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How to Manage Your Employees’ Career Aspirations

Posted by Suha Mardelli Haroun January 16, 2014 2 Comments

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Q. Hi! It’s appraisal season this month in our office. As the department manager, my question is how can I effectively manage the unique and distinct aspirations of a diverse set of employees working in my team? – Sanoor R.

A. Hi Sanoor. Bravo first off for giving a thought to your team’s career aspirations and championing this topic of discussion, you earn our ‘great manager’ vote!

What is Aspiration Management?

First, let us briefly explain Aspiration Management for those who are unfamiliar with the term. Aspiration Management was theorized by psychologist David McClelland who extensively studied workplace motivation. His theory states that employees as well as their superiors have needs and aspirations that influence their performance at work. Aspiration Management is about converting these needs to realistic and achievable goals and planning to achieve them.

Why is Aspiration Management Important?

The concept of Aspiration Management draws heavily from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which lists ‘self-actualization’ as the highest need individuals aspire to fulfill. Self-actualization simply means being the best you can be at what you do.
In today’s economy where the success of an organization is largely determined by the talent of its workforce, it works to an organization’s benefit to help its workforce be the best they can, i.e. achieve self-actualization. Aspiration management can thus be a key driver of growth for both employees and the company.

Managing Your Employees’ Career Aspirations

When it comes to managing your team’s career aspirations, a holistic process that balances both career and personal aspirations is what you need to plan for.

Here are some steps you can incorporate into your year-end appraisal:

1. During the appraisal, discuss with each of your team members their individual SMART goals. Data from the Career Aspirations in the MENA Survey, December 2013, indicate that three quarters of professionals in the region have set professional goals for themselves, with 30% having goals for the next 5 years. On the other hand, only 15% say they have not set any goals for themselves.

2. Once the goals are outlined and agreed upon for the New Year, it makes it easier for you to help direct your team’s efforts to achieve these goals. This will help you assess your team’s training needs and help them update their skill-set. 39% of professionals in the region cite the lack of growth opportunities as the main barrier to their personal career growth, as per the Career Aspirations in the MENA Survey. Other factors considered as obstacles include poor management within the current company (32%) and lack of training (18%). In terms of attaining career goals, a lack of financial support (42%) and lack of opportunity (42%) are cited as the top barriers, followed by a lack of resources (34%).

3. With the goals clearly defined, and with your support, employees can now convert their aspirations into definite future plans. From a department manager’s point of view you can measure their performance based on how well they achieve their long-term goals.

Data from the Career Aspirations in the MENA Survey indicates that when it comes to motivation, professionals in the region do not appear to lack it, with 73% claiming to be motivated across the region. However, respondents say that motivation can be improved by increasing salaries, perks and benefits (56%); providing the opportunity to express creativity or showcase skills (44%); and offering a better work-life balance (43%). Promotions, training opportunities and more challenging work emerge as other motivational factors.

Have you ever helped your team achieve their career goals? Share your experience in the comments section below.

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About Suha Mardelli Haroun

Suha Mardelli Haroun

Suha heads HR at She specializes in recruitment, training and employee relations. Suha has a Bachelor’s degree in Analytical Chemistry and a postgraduate degree in HVAC Engineering.

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  • Kaukab Ikram Mughal

    First of all, I would like to thank you for this article. Self-actualization is the most important factor, but lack of growth opportunities is the main barrier, and needs and aspirations that influence performance at work definitely need to be addressed appropriately.

  • abdu

    Actually the team is working against me. I am trying to achieve the department’s goals, but they resist, and they give silly excuses. We have tried to inspire them, but hopeless.

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