Career Growth: An Opportunity for Recognition


I was recently asked an intriguing question about the link between career development and recognition.  The question came from the editor of HRO Today where I’d given a keynote earlier in the year.  I never put the two together, but I quickly realized that of course there’s a link.  In fact, each of the different mobility options I’ve talked about for years can be an excellent way for a managers to recognize and demonstrate that a direct report is truly valued. Here is some early thinking (the article eventually took a different slant) on how each mobility option can be a form of recognition.  The article was eventually written with my longtime colleague, Lindy Williams and is attached here.  These are some ideas that we did not include, but I think will stimulate your thinking.

Here are some ways to recognize individuals for career growth:


Anytime an individual shows aptitude or interest in a particular aspect of their current position and wants to get better, it opens up a chance to make that opportunity a reality. This is one great form of recognition.  Managers who are observant can check out their perceptions and see whether the opportunity is indeed something that meets the individual’s interests.  The more managers can link the growth opportunity to something the individual might want to do more of in the future, the more they will feel recognized.


For many individuals the chance to step out, even for a short period of time, and see their own work world through another perspective is an opportunity for recognition. To simply gain more information about the organization will tap the feeling of being valued. As managers show interest in an employee’s exploratory request or, better, even suggest an opportunity, individuals will feel recognized.  Most important is inquiring about the experience afterwards and the learning that occurred from the individual’s view


It’s been said that “over is the new up” and that refrain makes sense in today’s environment.  Opportunities for recognition from a lateral experience comes from having a new manager, new peers, and new work itself.  This alone often provides that much needed recognition.  Individuals who are given this opportunity often receive the attention that comes with displaying skills from a previous assignment in a new setting. Exposure one gets from lateral moves also prepares individuals for additional opportunities in the future.


Sometimes the greatest recognition for a realignment experience is the chance to return to something one loved but left behind.  Realignment (without a pay downgrade) shows that the organization and the manager values that talented individual enough to make this return available.  Managers who support someone’s choice to move to a lesser assignment to learn the ropes of the new area or return to a previous assignment shows they value that individual.  If person-job fit is seen as important, the reward is in the action of making this possible.


While a vertical move may be a clear form of reward and recognition in and of itself, the opportunity to explain the thinking behind that “promotion” and the reasons a manager decided to provide this opportunity is critical.  It’s also a great opportunity for recognition from peers as well.  The “surround sound” of a vertical move is important and lasts in the individuals mind for quite some time.


The recognition in this option is all around how the manager lets the individual know how valued they were and opens the door for a return if the new assignment in the new organization is not what was imagined.  Checking in with the individual after they have moved on is another form of recognition and shows the respect the manager still has for the separating employee.  The number of individuals who return to organizations because of this has grown tremendously in the past few years.

 When an employee’s efforts to grow are acknowledged by their manager, a clear message is sent that the leader recognizes and values that growth. Organizations that take alternative routes for development seriously and provide guidance and information to their employee population have an opportunity to influence engagement and retention.

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