you understand how your employees need to grow with it. 

When your employees develop within the framework of your business strategy, both employees and the organization succeed. 

2. Communicate With Employees 

Employees must be directly involved in the development plan. It is their future, after all.

Every employee has their own unique skill set, which will help determine what roles they will excel at within your company. 

Different employees view growth and development differently. One employee may see winning awards as career growth, while another may view travel and better client presentations as development. 

All of this just shows how important it is to involve employees in their career development plan directly. 

Below are eight questions from Gallup you can use to guide you in creating meaningful conversations about career progress and potential with your employees. 

  1. What are your recent successes? 
  2. What are you most proud of?
  3. What rewards and recognition matter most to you?
  4. How does your role make a difference? 
  5. How would you like to make a more significant difference?
  6. How are you using your strengths in your current role?
  7. How would you like to use your strengths in the future? 
  8. What knowledge and skills do you need to get to the next stage of your career?

3. Review the Development Needs of Your Team

You need to know where your employee fits in the greater picture of your business and how they will continue to grow within that business.

From the conversation you had with your employee in step two, you probably now have a good idea of what skills they excel at and what competencies they need to improve on. 

After you’ve done this with every employee on your team, you now know your team’s strengths and weaknesses as a whole. 

Understanding your team’s shortcomings will help you realize areas of need and the employees who can best fill that gap. 

4. Create a Skill Improvement Road Map

Once you have a firm understanding of your business, employees, and team’s developmental needs, it’s time to create a road map for their growth and development. 

It’s important to base a development plan on existing resources, abilities, and budget. 

This roadmap will include what skills you want them to improve on, what courses and coaching they’ll participate in to improve these skills, and an approximate length of time that it will take them to develop these skills. 

It’s also vital to include mentorship and coaching opportunities to be a part of this skill improvement plan. 

Ultimately, this skill development plan will look like a roadmap that lists various goals employees want to achieve and how and when to reach those goals. 

5. Track Progress

After you’ve created an improvement plan and your employees, start on the journey of career growth and development, and ensure that you check in with them along the way. 

As a manager, you must ensure that employees have the proper support, coaching, and resources necessary to achieve their goals.  

Sit down with them and ask them about their progress and what help they may need from you. 

Understand that some goals will be achieved faster than others and that timelines may need to change. 

It’s also important to acknowledge that some goals may change as employees move through their careers. Be flexible with employee development and allow for changes as necessary. 

Now that you understand how to develop an employee’s career path, you may be wondering what milestones beyond management positions you can set for them. Keep reading to find out. 👇

Ways to Develop Employees Beyond Becoming a Manager 

Your company needs to recognize other career opportunities beyond management and expand its idea of career growth. 

Rather than one everyone takes, management should be treated as its own unique career path.

Start identifying non-traditional career paths such as an individual contributor. 

For example, in 2018 Shopify introduced two parallel growth tracks within their company, the individual contributor track (aka the staff track) and the manager track.

Job levels within both career paths would be clearly defined. Although the responsibilities of each of the job level would be different their impact on the business would be comparable and salary expectations would be identical.

Options like what Shopify offer allows career paths to be flexible. 

A career path should adapt to the employee’s strengths and life circumstances, so ensure that career development is always an open conversation. 

As employees grow within your company, allow them to challenge themselves and reward their accomplishments. 

Acknowledge employee growth as career development and avoid categorizing their skill set too early. 

If you allow employees to grow in a fluid and adaptable way within your organization, you’ll find ways to encourage career development beyond management positions.  

Here is a dual career path you can use at your startup.


This article has shown you a definition of employee development and three elements necessary for employees’ healthy career growth. 

You now understand how to develop a customizable career plan for each employee and how to offer career growth within your company beyond management. 

While management is not for everyone, some employees will make excellent managers, and it’s essential to keep succession in mind as you develop career plans for your team. 

Keep an open mind about your employees’ competencies and where they fit into the team and the overall organization. This will help you create a flexible and custom career plan to fit any employee. 

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