Career driven employees feel they must leave their current organisation to progress, due to insufficient career-management programs.
Such failings of current corporate career-management programs were highlighted in the 2016 Global Workforce Study conducted by Willis Towers Watson.
The results from 3,105 respondents revealed that a hefty 47% of employees believe that leaving their current employer would be the only way to improve their future career prospects, and 39% of high potentials agreed.
Though 52% say their organisation does a good job of providing opportunities for personal development, only 32% believe their immediate manager or supervisor helps them with career planning and decisions.
The firm found this quite a contrast to the responses from over 2,000 employers who were asked similar questions in its 2016 Global Talent Management and Rewards Study, which showed 58% of employees rated their career-management programs as effective at providing traditional career- advancement opportunities, including promotions and lateral moves.
While this figure looks promising, a mere 28% said they had seen any improvement in advancement opportunities over the last year.
Renee Smith, director for the future of work practice at the consulting firm in San Francisco, says HR needs to update career management programs to accommodate new ways of work, as more job tasks are automated and more contingent staff are being hired.
“We often see this one-size-fits-all mentality for a career-management program. Employees want something more personalised.” she says.
HR can also offer employees a career market on the organisation’s intranet, where managers can post career opportunities for employees.
She described how this would give employees direct access to opportunities like committee memberships, special projects or philanthropic activities.
“Remove the silo mentality and barriers of sharing talent and think of talent as a broader organisational resource, not just somebody in my immediate reporting chain,” Smith says.
Online retailer Zappos have put such a system in place, reported Ethan Bernstein, assistant professor of leadership and organisational behaviour and Berol Corporation fellow at Harvard Business School.
In an article that was published by Harvard Business Review, he described how “Zappos employees now have 7.4 roles on average, which they craft and revise to address shifting organisational and individual needs.”
They also use a “badges” system that easily communicates their skills to other employees and they allocate tasks to those best equipped to carry them out.
The difficulty this system can pose for HR teams, is in ensuring that staff have the resources and support to succeed in multiple roles.
Bernstein predicts that this will not only become more commonplace, but will be something our future workforces begin to expect from their employer.
“HR needs to decide the kind of employees it wants and figure out what kind of career management to provide — the traditional form or top down with vertical career paths — or place the burden on employees and give them lots of lateral opportunities with all the support they need to basically sell themselves and build themselves in that process,” he says.
HR teams can also adopt a strategy of building an external network that spans industries and locations, connecting employees who are willing to share their career knowledge and advice with each other.
Bernstein acknowledges that this strategy can look risky from a recruiting perspective, but in practise can reduce the need for employees to move to another company for career advancement.
There can also come into play a reluctance to invest into training employees who are at risk of leaving their job.
However, this may well only serve to speed their exit, warns Seymour Adler, a partner in the talent and rewards practice at Aon Hewitt in New York.
“That person may still have a commitment and loyalty to your organisation even if they never come back,” he said, commenting that no one sticks around 20 years just for the gold watch.
He highlights that this perception gap of career-management programs is another consequence of managers being competent in areas such as technology or budgeting, but lacking people-management skills.
The insight into other organisations offered by websites like Glassdoor, further exacerbates the feeling that the grass is greener elsewhere.
When aware of these issues, HR can act to make a substantial impact.
Adler says that HR teams can focus on assessing people management skills when hiring for management positions, and then working with new managers to equip them with the knowledge and skills they need to manage and develop the people in their team.
Maintaining a connection with your alumni network is something he recommends, as career development no longer occurs just within a company’s four walls.
He also describes how employee engagement surveys can be used to identify turnover risk, then managers can be trained to open up the conversation with the employees, allowing them to air their unmet needs.
“Sixty percent to 70 percent of this is acting as good people leaders, having the right conversations, listening to employee aspirations, working jointly, showing humility and a genuine commitment to that employee’s career,” Adler says.
“Say ‘I’m here for you even if some of your career may not be [spent] here.”
For companies who want to improve this situation within their own organisation, the key lies in understanding exactly what makes your people tick, first.
What motivates your staff?
What kind of development opportunities are best suited to each individual?
What drives them to develop themselves and their skills within your business?
Truth is, this kind of people-focused information is essential when it comes to planning and executing any effective employee development programs, particularly ones focused on career development.
After all, personal/career development is not a one-size fits all process.
To make sure that the right kind of opportunities are offered to the right employees, managers must take more responsibility for understanding the “DNA” of each person they manage.
Some of your employees may be looking for upwards career development – others may be more interesting in developing skills, competencies and confidence in their current role.
Once you understand what each of your people needs from you and from their workplace to thrive and grow, identifying the right solution and then the allocation of training and development budgets becomes easier, less ambiguous and far more more likely to give greater return.
How do you make sure you offer the right opportunities to your staff? What measures do you have in place to make sure those development programs are having the desired effect?
Please do share you experiences in the comments section below – let’s start the conversation.