Career Management - Making It Work for Employees and Employers

Career Management
Making It Work for Employees and Employers

Stuck in neutral. That’s how many employees around the world would describe their career. In fact, according to the 2014
Global Workforce Study, 41% of employees say they must join another firm in order to advance. Even more troublesome, almost
the same percentage (40%) of employees who have been formally identified as high potentials by their organization say they
would need to leave their organization to advance their career. Overall, employees tell us career advancement opportunities
rank among the top reasons why they’d join or leave an organization.
Rising talent mobility complicates this picture even

 further. Globally, nearly half of employers (48%)
 participating in the 2014 Talent Management and                                             of employees
 Rewards Study say hiring activity has increased                                             say their
 compared with last year, and more than one-third
                                                                                             provides useful
 (35%) indicate that turnover is rising. At the same
                                                                                             career planning
 time, nearly two in three respondents are experiencing
 problems attracting top performers (65%) and high-
                                                                                                                                      42%      report that
 potential employees (64%), an increase from two                                                                               their organization provides
 years ago. Additionally, more than half report difficulty                                                                       opportunities to advance.
 retaining high-potential employees (56%) and top
 performers (54%).

 In the face of these challenges, employers need to          Figure 1. Career management is valued by both employees and employers, but many
 understand what employees value if they are to attract      organizations fall short in delivery
 and retain the right talent. Our research shows that
 employers do in fact agree with employees on the
 critical importance of providing career advancement
                                                                      Employee view                                          Employer view
 opportunities to get and keep employees (Figure 1).          Advancement in career is the      3rd              Advancement in career is the          #1
 But this understanding is not translating into effective     most cited reason they joined their                reason employees join an organization.
 career development and management programs. A                organization. Lack of career advancement           Lack of career advancement is the 2nd
 mere 46% of employees say their organization provides        is the 2nd most cited reason to leave.             most cited reason they would leave.
 useful career planning tools, and only 42% report that                    Source: 2014 Global Workforce Study    Source: 2014 Talent Management and Rewards Study
 their organization provides opportunities to advance.
                                                                                                                            agree their employees are often able
 “           need to understand                                                                                   41%       to achieve career advancement.

 what employees value if they
 are to attract and retain the                                                                                    35%
                                                                                                                            say their employees understand how
                                                                                                                            they can influence their careers.
 right talent.”
 Employers for their part recognize they are falling
 short. Less than half (49%) report being effective at       Figure 2. What is career management?
 providing traditional career advancement opportunities
 to employees, while an even lower percentage (38%)           Career management is a process to help employees understand career opportunities and chart
 report being effective at providing career development       a career path within their organization.
 opportunities beyond traditional concepts. Moreover,
 only 41% of employers agree their employees are                Career            Overarching                   Visible                 Integrated
 often able to achieve career advancement by moving           management            career                    and viable               development
 across organizational boundaries. And a disturbingly                             management                 career path                 planning
 low 35% say their employees understand how they can                               strategy                  alternatives                 process
 influence their careers.

 Organizations are clearly missing the mark when it
 comes to career management — the process that                                                                Enabling
 helps employees understand career opportunities and                                                        experiences
 chart a career path within their organization (Figure 2).                              Established             and                   Aligned
                                                                                           career           opportunities          competency
                                                                                        framework                                   framework

                                                              Career management encompasses the strategy, tools, processes and technology that enable
                                                              talent development, agility and mobility.                                                                                        Career Management: Making It Work for Employees and Employers 2
While it might seem simple enough to organize jobs,
define competencies, provide career planning tools
and communicate opportunities, the reality is more
complicated. Our research reveals several key pain
                                                              of employees report
points that employers face in developing and delivering
career management programs:                                   that they have to
                                                              take ownership of
•• Career architecture and career paths are poorly            their own careers.
   defined. Fewer than half of employers (48%) report
   that their organizations have career architectures

