This approach to leadership hurts careers. A Harvard Business Review study explains why

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In the wake of the big resignation, many business leaders have desperately looked for ways to keep their top talent on board. There is no one size fits all, of course, it depends on the industry, available resources, company makeup and at least a dozen other factors.

However, there is one recurring best practice that seems to have a consistent impact: providing professional development. In other words, give your employees the opportunity to grow in their careers through professional training and certification.

Companies with incomplete or non-existent professional development programs can often be tempted to adopt an “in-the-moment” approach: delegate work to those at the lower end of the ladder so that they gain experience in management, strategy development and leadership.

However, as The Harvard Business Review (HBR) has revealed in a series of studies, this well-intentioned attempt at informal professional development can quickly fail. Research suggests that this often lowers employees’ energy levels and job satisfaction, making them reluctant to take on similar “outside the box” tasks in the future.

The root of this energy sap? Lack of management support. HBR studies found that in many cases, employees given additional responsibilities did not receive ongoing guidance from their superiors. They were left to their own devices.

But there’s another element here that the HBR article doesn’t address, but which is just as important: employment drift. It’s often disguised as professional development, but there’s a fine line between improving your skills and simply taking on more work.

Many companies encourage employees to go beyond their job description to show that they are ready for a promotion, and yet there is no formal process in place to determine what that extra work or how it is considered for a promotion.

My point is this: giving your employees extra work and calling it professional development without thought, structure or planning is more than just a cop – it’s borderline abusive and could push your best talent to to leave.

If you’re serious about improving your team, structure a career advancement path with clear milestones and support mechanisms to avoid the HBR-highlighted energy drain and scope drift that plagues companies of all industries. sectors.

(A final note: if you are interested in the practice/impact of scope drift in the workplace, I recommend that you read this academic article. It is a good foundational overview of how scope drift job is taking shape, which will help you avoid it in your own business.)

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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