Employees Responsible for Managing Their Careers
Historically, companies were responsible for managing an employee’s career success. This is no longer the situation. In this economy and business climate, it is 100% the employees’ responsibility to manage their own career success. There are at least a couple of reasons for this. One is that companies are no longer in a strategic position to provide this level of individualized career planning. Another is that employees, especially more recent generations, are comfortable changing companies frequently in order find satisfying work.
Lifetime employment is neither a part of the vast majority of company cultures anymore, nor is it of interest to most employees. A rapid change in a company’s strategic direction or technology often brings with it the need for a different mix of employee skills. Organizations quickly let go of employees with skills that are not needed any longer in order to bring on others with the skills they do need. Additionally, employees have their own ambitions that may not sync with the company’s thinking or timetable. They can resign and work elsewhere, especially in good employment markets, rather than stay in a job that no longer interests or challenges them. So, companies these days don’t try to control all employee career development because a sizable chunk of the investment could walk, or be forced, out the door at any time.
Moreover, in today’s business climate, except for top executives and those in key positions, investing in every individual’s career development and success is not feasible. It is hard to make a business case that investing in career development for all who want it by building out an in-house capability has enough of a return, given all the other ways a company could deploy its capital to maximize its spending.
But the rub is, career plans for all employees are tremendously beneficial for both the employee and the company. The reason is increased employee engagement. Employees are trying to manage their own careers, but they don’t know how. They are motivated to engage in their own development so they can advance and be successful. They grapple with developing the right skills, moving through career stages, getting promoted, coping with burnout, managing interpersonal relationships, and balancing their own ambitions relative to other life goals.
So, although almost everyone wants to succeed in their careers, they tend to have only vague goals or definitions of success. And they typically don’t have a workable plan to attain goals, nor know how to execute the plan if they were to have one. They may rely on maxims from decades ago or the advice of colleagues or managers who really don’t know any more about career planning and building a successful career than they do. Employees need to do planning, and they want to do planning, but they don’t know how. A lack of career planning is a big contributor to employee disengagement. From a company perspective, an engaged employee and a disengaged employee have very different effects on task performance and on contributing to a positive company culture. Effective task performance and a thriving company culture are both needed for optimal corporate performance.
Bridging the Gap
What is the solution if career planning is needed but it’s not, and shouldn’t be, a company’s core competency? Contract with experts in coaching career planning to come onsite or meet virtually with individuals to advise and coach them in a way to construct a tailored, personal career plan that the employee is responsible for managing. It becomes the employee’s plan, not the company’s; the employee is responsible for advancing it, for communicating it, and for tailoring it as the situation warrants. It helps the employee do something they want but are struggling with on their own.
It helps the employer engage the employees to get the right people in the right jobs at the right time. The control is with the employees who now foster career conversations with their managers about their plans for themselves. It fosters more natural mentoring relationships as it is the employees who reach out based on their needs. It helps the company with retention, at least for those who are satisfied with the trajectory of their career paths. It also helps an employee identify mismatches in their plan vs organizational goals and therefore prompts an employee to find another role at another company rather than become a disgruntled employee who wears on teammates.
In the end, you get the right people in the right assignments at the right time with a program driven by the employee. It’s a win-win for both parties. More engaged and happy employees are more productive, value-add employees.
Look for future posts where I’ll cover what career coaching and career planning really are, and how a company can gain the benefits of offering career coaching to employees at reasonable costs.Culture | Talent Management