Career Development in a Small Company

Career Development in a Small Company

An employee’s uncertainty about upward mobility within a company is a serious issue for any company or organization. From the employee perspective, this situation raises the fear of facing a career “dead end.” From the business owner or manager perspective, it hinders the company’s ability to attract the strongest candidates as well as retain the best ones.

Smaller companies (2-25 employees) are, in the best of circumstances, desirable because they can make their staff feel like “family.” Everyone’s contributions are recognized and appreciated, and every person knows his or her role within the group.

However, the close-knit vibes of a small company may elicit some feeling of discomfort, as they often cannot offer a readily observable career path. After all, with few management positions available, depending on how long they are with a company, employees may choose to join a larger organization even if the “immediate” situation is not as supportive or comfortable.

There are several ways that small businesses can get around this problem so that they may hire and retain top talent. Here are a few suggestions that can work for your company:

Wipe Out Employee Insecurity by Detailing a Vision For Their Future

Many employees are not very interested in meteoric career growth but are more focused on the following:

  • Being secure in their current position.
  • Having the opportunity to gradually take on more responsibility.
  • Earning salary increases commensurate with their additional responsibilities.

Employees in small companies are usually more aware of the cyclical “ups and downs” that can befall a business, and they may feel insecure as a result of the loss of a big client or colleague. Being as transparent as possible and using effective, regular communication are the keys to keeping staff informed and feeling safe, despite any unforeseen market or internal disruptions.

Make it Easy For Employees to Offer Suggestions and Acknowledge Their Input

Many companies have adopted innovative and ultimately profitable concepts, processes, and/or procedures as a result of employee input. Sometimes the most unique, workable suggestions arise from the least expected people. Provide an environment that encourages creative thinking on the part of all employees and acknowledge every suggestion regardless of whether they are adopted. Reward the employee when their suggestions are adopted.

Cross Train Employees so They Can Acquire New Skills

Cross training is a win-win for everyone. This is especially true in smaller companies, where employees may view a new skill as a springboard to advance within their current company or as an eventual steppingstone to a new firm. Cross training employees minimizes the headaches that do arise as a result of absenteeism due to illness or vacation, and it will ensure that workflows continue smoothly.


It’s unrealistic to think that highly ambitious and career-oriented employees will be satisfied with the status quo for very long, and the very best strategy is to hire appropriately. If you know that upward and lateral movement is extremely difficult within your company, make certain to not hire someone looking for rapid advancement. You will save yourself time, money and stress in the end.


February 5, 2019