Last week the Division of Work & Organisational Psychology (DWOP) of The Irish Psychological Society invited me to talk on the topic of career development. It was one of the first really fine evenings of the summer and I was a bit concerned about whether or not we would get an audience. It turned out to be a great event, with real engagement from attendees and plenty of discussion. I want to thank them, and particularly Kathryn McCarthy, Heather Weight and Karen Lopez Moore for organising the event.
My slides and an audio of the talk are available here. It is roughly in three parts:
- My career story and how I came to be involved with career development from an engineering background
- The role and importance of career development in organisations, including some discussion about performance management and talent management. See these other posts for more on the topics discussed The new psychological contract , Performance Management v Career Development and The social enterprise, more equal or more successful? .
- A brief overview of how careergro can support employees in managing their career development.
I was scheduled to talk for 1 hour with 20 mins for questions, however I was interested in getting some discussion going with everyone in the room and so I spoke for less than 30 mins. The discussion continued for at least 40mins, which was great. Even better if the discussion continues here, so please share you comments, thoughts and questions below.
Last week I attended the L&D Connect Unconference and met lots of people interested in a conversation about learning and development (L&D). Please have a look at this video by Martin Couzins and this storify by Ian Pettigrew from the event. One of the people I met was Flora Marriott who wrote this post on what she’s learned from trees. I’ve spent a lot of time in the forests in the Dublin mountains over the last year and Flora’s post got me thinking about what I’ve learned in the woods. Of course the discussions at the Unconference find a way in here too.
About 18 months ago I took up mountain biking and joined a local club. The first few times were a bit hairy and there were quite a few spills. I was hesitant, nervous and maintained a clenched fist on the brakes. However I really enjoyed the activity, the social side of it and getting to see a new side to Dublin, so I kept at it. Fast forward to last weekend and I took some friends out for their first time mountain biking. They were hesitant..you get it, they were like me when I started. I realised for the first time that I had developed my ability significantly (with still a long way to go!).
My development experience
As Flora says in her post, it’s long term. I didn’t develop new skills and abilities overnight, in fact I wasn’t even aware of how I had developed until time had passed and I was reminded of where I had started from. I did have a clear idea of what I was trying to achieve and I was able to draw on the experience of others in the club, on line resources etc as needed to help me progress. Mostly, I learned by doing, there were no training courses although that might be useful in the future. Learning was fun, social, and challenging. I was usually operating in a state of flow, immersed in the activity and at level of challenge that was pushing my ability (though not too much). Importantly there was no fear of failure, it’s expected that things will go wrong every now and then and if you play it too safe you feel like the odd one out.
Learning in the workplace
Ok, it’s nice to know about my mountain biking but what’s the relevance to work?
First I think it’s important to pay attention to how we learn. Is it engaging and continuous or tedious and short lived? I think on the job, experiential learning, in a social environment certainly works best for me and delivers results over the short and long term.
Secondly, how to balance short term and longer term learning needs?
Day to day learning needs arise due to performance requirements in your current job. Most people and organisations have this covered to some extent and it drives much of the learning in organisations.
Competency frameworks can guide learning and development (L&D) for more medium term objectives, like advancing to the next rung on the ladder. Competency models are developed from the top down and are relatively static, compared to the blistering rate of change in the world of work. Is it possible for them to capture the full picture, especially over the long term and to stay relevant in a changing world?
There are a wider range of career skills, skills in your chosen field and skills that go beyond the roles defined in the competency model, which may be essential for long term success. Each individual should think about what these career development objectives are for themselves work towards them over the long term and in a way is relevant to their current role.
Ideally career development will be a healthy balance of performance driven L&D, competency driven L&D and L&D driven by the career development needs of individuals. It should be a social experience, engaging and tolerate failure. Mostly, I think the individual needs to be the one who owns their career development, even the performance driven elements of it.
How does all this work in your company? Do you struggle to balance long term and short term L&D? Who owns career development, HR, line managers or individuals?
What does career development mean to you and to your company? Why is it important? How to do it?
This is the first of two posts on the subject of career development practices in companies. First, I want to discuss the reasons why companies are interested in career development. In the next post I will move on to how they are going about it.
I recently attended Legal Island’s HR Symposium, at which Orla Graham and Dr. Mary Collins of Deloitte Ireland presented on managing talent in Deloitte. The Deloitte talent management strategy is
“To be the number one firm for career and personal development, where talented people can do their best work, progress quickly and fulfill their potential, whatever their background”.
The reason why career development is important was clearly expressed. There is a war for talent and the top two factors cited to succeed are ‘Career development’ and ‘Training and development’. Once in the company, developing capabilities is part of the talent management strategy (including deployment and collaboration) that delivers organisational capability, employee commitment, alignment with business goals and, ultimately, performance.
consultingmag.com: Career Development in Professional Services
Other examples from the professional services industry are given in a series of articles (Best Practices in Career Development & Best Practices in Career Development: Point B) from consultingmag.com. They examine seven leading firms and some of the reasons given for investing in career development are:
- “It’s what attracts people to come here and stay” – Russ Hagey, partner and worldwide chief talent officer Bain & Company.
- “Our philosophy is to support people in their career decisions. We hire staff for life. We are not a body shop.” – Aimee George Leary, director of learning and development Booze Allen Hamilton.
- “This is why our conversations with employees is about long-term career goals—not what needs to happen next week or next month.” – Bill Pelster, managing principal of talent development for Deloitte LLP. He adds that this flexibility has assisted retention efforts.
- “Sales and marketing can be broken down into twenty discrete things,” says Jeff Griese, principal and Chief Human Resources Officer, ZS Associates. “An expert to us is someone who has mastered each of these by doing them many, many times. We’re building depth of mastery.”
