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.
Here are my takeaways from the CIPD Employee Engagement Workshop held on Jan 25, 2012, at the beautiful Holborn Bars venue in London. The workshop was expertly conducted by Emma Bridger of The Communications Lab (http://www.thecommunicationslab.co.uk/). Emma is a member of the UK government Employee Engagement Taskforce (EET) guru group. See http://engagingforsuccess.org/.
- Firstly, Emma settled on a definition for engagement originating with John Smythe: ‘Employee engagement is a process by which people become personally implicated in the success of a business’. Notable because this is only one of 56 definitions of engagement which the EET has identified so far.
- Emma’s epiphany from working on David McLeod’s landmark 2009 report ‘Engaging for Success’ was that there are two levels of employee engagement in organisations: transactional engagement and, the more powerful, transformational engagement. The former is more reactive – actions are taken as a result of survey results, for example. The latter is proactive and embedded in the values and behaviours of the organisation and, further, employees are an integral part of delivering the business strategy. CIPD CEO, Jackie Orme, estimates that 75% of engagement strategies operate at the transactional level and just 25% at the transformational level.
- Provocatively, Emma declared that she does not like employee engagement surveys. She feels that the survey process is dry, has low buy-in from employees, suffers from dwindling response rates and the ROI is low.
- Emma’s focus instead is on a more considered approach, rooted in positive psychology. At a practical level, she recommends first winning over champions within an organisation, then having those educate the leaders/line managers and, finally, the line managers engaging with the employees. Among other tools, Emma uses ‘appreciative inquiry’ in working with groups, encouraging participants to remember positive engagement experiences through storytelling and through envisioning what an engaged workplace would look like to them.
- In one of the group exercises, we were asked to exchange stories of episodes in our careers when we were most engaged. Then, the whole room was asked to share the characteristics of these experiences. There was no shortage of them. Included were: measurable progress, autonomy, having development opportunities, organisational values, empowerment, challenge etc. Interestingly, neither MONEY nor INCOME was volunteered as a factor by any of the delegates. Emma said that in her 10 years of conducting engagement workshops, money has only been offered once as a factor.
- What role does leadership play in companies? This was elegantly illustrated in a chart from John Smythe, showing the ‘four approaches to leadership’:
- Telling the many what has been decided by the few
- Selling to the many what has been decided by the few
- Inclusion – driving accountability down by giving people the time and space and resources
- Co-creation – judging who will add value by if included in decision-making
These approaches may be suitable in different circumstances, for example, ‘Telling’ might be appropriate in a crisis. The most enlightened approaches are the latter two and are appropriate when deep understanding is needed or where individuals can add value in decision-making respectively, resulting in willing collaborators or personally committed collaborators, again, respectively.
- What of the conversations on the floor? A prominent theme in the conversations I had was the problem many organisations are experiencing in the retention or recruitment of skilled people. The skills gap rears its ugly head again in our knowledge economies. It was clear that companies are having difficulty finding or developing skilled people. Interestingly, in a number of notable instances, the employees under discussion were skilled field technicians who had little or remote interaction with head office and management. Consequently, communication was poor and the sensing of peoples’ needs was difficult. However, these same employees increasingly tend to have access to mobile devices, such as laptops or iPads. The opportunity to stay connected with these employees in a meaningful way would appear to lie with taking advantage of the mobile technology they have and the delivery of support services to them in real-time and online.
- Overall, very positive feeling on the floor about the workshop. Thanks to Emma!
How to hire and hold great people to drive your business in 2012 – Dublin Chamber briefing, Jan 18, 2012
This event was hosted by the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, this morning, Jan 18, 2012. The subject is an important one and was skillfully presented by Peter Cosgove, director of CPL Resources. Here are my takeaways:
1. People are not your #1 asset !
Peter’s point with this attention-grabber was that, despite the repeated claim by top management, this statement is not backed up by the behaviour of companies in practice. Often, few metrics are in place to measure the value of people to the organisation. One obvious reason for this is that it is difficult. People are complex and they do not behave the way that classical economists like to think.
Another point to support Peter’s claim is that the salaries of the executives in charge, i.e. the HR directors, of the supposed #1 asset are about half that of the directors of other functions. So, there is a gap between the talk and the walk!
2. Hiring the right people
Peter pointed out some of the pitfalls of hiring and some of the remedies. He also made clear why this issue is important: as the complexity of the job grows, the cost of hiring the wrong person escalates to multiples of the new hire’s annual salary. The Good to Great mantra of ‘Get the right people on the bus and the wrong people off the bus’ applies. Things to pay attention to when hiring:
- the responsibility and accountability should not be with HR but with the business, most critically, with the line manager.
- focus on getting the right people. Do not be distracted by urgency or deadlines or inflexible screening procedures which may reject the right candidate when he/she is available. Pay especial attention to CHECKING REFERENCES! Regarding psychometric tests, they can be successful if part of a recruitment process but they need professional interpretation and are not useful alone.
- involve your existing team in the recruitment process. They will have to work with the new hire. Look inside your company too when filling positions. Your people know who the best people are.
- be conscious of your company’s brand, the potential hiree’s perception is the reality not what you are trying to project. Be mindful of the touchpoints with your candidates. Remember what Donald Burr of People Express airlines said ‘Dirty trays in our planes tells our customers that we don’t maintain our engines’.
4. Retaining people
Recent data shows that job satisfaction in the depressed economy in Ireland is generally low and that the percentage of people who have indicated an intention to seek a new position when the economy recovers is running at very high levels.
What is the top of the wish list of high performers in organisations ? According to new data, it is a MENTOR. Additionally, high performers want to see accountability in the workplace.
5. The role of social media
Social media is not going away. Peter predicted that we will be unable to resist using social media in business and will be drawn in to using it even if it is against our will. He illustrated this with a show of hands at the meeting – those who had been resistant to Facebook 5 years ago had all succumbed by now and had established accounts. In response to a question about the effectiveness of blogging, Peter reported it has worked very well as a tool for CPL and has directly led to them winning new business.
6. The war for talent
Consistent with what Deloitte has spoken of their Human Capital Trends Report 2011, Peter pointed out that the war for talent is not likely to subside any time soon and remains a vital issue for companies. He identified one causal factor as the likely shrinking source of available workers in Western Europe consistent with the decline in birth rates in the region.
Overall, excellent and relevant content. Mentoring is something we strive to facilitate with our online career management product, at www.careergro.com. I have some homework to do following Peter’s talk – to search out and study that new data which puts mentoring at the top of the wish list for high performers in companies. Finally, Paul’s slidedeck is available here: http://www.cpl.ie/blog/post/98226532/how-to-hire-and-hold-top-talent.