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What Is a Career Development Award?

Jan Fletcher
Jan Fletcher

A career development award is a public recognition of a person's stellar achievements attained within the course of a professional career. It may also be an opportunity to receive on-the-job training to improve skills. In the first case, the person receives the award at a gathering of fellow business professionals, who acknowledge the honor with a round of applause. The recipient is often expected to speak to those gathered. A career development award is bestowed to recognize accomplishments over time that have affected others and enhanced the person's skills and acumen.

The concept of awarding top-performing employees arises from theories in motivational management psychology that link productivity to career development planning. Numerous studies have demonstrated the positive effect that bestowing awards has on workforce productivity. Some career development award recipients may receive accolades from business or professional associations. Other rewards are specifically geared to training workers. An example is the U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs Career Development Award, which offers paid full-time training so researchers may receive tutelage from more experienced researchers while continuing to receive regular compensation.

Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

In tandem with the public accolades, financial incentives may be offered to an honoree. These incentives are frequently educational or recreational in nature, although cash awards are also frequently given. A typical noncash award might be a scholarship for a career development course or even a technical or degreed program. Often, these rewards serve a two-fold purpose, as they also motivate other workers with the idea that they, too, could receive accolades or financial rewards.

Often, a career development reward may bestow only a token monetary award or a modest perk, such as extra time off, or a gift certificate at a local place of business. Yet, the motivational factor of public acknowledgment is immensely powerful, as it touches on the core of a person's desire to receive esteem. Many theories have been formulated about motivational dynamics in the workplace, and what constitutes optimal career development in a particular industry.

One theory, the logical-positivist worldview, emphasizes a logical, linear approach to career development. Another theory, constructivist worldview, takes the more subjective view that a person's response of the world is constructed from the inside out. One emphasizes emotions, while the other emphasizes logical thinking in career development dynamics.

The way things typically play out, however, is that a career development award often appeals to both feelings and logic. For example, a person may be in the spotlight for a few minutes, and at the same time, also receive a financial or educational incentive. Workplace motivational psychology is a complex field, as many factors influence human behavior in the workforce. Over time, a career development award has proven its effectiveness in practice, and this human-resource technique is widely used around the world.

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