Welcome to Digital Homesteading.

This collection of resources from 9 Clouds helps you build your business and community.


Don’t Hold Us Back: Motivate Employees with Opportunities for Growth at Work

opportunities for growth at work

It’s human nature to grow.

We’ve been doing it since we were little. First it was growing up, now (for some of us) it’s growing out…either way, our bodies–and our minds–naturally want to become bigger than they are.

While our physical growth slows over time, our desire for development never goes away. Or it shouldn’t, anyway. Sometimes, after years spent living in the same city, working the same job, seeing the same people over and over and over again, we become inundated with day-to-day monotony. We begin to believe that this is all there is – this is who we are now. We start to see ourselves as “grown up.”

But most people will admit that whatever lifestyle they’ve settled for, they want more. They want to wake up every day knowing that there are other opportunities out there, that they still haven’t reached their full potential. That they’re not done growing just yet.

The human desire for growth is perhaps manifested most in the realm of career. Considering we spend about a third of our adult lives at work, it’s safe to say our jobs have a huge impact on our happiness. And if we’re not happy with our jobs, many of us–if we can afford it–will simply abandon them for something better.

So how can a company keep its employees happy enough to stick around?

Cater to that human desire we all share. Offer your employees opportunities for growth at work, and watch your employee engagement and retention grow too.

How Growth Opportunities Improve Employee Engagement and Retention

employee engagement

70% of American workers are not engaged at work.

How can your business use growth opportunities at work to whittle that percentage down–perhaps even to zero?

It seems obvious that employees will be more engaged at work if they know they can grow rather than feel like they’re constantly hitting their heads on the ceiling. But the stats on the subject might surprise you.

In a study by Quantum Workplace, employees listed professional growth opportunity as one of their highest drivers of engagement. Conversely, exiting employees listed lack of growth opportunity as the second highest reason for leaving. That means that if you have high retention, it’s probably because you encourage career development opportunities–and if you have high turnover, it’s probably because you aren’t encouraging enough of them.

This global study by BlessingWhite agrees. When asked why they would quit a job, most respondents cited a lack of career opportunity, with 26% citing a lack of growth opportunities.

“While raises may encourage some workers to stick around,” says BlessingWhite CEO Christopher Rice, “our findings suggest that employees–especially high performers–will remain in jobs that challenge them, utilize their expertise, and provide meaning.”

Most employees don’t feel that they are given enough space for growth. Research by DecisionWise found that only 43% of employees felt that their employers provided attractive opportunities for development.

And don’t think that career development is one-sided. In the Quantum Workplace study, 81% of people said that professional development is a shared responsibility between manager and employee.

Clearly, there’s room for improvement here.

Don’t hold your staff back. Make sure they know that they aren’t handcuffed to their desk–that there’s room to move around a bit, as long as they prove themselves worthy of that freedom.

If you do, you’ll be able to not only retain employees longer, but also inspire them to succeed above and beyond what you expected of them.

The Four Types of Growth Opportunities

Potential for growth is important to employees. And not just financial growth, either. There are many ways your company can offer growth opportunities–and some of them don’t cost a dime.

In an article for Forbes, Victor Lipman lists four types of growth opportunities you can use to engage your employees:

1. Financial Growth

This is the one most people consider when they think about career development. Naturally, employees will be motivated by the possibility of increased income, especially when it’s tied to their performance.

But don’t make the mistake of thinking that money is the only way to keep your staff happy. If you don’t have the funds (or like the competitive atmosphere that performance-based compensation can create), consider offering other forms of growth.

2. Career Growth

Don’t underestimate the power of prestige. Even if they’re not part of a big corporation, most driven individuals will still want to move up in the ranks of their organization. So offer them various opportunities to do so–more significant duties, more impressive job titles, bigger offices, etc.

3. Professional Growth

If they’re serious about their work, employees will want to improve in their field. In fact, most employees in this study rated training opportunities as highly important career benefits, with job-specific training at the top (54%). The best part about providing opportunities for professional growth is that it is mutually beneficial–employees get to feel more competent, and employers get to have more competent employees!

Take advantage of this arrangement by offering ways for employees to sharpen their skills and knowledge, such as conferences, mentoring programs, online courses, or even tuition reimbursement. 

4. Personal Growth

While it may seem like personal growth has nothing to do with career development, many employees are motivated by factors that are completely unrelated to work.

With the increasingly blurred line between private and professional lives, it makes sense to encourage employees to pursue their personal goals. Do this by allowing flexible work schedules, the freedom to work remotely, and social gatherings outside of work. Lipman says that “peer praise” and a “fun work environment” are also good motivators, especially for those a little lower on the totem pole.

Why Providing Growth Opportunities Is Worthwhile


As an employee at a small digital marketing agency in South Dakota, I understand the benefits of growth opportunities at work.

At 9 Clouds, our employers encourage all of us to pursue our goals, whether professional or personal. They challenge us to come up with new ideas for the company and even create new job responsibilities for ourselves if we think of something else we’d like to do. They want us to be passionate about what we do and excited about how we do it.

Knowing that I am allowed to grow at work gives me confidence that I can achieve beyond my job description–and it gives my employers confidence that I’m in this for the long haul. Because as long as I’m exceeding their expectations–and they’re allowing me to do so–there’s no need for me to look for something else. I’ve already found it right here.

Want to learn more ways to motivate your employees? Check out all our articles on effective business management, or subscribe to our blog to get insider access to management tips.