The common thread is attracting recruits, retention and performance, echoing the message from Deloitte Ireland.
Study of career development in progressive Canadian organisations
A benchmarking study of the human resources practices of fourteen Canadian of organisations, considered to be on the leading edge of career development, identified some common reasons why these organisations invest in career development.
Leveraging their workforces’ talents and skills is the chief means of staying competitive in the face of global competition and rapid technology change. The authors state that the “quality, innovativeness and commitment of its human resources are what make the difference in terms of a competitive edge”.
Alignment with the business
Alignment between the individuals career development needs and the organisations needs is critical. The career development process can make this alignment happen.
“In today’s ‘lean and mean’ business climate, development is a necessary survival strategy: it helps companies position themselves so they can adjust to rapid changes in their environment. …Development processes enable companies to meet such challenges quickly and effectively. … Organizational career development [is] a strategic process in which maximizing individuals’ career potential is a way of enhancing the success of the organization as a whole.” – (Organizational
Career Development: Benchmarks for Building a World-Class Workforce)
Attraction of recruits
A quote from one of the participants in the study illustrates the point.
“One of the key differentiators for an organization to become an employer of choice now and in the future … is the amount of avant-garde strategic development you do so that people will be learning the newest things that need to be learned in whatever field. … This is the value that people are looking for in terms of … corporate development or institutional development in any organization. … Offering career resiliency and offering opportunity to learn the best will be the attraction for
people coming into the job market. That’s what they are looking for. They’re looking for companies that will give them career resiliency.”
The common points are once again attraction of recruits, and performance. In this study the authors do not cite retention or engagement, however they do identify employee commitment as an important factor.
Career Development a Driver of Attraction, Retention and Engagement
Towers Watson presented the top eight drivers of attraction, the top eight drivers of retention and the top eight drivers of engagement from their Ireland database, at Legal Island’s HR Symposium in February. I assume the results are similar in the UK.
Important attraction drivers were ‘career advancement’, second, and ‘learning and development’, fourth. Pay was number one. Career development’ was the second most important retention driver, behind only pay. For engagement ‘career development’ was number four. Interestingly the top drivers of engagement were ‘leadership’, ‘empowerment’ and ‘image’, all quite things that are difficult to change.
So why invest in career development?
If you’ve keep with me this far, you will have seen some common themes emerging as to why the best organisations are serious about career development. It boils down to
Career development and career resilience need to be on offer to compete in the war for talent
You need to have a long term view of your employees careers and allow career development happen if you want to retain the best people.
Commitment comes from within, it’s not something that can be imposed on someone. Aligning personal career development needs with the needs of the business is key to an engaged employee.
- Individual Performance
Engagement and capability building depend on career development. These are drivers of individual performance.
- Organisational Performance
At the organisational level, the alignment of business goals and individual goals lead to operational effectiveness today. The career development process facilitates this alignment.
Career development is essential, in the face of global competition and rapid technology change, to maintaining competitiveness for tomorrow.
Does your organisation take career development seriously? Why? Why not? I’d love to hear your experiences.
Deloitte Human Capital Trends 2011 – Takeaways from a Career Development and a HR SaaS provider perspective
In Deloitte’s new and impressive publication, they analyse twelve trends in the field of Human Capital Management, six of which they say are revolutionary and six of which are evolutionary. The twelve trends are:
- Workforce analytics
- HR in the cloud
- From ladder to lattice
- Emerging markets
- Diversity and inclusion
- Next generation leaders
- Talent in the upturn
- COOs for HR
- Leading in a regulated world
- Collective leadership
- Contingent workforce
- Employer health care reform
I am choosing to highlight the first three of the revolutionary trends, as I found them to be particularly relevant to the provision of employee-focused career development services using Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) technology.
1. Workforce Analytics: Opportunities abound to build predictive capability in workforce planning, recruitment, retention, leadership and development. Companies will often already have a lot of data available to them. Now, due to falling technology costs and an increasing awareness of the power of data, companies can move from reactive to proactive personnel planning. Companies should start with real business problems and focus on building their analytics capabilities from the outset.
2. HR in the cloud (SaaS) – it’s inevitable!: SaaS technology is evolutionary but its business implications are revolutionary. SaaS has already demonstrated value in scalability and flexibility. SaaS can offer a middle ground between in-house tech people for HR and full-scale outsourcing. For clients, SaaS vendors will have to demonstrate that they can meet their security, QoS and integration needs.
3. From Ladder to lattice: The workforce and the workplace are changing, for example, organisations are becoming flatter, much work is project-based where the ability to collaborate is highly valued, there is increased diversity in the workforce, staff definitions of success in their careers vary wildly and many people are using virtual workplaces. In today’s world, the one-size-fits-all definition of career success no longer holds true.
Deloitte promotes the concept of Mass Career Customization (MCC) where careers are personalized and in-tune with each individual’s life. Deloitte presented what they identified as the top talent concerns of their clients in the following bar chart:
The future importance of analytics is a recurring theme in the document. Deloitte’s clients say that there is a worldwide business leadership shortage. Analytics may be used to fill the talent gaps internally in organisations. Deloitte asserts that the traditional command-and-control model of leadership is waning and getting organisations to work as one requires new ways of thinking, for example, employee engagement and commitment have to be harnessed. Collective leadership in organisations is required. Deloitte also calls for a more prominent role for HR in business. They say that HR professionals are well suited to the development of business-focused, HR metrics the development of reliable data for analytics and to take responsibility for HR compliance issues and risk management. Step forward HR!
The full publication can be viewed on Deloittes website at: #mce_temp_url# or downloaded as an app.