While career transition has been a focus for companies through the global financial crisis, business leaders need to look more seriously at career development options for talented performers. HR Leader looks at some of the latest issues and examines what HR professionals can do to assist
In the wake of the global financial crisis, companies have found
that employees are feeling disengaged, unmotivated and
disenfranchised due to restructures, change of management, wage
freezes, employee benefits cutbacks and a lack of or often zero
training and development opportunities over the past two years.
This should ring warning bells for employers, as numerous surveys
have pointed to a significant rise in employee turnover in the coming
months. Top reasons given by candidates for seeking new jobs are
limited career opportunities (41 per cent), feeling undervalued (24 per
cent) and losing faith in the current organisation (18 per cent).
A major concern for HR leaders in business today is the retention of
staff who committed themselves in the recent difficult times, who are
now seeking improved conditions and career opportunities in the short
term as a reward for their diligence, according to Bruce Anderson,
managing director of Lee Hecht Harrison.
“This expectation by employees is against a lack of consistent top
line and bottom line growth from which business leaders would make
the investment needed,” he notes.
“My discussions with HR professionals is consistently focused upon
the retention and the importance that career opportunities plays within
an organisation. In the majority of our customers who utilise exit
surveys, staff continue to state they left because of the lack of career
opportunities and their relationship with their manager/supervisor.”
What to do
In order for companies to retain staff, increase productivity and
ultimately profit margin as the job market recovers, David Reynolds,
executive general manager of Chandler Macleod Group Consulting,
says it is essential that companies acknowledge and recognise the
impact that the GFC has had on career progression, and more
importantly, to implement a solid career development strategy for all
“In implementing this strategy we are seeing companies recognise
and understand that self-assessment with the use of robust assessment
tools to help identify an employees key skills, strengths and motivators
is the initial first crucial step towards successful career transition
whether it be within or out of a company,” he says.
Ironically, Reynolds notes that this self-assessment often forms part
of an outplacement program when a departing employee has left a
company, but would have been considerably more useful had it been
completed years ago. “The assessment results provides the basis for
further discussions to assist employees to gain a better understanding of
themselves and where in the company they are likely to be most
successful and gain most satisfaction,” he says.
“This enables HR professionals in consultation with employees as
well as external coaches to be able to develop clear career paths,
explore more effectively internal redeployment opportunities and,
where necessary, offer adequate and quality outplacement support to
help them transition into another career outside of the company.”
Issues for HR professionals
A significant proportion of managers are ill-equipped or lack of
confidence to initiate career conversations with their staff, for fear of
not having the answer or alternatively creating career conversations
leading to staff leaving the business, according to Anderson.
“HR professionals typically in tune with the intentions of staff are
investigating means by which they can develop the skills and confidence
of managers to hold successful career conversations with their staff,” he
However, there is a risk in holding these career conversations, but an
even bigger risk in taking no action and hoping their concerns
regarding staff retention will not eventuate.
“In talking with a wide range of business leaders, there is a strong
case that a trickle of talent leaving any business will quickly expand
into a stream,” he says.
He echoes Reynold’s comments, and says the solution is to invest in
skilling managers and supervisors to hold structured career
conversations as a matter of course with their employees.
“If focused upon high potential employees, this discussion should
include more senior managers to demonstrate the organisations interest and commitment to the employee,” he says.
Left to their own devices, few managers
have the experience and confidence to hold
career conversations, according to Anderson.
“The fear for even the most experienced
managers is ‘I don’t have an answer.’ Many
employees would be well satisfied in the first
instance to begin an ongoing career
conversation which demonstrates their career
is part of their manager’s and organisation’s
concerns and considerations.”
The difficulty for many HR leaders,
according to Anderson, is that their concerns
about a looming staff turnover problem are
not reflected in their current statistics, and
how to convince their business colleagues to
be proactive and invest in retention activities
such as career development.
Anderson believes that HR leaders who
convince their colleagues and business leaders
to invest in career management for their staff will be best placed to avoid the potential trickle of valued staff members
leaving their business from becoming a stream of lost talent.
Top career development conversation tips
Career development conversations need to be well planned and structured for both the employee and the manager, and this is the critical role of enabler played by the HR professional, according to Bruce Anderson, managing director of Lee Hecht Harrison.
He says a structured approach will enable the employee to consider and share with their manager:
How their work is changing
Their initial plan
Furthermore, he says planning and preparation by their manager will enable this information to form an interlinking discussion on the employees':
Future of their organisation and position
Align their aspirations with organisational requirements
Plan to accelerate their learning and create meaningful challenges at work
How HR can help with career development
Assessment, profiling, followed by solid leadership and management training, combined with coaching and mentoring.
Create opportunities for secondments and job rotation (possibly with strategic partner companies, such as employee exchanges), involvement in projects that will provide stretch opportunities.
Create mentoring opportunities both internally and externally. By combining employee development with career planning, employers can give the opportunity to identify potential career paths and prepare for future roles
Source: Chandler Macleod