   and levels in place.
•• Managers are ill equipped to handle key aspects of
   career management and development. Only 33% of
   employers say managers are effective at conducting         of employers indicate
   career development discussions as part of the              that employees and
   performance management process.                            managers should have
•• Technology is not effectively leveraged for career         joint ownership of the
   management. Less than half (45%) of employers              career management process.
   say their companies make effective use of
   technology to deliver programs to help employees
   advance their careers.
•• Most organizations don’t know if their career
                                                             “ critical for employers to step back and think
   management programs are working. A low 27%                through the components of an effective career
   of employers say their organizations monitor the
   effectiveness of their career management programs.        management program.”
In addition, we know from our experience that there
are other factors contributing to this challenge.               management program is to provide employees with
Information related to career management is often               the ongoing skill building and development needed
communicated in a disjointed manner. In some                    to enable breakthrough thinking and career success
organizations, different parts of HR own different              while ensuring the talent pipeline to support the
elements of career management without clear                     company’s long-term growth.
accountability or partnership. Finally, organizations        •• A set of principles (how) that will guide the
may lack the business buy-in for career management              direction and execution of career management
programs, which can make career management the                  communications and tools. For example, one of
sole domain of HR.                                              the guiding principles of the innovation-focused
                                                                organization cited above might include the importance
Given this situation, it’s critical for employers to step
                                                                of building a culture of continuous learning and
back and think through the components of an effective
                                                                professional development, which in turn leads to new
career management program.
                                                                ways of addressing business challenges. Details on
                                                                the types of learning and professional development
Start by Defining Your Strategy                                 opportunities that the organization invests in would
An overarching strategy is needed to anchor and guide           be showcased in the strategy.
the development of a career management program.
                                                             A basic question to consider when developing a career
This strategy should capture an organization’s high-
                                                             management strategy is who is responsible for the
level perspective on career management, and reflect
                                                             career management process. According to our latest
its talent priorities and strategic business objectives.
                                                             research, almost half (48%) of employees report that
Begin by defining the why and the how of your program
                                                             they have to take ownership of their own careers,
                                                             while 57% of employers indicate that employees
•• An overall statement (why) of what the company            and managers should have joint ownership of the
   believes and wants to communicate about the value         career management process. An effective career
   and importance of career management. For example,         management strategy will help reduce employees’
   an organization pursuing a business strategy focused      feeling they are on their own when it comes to career
   on innovation might state that the goal of its career     development and advancement opportunities.                                                                                   Career Management: Making It Work for Employees and Employers 3
Building the Foundation                                                                  “A
                                                                                          “ globally consistent career framework across all
With its career management strategy in place, an
organization can begin to build the foundation of its
                                                                                          functions and business areas of an organization
program, which should include three elements: a                                           serves as a foundation for organizing jobs and
career framework, scaled competencies and enabling
experiences.                                                                              clarifying career paths.”
•• Career framework. An organization’s career
   framework consists of a series of career bands,                                             managers and supervisors to clearly communicate
   which represent how jobs contribute to the                                                  career opportunities and have more effective career
   organization, and levels, which show the relative                                           development discussions. Many organizations have
   contribution of a role within a career band (Figure 3).                                     some type of career framework in place, often to
   The framework is supported by the job architecture                                          assign compensation grades and ranges. Being
   (e.g., how jobs are organized by titles, functions                                          transparent about the career framework can help
   and families) and job leveling (i.e., the process for                                       employees shift out of neutral and into first gear.
   determining the relative ranking of jobs). Given that                                    •• Scaled competencies and technical skills. While
   only 40% of employers globally have defined job                                             the career framework describes what employees
   architectures, and a mere 39% have defined job                                              at various levels do, competencies define the
   levels and a career framework, there is room for                                            how — the knowledge, skills and abilities required
   improvement here.                                                                           for successful performance. We can think of
                                                                                               competencies as behavioral concepts that may
          A globally consistent career framework across all
                                                                                               apply across job families, for example, analytical
          functions and business areas of an organization
                                                                                               thinking, creativity and project management. On the
          serves as a foundation for organizing jobs and
                                                                                               other hand, technical skills refer to more discrete
          clarifying career paths. Additionally, in many
                                                                                               knowledge areas that are relevant across fewer
          organizations, such a framework becomes a
                                                                                               job families, for example, application development,
          platform for describing overall work requirements
                                                                                               database administration and requirement analysis.
          and responsibilities. It also makes it easier for

Figure 3. Foundational element: Career framework*
The career framework sets the stage for clearly communicating careers and discussing career opportunities and development.

                                                                                                                      E1           E2           E3           CEO

                                                                                                                     Vice      Senior vice   Executive
                                                                                                                   president    president vice president
                                       Career band
                                       Represents broadly
                                       how jobs contribute                   M1        M2         M3        M4        M5
                                                                          Supervisor Manager     Senior    Group Senior group
                                       to the organization                                      manager   manager  manager

                                                               P1        P2       P3       P4       P5      P6                   Career level
                                                              Entry Intermediate Career Specialist Master Expert                 Represents the relative
                                                                                                                                 contribution of the role
 Individual contributor

                                                    Technical support                                                            within the career band
                                              T1         T2       T3     T4
                                            Entry   Intermediate Senior Lead

                                          Business support
                                     U1        U2       U3     U4
                                    Entry Intermediate Senior Lead

                           W1          W2       W3     W4
                          Entry   Intermediate Senior Lead

*Actual alignment of career bands and levels will vary based on types of jobs within each organization.                                                                                                                                 Career Management: Making It Work for Employees and Employers 4
Figure 4. Foundational element: Enabling experiences
Sample template for defining enabling experience opportunities

 What are the enabling experiences to prepare an employee to move through the job family (i.e., from level to level)?

