Building a Culture of Professional Development and Retention
A career conducting government investigations is a challenging one, and if you aren’t moving forward, you’re moving backwards. Technology constantly enables new methods to commit and conceal corruption, theft, and fraud, and investigators need to stay on top of these changes in order to do their jobs well. It’s critical to have a self-motivated investigative staff which constantly pursue new skills.
Highly motivated staff seek experience well beyond their core job responsibilities, however. They seek out opportunities to grow into new roles. Some may focus on their areas of expertise, diving further into niche specializations such as financial forensics or interviewing techniques. Others will learn management skills such as mentorship, cross-agency communication and public speaking, which enable them to move up the agency ladder.
Either of these are viable career progression paths. Unfortunately, they aren’t viable in smaller investigative offices, because a lack of available positions limits career advancement. Because engaged employees seek advancement in their careers, hiring growth-oriented staff can also mean high turnover rates.
The good news is that providing growth-minded team members with the right combination of mentorship, opportunities and recognition allows you to retain your best employees for years longer than you otherwise could. Investigators can provide years of solid work to a small team even when they recognize that their next step on the career ladder is likely outside of their office. For this to happen, however, they need to believe that their current role offers them a chance to gain a breadth of experience or knowledge that they’re unlikely to receive by leaving early for a larger office.
Investigative supervisors of smaller teams who want to retain their most highly driven staff need to do more than build a generic professional development matrix. Retaining top talent on small teams requires managers who are unafraid of candid conversations where the lack of a long-term internal progression path is discussed. Retention requires managers who actively pursue an understanding of their employees’ professional goals and seek to provide them with opportunities to pursue those goals. Above all else, retaining top talent requires supervisors who have valuable knowledge and experience to offer, and the willingness to take the time each week to provide guidance and mentorship, even when it’s not easy to fit it into the schedule.
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