You know me, I’m all about learning. But in her new book, Julie Winkle Giulioni makes a compelling argument that when employees say they want career growth, there are many possible means to that end – and learning is only one of them. Giulioni’s conceptualization of the dimensions of career development implies that we need to clarify employee goals and customize our approaches when we seek to actively support people’s development.

In Promotions Are SO Yesterday, Julie Winkle Giulioni describes these multiple avenues for growth:

  • Contribution – Making a difference and aligning with your purpose
  • Competence – Building critical capabilities skills, and expertise
  • Confidence – Trusting and appreciating your talents and abilities
  • Connection – Cultivating relationships and deepening your network
  • Challenge – Stretching beyond what’s known and comfortable
  • Contentment – Experiencing satisfaction, ease, and joy in your work
  • Choice – Enhancing the control and autonomy you can exercise
  • Climb – Advancing through promotions or new positions
What employees want to develop

In a 2019 study, Guilioni found that contribution and competence were consistently (across all age groups) at the top of people’s wants. It would appear they tend to desire growing competence in their early years (20-39) and switch to wanting to make contributions as they mature. And “the climb” – the desire for advancement – is actually the lowest priority (except for the 20-29 year-old age group, where it’s 7th, and choice comes in last).

But you don’t have to guess what your employees desire; Giulioni offers a free assessment on her web site. It produces a nice report with helpful questions for reflection on your results. This assessment could be a good conversation-starter with your employees.

While I’m happy to see that the desire for learning is a driver, it’s important to note how many other avenues there are for career growth. In fact, Giulioni suggests that we expand the definition of career to include “all that can be developed and grown throughout one’s life at work” (p. xi).

We shouldn’t concentrate our developmental efforts only on the top-rated dimensions, even though one of them – happily – is growing competence. Those other dimensions are sources of satisfaction – and friction. Giulioni’s book provides wide-ranging advice on how to address all these needs. It’s a short read packed with useful perspective and research-based recommendations.

Aligning development with career growth aspirations

The Quick Guide for Developing People provides more than 30 “moves” you can make to promote development across six categories (also all starting with “C”). To narrow in on the most relevant moves – the ones your employees will appreciate – gaining an understanding of their career growth priorities can be invaluable.

Start with moves to clarify and moves to customize. You can then imagine the moves that might be most relevant based on desired dimension for career growth.

DimensionMost relevant moves
CompetenceCoach, Challenge, Curate
ConfidenceCoach, Challenge, Connect
ChallengeChallenge, Connect
ContentmentConnect, Curate, Customize
ClimbCoach, Challenge


Elsewhere, Giulioni suggests that the best developmental leaders believe in growth, build trust, facilitate reflection, and personalize their approach with each employee. To be effective, you need a mindset that appreciates and values ongoing development and a commitment to helping employees to achieve their goals. Career development and skill development go hand-in-hand, and Giulioni provides a robust framework for understanding career aspirations in this modern age.

Career development is not a transaction to be completed. It’s a relationship to be cultivated. ~ Julie Winkle Giulioni

This post is part of a series exploring the moves leaders can make to promote development of their teams and employees. Check out the entire developing people series. And please get in touch if I can help you to aquaint your leadership team with these moves; I can offer a workshop and other learning materials on the subject.