 1                      2                       3                       4                       5                       6
     IT developer           IT developer            IT developer            IT developer            IT developer            IT developer
           I                     II                      III                     IV                      V                       VI

          P1                    P2                      P3                     P4                      P5                     P6

                    ••Regularly            ••Successfully          ••Participate           ••Speak at an           ••Demonstrate
                      introduce              manage a                in special              internal or             success in
                      new ideas              few projects            assignments             external industry       defining,
                      and process            independently,          to gain deeper          conference or           delivering and
                      innovations to         under limited           knowledge/              event                   implementing a
                      own team               supervision             expertise in a        ••Serve in a              strategy
                    ••Coordinate           ••Present technical       particular area         leadership role       ••Participate in
                      and assist             analysis/results                                for a cross-            the development
                      department             to a nontechnical                               functional              of company
                      efforts                audience                                        project or              standards or
                                                                                             activity                capabilities

  The scaling of competencies enables organizations                    Visualizing the Possibilities
  to show the changes in expected competencies and
  associated behaviors at different career levels. For                 Once the foundational components are set, it’s time
  instance, creativity at a lower level might involve                  to help employees understand what it all means for
  demonstrating a willingness to try new processes                     them. Career path visuals will help bring your career
  and approaches. At a senior level, creativity might                  management program to life by illustrating potential
  involve creating opportunities for employees to                      movements between roles (Figure 5, page 6). A career
  generate new ideas, products, methods or solutions                   path is unique to an individual and will vary depending
  that enhance organizational effectiveness.                           on business needs, career aspirations and capabilities.

   According to the findings of our 2014 Talent                        There are typically two types of movement that career
   Management and Rewards Study, 55% of                                paths are used to illustrate:
   organizations have already implemented an                           •• Progression — Movement to a role at the same/
   organization-wide competency model applicable                          equivalent level or a lower career level as the current
   to all employees. Yet only 42% of all companies                        role; offers an employee breadth of experience
   participating in the study have implemented scaled                  •• Promotion — Movement to a job at a higher career
   competencies, suggesting that many companies have                      level than the current role; requires demonstration of
   yet to realize the full benefits of using competencies.                increased competence and additional responsibilities
•• Enabling experiences and opportunities. These
   are the experiences and opportunities that help                     It’s important to note that the intent of a career path is
   prepare an employee to move from one career                         to provide a sense of what’s possible — not to chart
   level to the next. While enabling experiences and                   every potential course — and to remind employees
   opportunities help guide career development,                        of what the organization values. These illustrations
   they are not intended to be used as a checklist                     serve as a very effective tool to help differentiate the
   for promotion. For example, Figure 4 illustrates                    organization and illuminate the career management
   the enabling experiences and opportunities for                      strategy. Our research shows that only 43% of
   an IT developer, from successfully managing new                     companies have defined vertical career paths, and a
   projects with limited supervision, to participating                 mere 27% have defined lateral career paths, which
   in the development of technical standards for                       could help explain why so many employees feel they
   their organization. With increasing frequency,                      are on their own when it comes to career development.
   organizations are supplementing the career
   framework and scaled competencies with enabling
   experiences and opportunities.                                                                                                       Career Management: Making It Work for Employees and Employers 5
Figure 5. Sample career path

