Investing in Career Development for Employees | Sports Destination Management

Investing in Career Development for Employees

May 12, 2021 | By: Dr. Bonnie Tiell

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Career development is a generic term encompassing the continued education one pursues related to an occupation or profession. Employees across the spectrum of occupational sectors benefit from career development, including those working in the sports hospitality, sports tourism and event management industries. 

Career development, interchangeably used with the term professional development, is an essential dimension of the college experience where students are exposed to the nuances of an industry while developing the basic skills involved in preparing to enter a job market. Collaboration between career service and the appropriate academic department creates opportunities for students to learn about a field, network with individuals from the industry and gain practical experience. Following is a brief laundry list of career development programs for a typical college student regardless of their selected career avenue:

• Internships and Mentorships

• Career Fairs and Corporate Recruiting

• Self-Assessments (e.g., interests, values) 

• Networking Strategies

• Informational Interviews

• Professional Associations

• Resume and Cover Letter Development

• Building a Brand on Social Media

• Job Search Strategies 

• The Hidden Job Market

• Interviewing Tips

• Evaluating Job Opportunities

• Understanding Employment Agreements

• The First 30 Days on a Job

Career development for employees, those already working in an organization such as a sports commission, college football bowl game, hall of fame museum or convention and visitors’ bureau, will find their experience is much different from the programs designed for the college student aspiring to initially enter the job market. 

Organizations are encouraged to assist current employees in their professional and career development at the onset of their hire and on an ongoing basis. Although aspiring students benefit from career development topics, programs and activities relevant for individuals already employed in an industry, there is generally a different expectation for the two populations. Following is a brief list of career-related topics and activities that organizations can support or provide for current employees:

• Personal Development (e.g., decision making, conflict resolution)

• Financial Literacy (e.g., financial goals, building a 401(k) plan) 

• Cultural Knowledge (e.g., diversity and inclusion, harassment)

• Organizational Knowledge (e.g., job benefits, engagement) 

• Career Networking (e.g., professional associations, committees)

• Community Involvement (e.g., civic club membership, liaison role) 

The Society of Human Resource Managers (SHRM) cautions that training is distinct from career development, primarily because the latter does not relate to the purpose of making the employee more proficient in his or her present job. Career development focuses on the means to continue a path in an industry sector, whether within the current organization or at another company or business. A Venn diagram illustrates the overlap between training and career development. For example, executive or managerial training for succession planning (e.g., filling a vacancy due to a known departure) can be considered a form of career development since it involves the future trajectory of an occupation but does not necessarily have a direct impact on the roles and responsibilities of the employee’s current job.

Organizations choosing to provide career development for their employees reap both tangible and intangible benefits. Visibly investing in developing people in the organization demonstrates assurance and confidence in employees and typically leads to workers reporting greater levels of job satisfaction which correlates positively with retention. The cost of retaining existing staff is regarded as a less expensive option than recruiting new employees, thus providing the organization with a potential financial savings. 

Sports tourism and hospitality businesses and industry associations that invest in broadening their employee capabilities are providing a valuable service. Offering or supporting career development is a reminder for employees to personally develop their knowledge, skills and abilities to potentially enhance their trajectory in a selected industry. The new employee orientation is a valuable forum to educate staff on the scope of career development opportunities supported or administered by the organization. In supporting career development for employees, organizations must consider the advantages and disadvantages of funding external programs, providing their own internal programs or utilizing a hybrid model.

External Programs

External career development programs are those which are provided offsite by a third party (outsourced) such as a trade association, government agency (e.g., chamber of commerce), corporate business or a university/college. Industries may develop an innovative cooperative partnership with a university or college benefitting both entities. The framework of a cooperative partnership has vast possibilities but typically the employees in an organization have access to seminars or courses at the educational institution and students with the appropriate credentials are guaranteed a location to obtain relevant work experience in the form of an internship, field experience or apprenticeship. 

Trade and professional associations are a key resource for training and also for assisting members with career development. Many associations have websites with a searchable employment page and offer information on career development as part of their annual convention or conference or in an isolated format such as a special workshop or on-demand learning module (e.g., webinar). Following is a partial list of professional associations in the United States and globally for practitioners working in industries related to sports hospitality, sports tourism and event management. 

