One of the best ways a business can improve productivity and profitability is for managers to enhance employees' career opportunities within the company, a leading management consultant says.

Andrew Sherwood, chairman of The Goodrich & Sherwood Co., the nation's largest full-service human resources firm, said most employees want management to provide them with direction, a defined career path and, above all, recognition.Employees prefer to be assigned work that is important, interesting and challenging. They want to feel the boss is helping them prepare for a more significant job, and they want to be considered for promotions, he said.

According to Sherwood, when a manager improves an employee's career opportunities, the company receives three key rewards:

-A motivated worker with a high respect for his boss and company.

-A more effective and flexible employee who works with the boss and not just for himself or herself.

-An in-house replacement to take over in a pinch or when a job opens up.

But perhaps the most important reward a company can expect from a motivated employee is his or her loyalty, Sherwood said.