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How to create a career development plan for hourly employees

At a local store of a regional party supply business, the manager, Tara, felt a responsibility to help her employees reach their career goals.  Tara spent time with young employees teaching them lessons she had learned in her many years in retail management.  

She drafted development plans for the employees with their individual career goals in mind.  If an employee was working towards a degree, Tara included skill-sets like responsibility and leadership on the employee’s performance evaluation.  When Tara felt the employee had achieved those skill-sets she would reach into her network with the Chamber of Commerce to help the employee find their next job.  

She had employees who also were nearing retirement age.  Although they were not looking to move up in the company, they were an invaluable resource for how to connect with customers and build relationships.  She used her senior employees to mentor younger employees.  

She also delegated reward and recognition programs to these employees to help with performance evaluation.  By committing to her employees’ futures Tara had lower turnover and one of the top-performing stores in the business.  

How do you continue to develop your employees if there is no room for growth at your business?  How do you keep employees from walking out the door once they have hit the maximum of what you can afford to pay?  In small businesses, once an employee hits the top, be brave and help that employee achieve the next step outside of your business.  Although you may lose your employee eventually, they will likely work harder and longer for you even because you invested in them and helped them on their way.   

With hourly employees, find out what their goals are and make those goals part of their development plan even if it doesn’t relate to your business.  Communicate to your employees that when they leave your employment, you hope it is because you helped them get there.  

Development paths for four common types of employees:

For those employees working while in school:

  • Talk to the employee about their classes and how you can help
  • Provide contacts for networking
  • Provide specific examples of good performance
  • Provide specific examples of poor performance
  • Identify skillsets needed for the future that you can develop through their current position


For those employees supporting a family and wanting to move up:

  • Be honest about opportunities at your business even if there aren’t any
  • Discuss opportunities outside of your business
  • Make a list of skill-sets you think the employee needs to be successful in their next step
  • If there are education or language issues, help the employee find scholarships to get the classes needed


For the senior employee nearing the end of their career:

  • Assign the employee with mentoring and training responsibilities
  • Seek feedback from senior employees on challenging business issues
  • Find projects to delegate based on their strengths like employee recognition, onboarding, or planning team events


For the employee working while pursuing their dream as a musician, actor, artist or entrepreneur:

  • Determine resources needed for their next steps
  • Provide help with resources where you are able
  • Recommend contacts in your network


Although it is painful and hard to replace an employee after training has made them more valuable to your business you will be rewarded with less turnover and improved performance in the long-run. When you commit to employees, they commit to you.  

The Homebase Guide to Creating a Great Team Culture

In the Homebase Guide to Creating a Great Team Culture, we cover:​

1. Introduction & Team Culture Quiz
2. Culture Fundamentals: Respect and Appreciate your Employees
3. Having a Great Culture: Improve Teamwork
4. The Cultural Holy Grail: Empowered Employees
5. Want to Reduce Turnover Among Your Employees? Try Advanced Scheduling
6. My Employees Are Fighting: How to Manage Conflict in a Small Business

7. Career Development for Hourly Employees When There is No Room for Growth

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