The Need for Democratized Development

The Need For Democratized Development

Originally published on Forbes. Written by Fuel50 CEO and Founder, Anne Fulton. 

We all know the traditional career model – managers are the ultimate controllers of employees’ career paths and only well-connected individuals are offered opportunities for growth and development. These hierarchy-based systems that harbor favoritism and bias in the workplace simply aren’t acceptable in today’s work environment. It’s time for organizations to offer democratized development, ensuring every employee has the opportunity to develop and progress their career.

Employers must prioritize the development of all employees – no matter their position, title, or previous experience. We must create better career experiences for our people, enable them to own their future, control their destiny, and take true ownership of their careers.

However, many organizations are still entrenched in the old ways. Global Talent Mobility Research by Fuel50 found that 50% of HR leaders spend less than US $1K on development per employee. Moreover, only a third of survey respondents believe their organization adequately invests in employee development, with 35% stating their organization should be investing more.

The Need For Democratized Development

What Does Democratized Development Look Like?

Organizations often make the mistake of investing in a few ‘elite’ employees rather than their collective workforce. This elitist mindset is extremely outdated and needs major rethinking today. Democratized development is a step forward in creating work environments that support every employee to develop their skills, grow their career, and experiment with new roles and opportunities within an organization.

The crux of a democratic talent economy is an open marketplace of opportunities – a place where each employee has equal access to growth and development. Unlike a traditional top-down approach, power is given back to those that should be in control of their own future – the employees. A talent marketplace connects employees to opportunities across their organization, creating a free labor market in which everybody can participate, showcase their skills, and discover new career paths.

Traditional hierarchical structures can breed a lack of transparency, with internal job vacancies, stretch assignments, and projects often filled by managers shoulder tapping employees, or offering opportunities to those they know well, leaving a large part of the workforce untapped and underutilized. Democratized development strategies steer clear of these internal biases and create an open, transparent environment that gives all employees the chance to apply.

As a result, an employee’s advancement becomes dependent on the amount of effort and initiative they put into developing their skills rather than their connections across the business. Greater democracy unlocks the full potential of the workforce, enabling employees to spearhead their own development and push both their careers and the business forward. This makes employees feel valued, encouraged, and supported to grow, while simultaneously benefitting the organization through higher engagement, increased productivity, and improved retention.

The Need For Democratized Development

Investing in Every Employee Strengthens the Workforce

We are entering the age of the free market – and it’s only right that organizations embrace this when it comes to their people. It’s imperative to create an inclusive and democratic work environment where all employees are equally invested in and have opportunities to thrive and grow. This is the only way to future-proof the skills of the entire workforce and adequately prepare an organization for the future.


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