Career development initiatives are a two-fold investment. They don’t just benefit the individual, they’re also incredibly advantageous for the organization.

The benefits of career development programs are widely recognized in most sectors, but somewhat underutilized in the world of support centers. After all, support center leaders are likely already juggling a slew of other responsibilities—staffing, strategic planning, budgeting, KPIs, designing and implementing training, and so much more. Faced with such high demand, it comes as no shock that many centers have very little resources allocated for career development. 

In this gap, Stacy Gianoulis sees massive potential for growth. In managing five teams and more than 100 employees, he’s seen firsthand that it’s possible — and necessary — for centers to support their employees with well-rounded, goal-oriented career development initiatives.

Benefits of career development

Career development programs seek to meet employees where they’re at and give them the tools and direction they need to identify and work toward their professional goals. They help employees further their skills, aspire toward higher callings, and develop themselves (both personally and professionally) in order to become more marketable in the industry.

The result is employees that feel valued and appreciated, and are therefore loyal towards the organization. They are also more likely to hold their positions longer, work with purpose, and engage more fully in the workplace community. Fortunately, in building up current employees, career development initiatives also benefit the organization itself.

As a dual consequence, career development initiatives are also shown to help organizations attract and retain top talent, improve employee morale, boost productivity, reduce employee turnover, strengthen the succession pipeline, strengthen the company brand, and so much more. Each of these not only mature the organization and promote efficiency, but they will also likely save money and resources in the long run.

According to Stacy Gianoulis, the bottom line is companies that choose to actively invest in their staff through career development initiatives will be benefited ten-fold by the fruits of their efforts.

Individual contributors

Individual contributors are the foundation and backbone of any customer support center. Though generally entry-level positions, these individuals are the front-facing facade of your organization; their success or failure will inevitably dictate the success or failure of the organization as a whole. That’s why Stacy Gianoulis heavily suggests that support centers choose to actively invest in their individual contributors very early on.

In many cases, individual contributors have a very modest professional background. They may be fresh out of college. Often, they are brand new to the corporate world and are still forming their own impressions and ideas of the support center field. Generally, they are where a large percentage of your organization’s training and recruitment efforts will be spent.

For a smoother onboarding process, try implementing soft training cycles. Instead of zeroing in solely on technical subjects, leaders should incorporate material in soft skills as well. Ideally, these should be adjusted into digestible cycles, which helps soften the shock and stress levels of new hires.

Stacy Gianoulis reminds support center leaders that longer training periods are necessary — a rushed or solely tech-centric curriculum will only serve to overwhelm and stress new hires, ultimately reducing information retention.

Instead, invest early, steadily, and slowly. As the individual grows, training material should layer in information that builds them into long-term, seasoned staff members who will continue maturing the organization as they grow.

As an individual contributor’s career progresses, their development has two major possibilities: either they will continue on as an individual contributor and start down the path as an SME, or they’ll veer towards the interpersonal management side of the field and pursue team management roles.

As your individual contributors grow with the company, support leaders should check in, inquiring towards which path they feel most strongly inclined. As individual contributors mature professionally, the organization should facilitate changes that match with their career goals.

Front-line leaders

Most support centers have some type of career development program in place, but strangely, very few seem to have formal initiatives in motion for their top leaders. Stacy Gianoulis points out that this gap leads to massive opportunity loss.

Most often, senior leaders are career-minded professionals who have reached seniority through constant improvement. Often, these individuals are characterized by their inclination to think ahead and seek advancement. By neglecting to implement career development programs focused on front-line leaders, an organization is refusing to indulge the individual’s forward-thinking aspirations. This, in turn, increases the risk of a support center losing its management leaders—roles that are difficult to fill and essential to the organization’s success.

That’s where leadership planning comes in. Leadership planning can take nearly any form and should be tailored to meet the needs of the organization’s management team. Utilize talent insights, HR training, leadership training, coaching, and feedback training to invest in front-line leaders. You may also consider partnering your leaders with members of HR to improve the organization-wide training quality.

Final Thoughts from Stacy Gianoulis

Above all, your goal as a support center leader is to engage and invest in your employees’ growth. That way, your organization can attract and retain talent, cultivate a positive work culture, and improve overall success, says Stacy Gianoulis.

After all, your employees are your bread and butter. Without a loyal team, your organization would not be sustainable.