By Lionel Wijesiri
A young reader of this column working as a management trainee in a business organisation wrote to me last week. She said, “Our MD informed us that from October, the company is planning to introduce a Career Management programme and all of us will benefit out of it. He termed it as ‘Our 3D Strategy’. What does it really mean?”
I believe, today’s column will help her to get a grip of what her MD talked about.
In simple terms, career management means ‘providing employees with opportunities to grow’, especially to those employees who deliver performance.
Growth means, to an employee, one or more of the following:
Occupying higher level job positions
On-going increase in remuneration
Climbing up the ladder in the organisational hierarchy
Acquiring higher level skills and competencies
Having an opportunity to avail of some exclusive benefits (perks and privileges)
Why is career development necessary? Both external and internal factors influence the need for career development.
Technological change and decreasing advancement opportunities
Changing types of jobs
Social and demographic trends
The need to identify and forecast personnel needs
The changing nature of work
With intensifying competition, increasing customer expectations and declining resources, career management in many organisations has been overshadowed by the urgency of day-to-day pressures. This has incurred serious costs in terms of quality, performance and morale.
The Career Management process is divided into three distinct phases: (1) staffing and orientation, (2) evaluation and (3) development. Each of these phases is composed of strategies from which the employer may choose to create a customized career development system.
The staffing and orientation phase is composed of providing career information to the job candidate (whether internal or external) and using selection techniques to match potential workers with the right job. The type of career information provided may include knowledge of jobs within the organisation and possible career paths for the employee. Selection techniques that are used to match employee and employment opportunity include assessment centre exercises and job posting systems even for positions that are to be filled internally.
The next phase is the evaluating phase. Two key tasks in this phase are performance review and succession planning. The purpose of performance review, from a Career Management perspective, is to provide feedback to employees on their skills and knowledge, both to increase job satisfaction and to help them prepare for their next job. Succession planning, at the initiative of the employer, links information from and about individual employees to the human resource needs of the organisation.
During the developing phase, more visible career development strategies are employed. Tools used during this phase include career discussions between employee and manager, self-assessment and career counselling and career planning workshops.
Career discussions between employee and manager form an integral part of any Career Management system. Training managers for their career discussion role is necessary for success; even more important and difficult is convincing managers to apply that training.
Although career counselling does exist in some organisations, self-assessment is a more common tool. A trend appears to be the formal incorporation of career counselling into employee assistance programmes, as career issues become more complex. Career workbooks and similar activities are currently among the most popular self-assessment tools.
Recent policy trends have guided the design and use of Career Management workshops. Among the most important are the following trends: (1) Emphasis on teaching employees to feel more power, (2) Less encouragement for employees to explore other career fields, (3) Focus on employees experiencing success in their current job and (4) Emphasis on life career planning.
The first step in establishing Career Development in the workplace is the assessment of organisational needs and the needs of individual employees. There are a number of models available for designing and implementing a Career Management system. The common guidelines include the following: (1) State specifics, (2) Tie the programme to overall human resource development, (3) Tailor the programme to the culture, (4) Build from a conceptual base, (5) Plan long-term approaches, short-term payoff (6) Design multiple approaches, (7) Co-design and manage the project, (8) Ensure top management support, (9) Publicize accomplishments.
Evaluating the system and improving it based on those evaluations are also important steps in the creation process. Like employee career growth, programme growth should be continual.
Career Management is unique in that it is a three-way partnership between the employee, management and the organisation. The employee takes ownership of his professional development, management facilitates the process and the organisation provides support. It starts through conversations, where the management explores the employees’ interests, skills and aspirations to determine their values, passions, strengths and goals. It blossoms when the management offers the employees access to all of the organisation’s position profiles, because they can see the opportunities open to them, find the right match for their strengths and interests and determine the skills they must develop to make it happen. Essentially, each employee maps out his own career within the organisation.
Great career conversations are wide ranging, incorporating an exploration of employee strengths and organisation needs, the creation of options for aligning individual and organisational goals and feedback from manager to employee and employee to manager.
At the organisational level, Career Management is an effective means to align employee development with the management’s evolving requirements, so the top hierarchy of the organisation can better retain talent as they create a new generation of leadership candidates.
In the career development cycle, a number of actions have to take place at different levels as outlined below:
Create ‘Development Plans’ by obtaining inputs from the manager, to meet the requirements of the current job and to cater for the long-term perspectives.
Decide what they want from their careers now and in the future.
Examine individually, or along with their managers, their interests and ambitions.
Work with the manager to identify on the job learning and training opportunities and other avenues for professional development.
Support Employee Development Plans by indicating specific steps that need to be initiated to accomplish the learning goals.
Identify the job-related knowledge, skills, competencies and experience needed for an employee to be effective in that position.
Help subordinates to define their short and long-term development needs which support organisational objectives and employee’s career goals.
Help the employee in understanding the type of jobs which will be best suited for his/her career growth.
Evaluate employees and create succession pipe-lines for vital job positions in the organisation.
Create processes to utilize the knowledge, skills and abilities of each employee, aligned fully to the organisational goals.
Enrich job-positions to create more challenges in the work-environment.
Provide a job and compensation structure that support the organisation’s as well as individual’s growth and development perspectives.
Provide time and funds for employee development activities.
Undertake pro-active man-power planning to meet future staffing needs.
Identify and nurture talent and reward performance in a transparent manner.
Career development requires a systems approach. This implies institutionalization of processes to automatically capture essential data about each employee at the time of recruitment or induction.
It also includes maintenance, over the service span history of employment, of the following details:
Pay increments and
Special skills and competencies
Awards and recognitions
Many other fields which depict the capability profile of an individual
However, Career Management programme is a double-edged sword. If the organisation does not commit wholeheartedly to the three-way partnership, or fails to follow intent with action, the employees will immediately sense the lack of authenticity. This will damage the engagement levels, particularly among younger workers. As morale declines, so will productivity and the organisation’s reputation as an employer of choice, making it difficult, if not impossible, to attract and retain the talent it needs.
In an increasingly competitive labour market, the calibre of employees you attract and retain and the steps you take to develop them, will determine the future success – and sustainability – of your organisation. Organisations that support employees in pursuing their career goals through Career Management programmes are far more likely to attract and engage productive employees and most important of all, keep them from looking for opportunities elsewhere!
(The writer is a corporate director with over 25 years’ senior managerial experience. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)