                   Gain foundational and                             Senior           MakeLead
                                                                                            a move
                   advanced  experience        Database                               to Database
                                                                                         gain people      Enterprise          Identified as a destination role
                           Database                                 database
 Database          in database analytics      analyst and                             management          database            due to the high degree of impact
                           Analyst I                               analyst and            Project
                                              developer II                                                 architect          this role has on the organization.
                   and development                                  developer            Manager
                                                                                      experience                                                          Senior
                                                                                                                              This is the top individualDirector,
                                                                                                                              contributor in the IT function,
                                                                                                                                                         Data and
                                                                      Senior                                                                             Security
                                                                                                                              with responsibility for designing
                          Information        Information                                Information
 Information          Move into systems                            information                                                major components of the IT
                            security           security                                   security
 security             engineer  to gain                              security                                                 infrastructure. This role requires
                          specialist I       specialist II                                manager
                      broader organizational                        specialist
                                                                                                                              a high level of understanding
                      IT knowledge                                                                                                                     Information
                                                                                                                              of databases, security and    IT
                                                                                  Gain experience
                                                                                          Systems                             systems. Individuals in Technology
                                                                                                                                                        this role
                                                                     Senior       in IT security           Systems            mustSenior
                                                                                                                                     manage large projects and
 Systems                   Systems             Systems                                   engineering
                                                                    systems                               engineering           Director, IT
 engineer                 engineer I          engineer II                                  project                            project teams.
                                                                    engineer                                director            Engineering

                                                         Move to moreSenior IT
                                                                        senior          IT systems        IT systems
 Systems                 IT systems           IT systems
                                                         role with   systems
                                                                   continued              support           support
 support                  support I            support ii
                                                         focus on gaining                manager            director
                                                        technical knowledge
               Start in a
               P1 job —                                                                  Software
 Software      entry into Software             Software                                 engineering
 engineer      job family Engineer I          engineer II                                 project
                                                                                         manager           Software

                                                                              Professional                                                                Illustrative
                              P1                  P2                    P3                   P4               P5                      P6                  alignment

                                                                       M1                    M2               M3                     M4                       M5

Integrated Development Planning                                          aspirations and capabilities of the company’s talent
                                                                         pool. It is necessary that this type of platform link to
For a career management program to be effective,                         an organization’s HR information system to ensure
it must be properly supported and linked to other                        seamless access to critical HR data including career
strategic HR initiatives and existing HR programs.                       management information.
•• Tools and technology. Two of the most valuable career              •• Manager training and support. Unfortunately, less
   management support tools include an employee                          than half (47%) of organizations say they provide
   reference guide and an employee workbook. The                         their managers with career management training
   reference guide describes the career management                       and tools in the form of talking points or discussion
   process and program fundamentals, while the                           guides. This could help explain why only 41% of
   workbook enables employees to assess their                            employees rate their manager as effective in holding
   strengths and weaknesses, and to develop short- and                   career development discussions. It is important for

   long-term career plans with their managers.                           organizations to ensure that managers are trained to
                                                                         have effective career conversations with employees.
  A technology platform that provides access to                          Regardless of whether these conversations are
  current career information and tools, thereby                          formally set at certain intervals or occur informally             of organizations say
  enabling employees to take an active part in                           at any point in the year, managers need to be                     they provide their
  managing their careers, can facilitate effective                       equipped with information on the organization’s                   managers with career
  career management. Given that such a platform                          career management strategy and tools. This will                   management training
  typically captures performance management                                                                                                and tools in the form
                                                                         prepare them to ask the right questions as they
  information — e.g., performance objectives, reviews,                                                                                     of talking points or
                                                                         guide employees through the process of developing
  competency assessments — as well as career                                                                                               discussion guides.
                                                                         actionable career plans.
  management data, it shines a spotlight on the                                                                                              Career Management: Making It Work for Employees and Employers 6
•• Structured mentoring. Even a carefully planned            Change Management and
    career management program may not sufficiently            Communication
    prepare employees for all the challenges that come
    with increased responsibility. For this reason, a         A thoughtfully planned and executed change
    growing number of organizations are implementing          management and communication process will help
    structured mentoring programs. The goal of                sustain your career management program over the
    structured mentoring is to identify the deep and          long term. As with any program, it is essential to
    often undocumented knowledge that senior people           secure ongoing support and sponsorship from senior
    have acquired over several decades, and transfer          executives and business leaders.
    that knowledge to those with less experience. This        In addition, organizations should reach out to
    reduces the risk of knowledge loss when senior            employees early in the process, even as the program
    employees leave or retire. At the same time, it           is being designed, to help them understand the value
    provides an opportunity for employees to accelerate       of the program. Be sure to engage key influencers,
    the learning process, and reduce the amount of trial      including skeptics or those with dissenting views, and
    and error they often face in new positions. Overall,      solicit their input as a way to give them “skin in the
    a structured mentoring program not only enhances          game.” To provide employees a sense of ownership,
    career development, but strategically fosters a culture   consider including them as subject matter experts in
    of rapid learning and growth needed to compete in a       helping design different program components such as
    complex, fast-changing business environment.              competencies and skills required for different jobs.

