Facilitating Employees’ Career Development
In the workplace, the word “career” is used often by leaders, but can mean different things to different types of employees. Traditionally, the concept of a “career” was defined in the same way for everyone and there was only one way to achieve success in a career by climbing the corporate latter and staying with the organization for years. While that may have been true 15-20 years ago, it is no longer the case as it relates to building a career.
Organizations no longer guarantee life-time job security through traditional career paths. Instead, the responsibility is now placed on employees to manage their own careers. In response to these changes, employees have developed alternate ways to build successful careers that suit their motivations and desires. Technology, outsourcing, globalization, contract work and generational expectations have morphed jobs and careers into varied forms.
In today’s work world, it is important that leaders demonstrate skills that help employees build their desired career paths and act as career collaborators by creating opportunities for the development of career enhancing skills. In order to be successful, leaders need to realize that they are not managing employees’ careers but rather are facilitating them along their desired paths.
Supporting Career Development
The objective of any career development conversation or career management process is to retain high performing employees longer. That means either longer tenure within the team or longer tenure within the organization. Gone are the days when leaders can rely on employees remaining in the organization for their entire career, or expecting that employees will simply follow the career paths that are pre-determined by the organization.
While career paths are still important for organizations to build and communicate, these paths should act only as a framework or guideline for leaders. It is critical to take time to understand how each employeesdefines “career“, assist employees in reaching that definition, and act to remove barriers so employees can achieve their desired career goals.
Career Development Paths
Historically, career path contained small, incremental upward moves over ones’ tenure with an organization. As the nature of business has changed, employees have taken greater ownership over their career development, adopting a more transitory approach versus the upward linear career path.
There are four types of career paths available:
- The Linear Career Path
- A linear, hierarchy-based career path is one in which employees work hard and over time rise up a predictable path to the next level until they can no longer climb. Today, this is not the only desired or available option and the odds of employees pursuing this path are becoming much less likely.
- The Expert Career Path
- This path rewards the development of skills in a specific field without making it necessary to move upward into management levels. This path has changed core, stable work forces into highly-skilled, mobile and adaptable workforces
- The Spiral Career Path
- The spiral career path allows employees to make a series of lateral moves between different functional areas within the same organization. It allows human resources departments to focus on retaining talent by providing employees with new and challenging tasks that broaden their experience.
- The Transitory Career Path
- This path allows employees to avoid depending on any one organization. Employees are able to build and maintain a portfolio of competencies, which allows them to quickly respond to changes in the job market. While employees on this path rarely rely on formal employer-provided career planning, it is critical that leaders learn how to hold career development discussions with their employees. This allows them to keep employees longer by helping them build their portfolio within the organization.
Many leaders tie loyalty with career goals. If an employee does not want his or her career to remain with the same team, organization or industry, the leader judges the employee as being disloyal. For Traditionalists and Baby Boomers, it is important to gain their trust so that they will feel comfortable enough to be honest with you about their career goals.
Many Gen X and Gen Y employees have little trepidation with discussing career desires with leaders. It is important that, when having these conversations with Gen Xs and Gen Ys, you do not take personal offense to any comments. Challenge Gen Xers to propose new ways that they can develop their desired career skills within their current roles.
Gen Ys are also candid about their desired career paths, but may be less realistic as to the speed by which those goals can happen in your organization. It is important to paint a clear picture of which career paths are possible within your organization and to help Gen Ys identify their career motivations.
For more on facilitating employees’ career development, please see chapter two in Upgrade Now: 9 Advanced Leadership Skills available at www.ngenperformance.com/book.