• Adventure Travel Association

• American Resort Development Association

• Association of Destination Management Executives

• Council on Hotel, Restaurant & Institutional Education

• Destination Marketing Association International

• International Festivals & Events Association

• International Special Events Society

• Meeting Professionals International

• National Sports Marketing Network

• Resort and Commercial Recreation Association

• Sportsplex Operators and Developers Association

• Sports Events and Tourism Association

• Travel and Tourism Research Association

• World Council for US Sports Congress Venue Management

Examples of career development programs provided by a trade or professional association include webinars on “How to Master Your LinkedIn Page for a Better ePresence” offered by the Association of Destination Management Executives and “How to Navigate Being New to the Sports Tourism World” offered by the Sports Events and Tourism Association (formerly the National Association of Sports Commissions). 

An advantage of using an external resource to provide career development is that it allows administrators within an organization to concentrate on their immediate job responsibilities with a direct impact on the company instead of spending quality time and energy designing and implementing programming. Additionally, there is a greater likelihood that the quality of the programming is increased when delivered by individuals who are specifically trained to deliver professional career-related education. Participants who travel to attend programs or a conference offered through a trade association also have greater access to networking with industry professionals. 

The disadvantage of relying on external entities to provide career development is the typical cost for membership in a professional association, including registration fees, educational materials and potential travel-related expenses (e.g., mileage, accommodations, meals, etc.). The second disadvantage is the time an employee is diverted from his or her actual job.

Internal Programs

Internal career development is exclusive for employees of an organization and programming or activities are designed and administered by the human resource or management/leadership team. A notable feature of internal programs is that the content can be tailored to meet the needs and goals of the organization. Among the array of in-house programs that can be used for career development are meetings, staff huddles, a speaker series, a mentor-match program and reading groups. 

Career development meetings are generally scheduled and considered formal face-to-face interactive sessions between two individuals (e.g., personal coaching session) or in a group setting. Staff huddles are generally informal meetings of a short duration (e.g., 10-20 minutes) involving a relatively small group who congregate on a regular basis (e.g., daily or weekly). The speaker series involves scheduling successive lectures over time (e.g., quarterly, bi-monthly, etc.) with content delivered by a designated individual from either inside or outside the organization. The speaker series permits latitude in being structured as part of formal meetings (e.g., quarterly assembly) or informally (e.g., lunch and learn sessions). The mentor-match involves pairing a relatively new worker with a seasoned veteran within the organization who can provide guidance, motivation and emotional support. Finally, the reading group is similar to a book club whereby employees are directed to review and discuss assigned career-related resources on their own time followed by some type of interactive debriefing or sharing forum. 

In addition to the ability to tailor content to match the goals and needs of the organization, the primary advantage of designing and administering internal career development as opposed to relying on an external resource is the cost savings. When career development is designed and implemented in-house, there are no travel expenses or membership/application fees unless a per diem or payment is provided for an external speaker. Costs are minimized in the production of educational materials. Internal training is also an opportunity to build camaraderie among staff while minimizing time away from work responsibilities. 

Among the disadvantages of organizations providing internal career development are the time necessary for designing and delivering education and the time employees are participating in activities that are not directly related to their job. Additionally, career development isolated within the organization minimizes the accessibility of networking opportunities with industry colleagues and potentially, the quality of an internal program may be comparably inferior to what can be provided by an external trained professional.

Hybrid Programs

A hybrid model for career development offers flexibility in design and delivery. Typically, programming is conducted onsite but an outside professional or consultant is contracted to design and deliver the content. Additionally, an organization may access and pay for web-based material or use virtual platforms. The advantage of a hybrid model is the professionalism from a trained source, the minimized travel time for employees and the decreased burden on the human resource department or leadership team who would otherwise be tasked with in-house planning and delivery. The disadvantages include the cost involved in securing a consultant or packaged education materials and the lack of accessible networking opportunities with industry professionals who attend in-person programs provided by a trade association. 

Final Thoughts

Whether designing and delivering career development internally, through an external resource or via a hybrid model, the main takeaway is the importance of investing in employees. Obviously, there are many considerations in providing the right type of career-relevant support and activities for workers, but the investment is worth the time and effort. The fields of sports hospitality, sports tourism and event management have a need for employees who are satisfied in their current role, feel appreciated by their supervisors and can envision a future within the highly connected service industry. Attention to career development throughout an employee’s tenure will benefit the individual, the organization and the macroenvironment in which sports and entertainment operate. SDM

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