These are the thoughts and takeaways from the latest Talent Think Tank (TTT) held on Thursday 14th March 2013 hosted by Colt’s Aneta Jajkowska (HR Director), titled ‘Career Paths: Building, Implementing and Embedding’.
The following summary, prepared by our TTT partner the Chemistry Group, reflects a segment of the discussion held amongst senior HR and talent professionals from leading UK and international businesses. Specific company details, experiences and examples have been omitted from this summary as all discussions are held under ‘Chatham House Rules’.
Talent management is an integral element of HR’s core responsibility from a development, retention, engagement and a skills depository perspective. Developing internal career paths is an important component of this talent management mix and can influence whether an employee meets business’ expectations or underperforms to the detriment of the individual and employer.
This Talent Think Tank explored career paths and the best way to build, implement and embed them into the business, along with attempting to answer the following questions:
- What is the best way to manage the process and secure buy-in from the business?
- Who takes responsibility for ensuring the process is upheld; HR, the line-manager or the employee?
- Should all employees, regardless of performance / potential rating, be enrolled onto a career path?
As a group we discussed the topics above and through doing this also included many other elements under the Career Path subject heading. At the end of the session we went round the table and summarised what we had got out of the conversations and identified our key “takeaways”. For me, this was the point where it all came together to show a big picture of the component parts that we had been discussing. A model or framework of these conclusions could look like this:
Within a company, the employee ‘life cycle’ could be better utilised to become more valuable than it is in its current state. This life cycle roughly follows this path:
Attraction –> Recruitment –> Induction –> On Boarding –> Class of X Network –> Alumni group.
The Alumni group could then be used to feed back round into attraction and recruitment again. At any point in this cycle the group has a social or tangible network of people across the company that can be contacted to discuss issues or go to for help. Their career paths can be linked into this life cycle, also giving them a network of people to help them achieve their plans. The network can also give them someone to measure them selves against, ask what their jobs are like or get links to people who can help them to move or “unstick” their present job situation.
There is not only one way to skin a cat – or a career path! We discussed the fact that there are many options available, depending on the person involved and how they like to network or ask for help. This means that to make the paths work there needs to be many options open to people so that they can find the one that works for them.
These differing paths need to be equally valued and equally valuable; e.g. we discussed how important the ‘pillars’ in the company are – those people in the ‘mighty middle’ who do not want to be leaders of the business but are so integral to the running or operating of the company. If the ‘pillars’ are removed, the structure will collapse! We have to make sure that we show people that every career path is valued, and that management or leadership is not the only route. If this can be achieved it strengthens the employer brand, improves retention and can help make the business a destination employer.
You can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. Career paths have to be the individuals’ choice or you are wasting your time, effort and money! People will only get out of it what they want and if they don’t want to…. Let them go. They weren’t right in the 1st place! However just having a career path there for people may not be enough. You have to provide clear sign-posting with flashing lights and sirens! Story telling is a very good way to do this. Creating case studies that show the successes that ‘people like me’ experienced from following the career path. Online examples in an easily sharable format (prepared as blogs or short talking head films) are effective ways of communicating the message. The incentive to follow the path is there and people can judge by results.
“I am not targeted on developing, I want to develop because I know it will get me the X that I want”. That X may be a promotion, it may be the chance to leave at 5.00 3 times a week, it may be the chance to shadow an Exec member or it may be the chance to do a community project.
4. Behavioural Choice
It’s up to me! It is up to the individual if they will stay, leave or even come back to the business. We cannot change that in the end, however whatever they decide to do is down to the strength of the brand as to whether they will want to stay in contact. If you can create a brand that makes you an employer of choice, even if it is right for them to leave, they will always want to be looking for opportunities to come back or recommend others to come and work for the business. Or even give business back to the company.
The measurement of a good career path programme could then be seen as –
Do your employees feel that they are in control of their career and if so, are they aware of how they can:
- Network effectively with their peers giving them the chance to ask questions and have an awareness of the opportunities in the whole business
- Network effectively with senior people in the business so that they can clearly see what it is like to do their job and therefore if they would want it
- See how other people have progressed through the business and how they can do the same
- Be valued in any and every job
- Be respected for their contribution even if they leave
- Be valued and respected enough to keep in contact with them throughout their working life cycle and after they leave so that they may want to come back one day
- Value the company and the brand so much that they either don’t want to leave or if they do so that they will come back.