 “ is essential to secure ongoing support and sponsorship from senior
 executives and business leaders.”
                                                              Employees can also offer feedback via focus groups
 •• Linking and relating to other programs. In addition       or pilot programs prior to program launch. Finally, it is
    to providing information and tools to employees           important to move beyond just tools and materials,
    and equipping managers to have the right career           and create career development opportunities such as
    conversations, it is critical for an organization to      mentoring programs or women’s forums to support an
    carefully link a career management program to             employee’s growth.
    existing programs. Start by considering the following
    questions:                                                Program monitoring is an essential part of the change
    •• How does your career management strategy               process. It is important to measure the effectiveness of
       enhance or support your employment deal?               change or rollout activities (e.g., through surveys) and
    •• How does your career management program                make required course corrections. Organizations can
       support succession planning?                           also monitor the effectiveness of career management
    •• Have you clearly articulated how your career           programs overall (e.g., through engagement surveys and
       management program differs from and/or                 movement reports).
       integrates with existing performance management
       and development planning programs?                     Getting Started
    •• Does your career management program support            Before starting a career management program, it can
       workforce planning, given the projected loss of        be helpful to do an inventory of career management
       knowledge due to employee exits, and projected         components (e.g., job functions and families,
       knowledge requirements for sustaining and              competencies and career paths) that may already be in
       growing the business?                                  place and determine the visibility these elements have
    •• Are mentoring roles and responsibilities integrated    within your organization. It is not unusual to uncover
       into the expectations at various career levels to      stand-alone career management components that are
       enhance employee development?                          not linked together in a meaningful way.
 If these linkages and distinctions are not made clear,       Most often, organizations start developing a career
 an organization risks having its career management           management program within a specific area of the
 program be not well received and potentially regarded        organization (e.g., within a function such as sales).
 negatively (for example, as a performance management         Once a career management program is launched
 mechanism for determining who will lose their job in         in one part of an organization, it often generates
 a layoff).                                                   excitement and buzz so that other areas are shortly
                                                              asking for their turn as well.                                                                                      Career Management: Making It Work for Employees and Employers 7
There are various circumstances that provide                         Figure 6. Career management is important to both the employee and the employer
organizations with an impetus for starting a career
management program. In some cases, employers use
a career management program to help address talent                            Employee view                             Employer view
pain points (i.e., areas with current or projected talent              Career management is the system           Career management generates an
shortages) or to help valuable employees update their                  that enables employees to own             ROI in employee development.
skills in response to a changing work environment.                     their careers.
In other cases, an organization may decide to move
                                                                     Career management provides:               Career management provides:
ahead with a career management initiative in response
to employee requests.                                                •• Clarification of the organization’s    •• Career paths that fill a robust talent
                                                                        career management philosophy:             pipeline to meet business demands
It is also not uncommon for an organization to focus
                                                                        •• What types of skills are valued?    •• Deeper bench of future leaders who
on career management after having gone through
                                                                        •• What are the roles of the              have had the requisite experiences to
a process of segmentation and differentiation.
                                                                           employee and manager in career         fill key roles in the succession plan
Using insights from a workforce segmentation, an
                                                                           conversations?                      •• Engaged employees meeting personal
organization can develop career programs tailored
                                                                     •• Access to information on career           career aspirations and making a greater
to different employee groups, for example, by
                                                                        opportunities                             contribution to business results
stretching programs with increasingly complex projects
                                                                     •• User-friendly tools and resources to   •• An enhanced value proposition that
for employees in pivotal roles and high-potential
                                                                        chart career paths and develop a          attracts and retains top talent
employees who are critical to business success.
                                                                        career plan                            •• Reduced turnover costs in critical
                                                                     •• Resources to enhance skill sets           positions and levels
A Win-Win Proposition                                                   and think about meaningful work        •• Diminished search firm and training
Finally, it is important to recognize that career                       experiences                               fees
management is a key component of an organization’s
total rewards portfolio. An effectively designed and
implemented career management program delivers
benefits to both employees and employers (Figure 6).
Employees will have the tools and resources to chart
career paths and own their careers. And employers will
see a return in the form of a deeper bench of future
leaders, a more engaged workforce and an enhanced
employment deal, enabling them to attract and retain
top talent.

About Towers Watson
Towers Watson is a leading global professional services
company that helps organizations improve performance
through effective people, risk and financial management.
With more than 14,000 associates around the world,
we offer consulting, technology and solutions in the
areas of benefits, talent management, rewards, and
risk and capital management.

Copyright © 2014 Towers Watson. All rights reserved.

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