Most Career Development Programs Fail to Meet Employee Needs

Here is an interesting article where your leadership can assist developing your team's talent and career path through linking career development with business priorities though strategic management strategies such as coaching.

 Most Career Development Programs Fail to Meet Employee Needs
Insights from Career Development Practice Leader Cate Jones Career development is about getting people to where they want to be and where the organization needs them to be.

As part of an overall talent management strategy, career development initiatives increase the odds that a workforce will be willing, ready, and able to move into the roles that an organization needs them to play when the marketplace demands change, speed, or innovation.

We know that effective career development is not easy, and the BlessingWhite 2007 State of the Career Report underscores the challenges that organizations face in executing career development strategies that achieve increased retention, engagement, and business performance.

Why worry now? The survey responses of nearly 1,000 executives and professionals from 33 countries indicate that too many employees are at risk of leaving. Only 48% of respondents believe they have decent career opportunities with their current employer, and over a third (39%) expect their next career move will take them elsewhere.

Key findings
Significant numbers of employees are skeptical of their employers' efforts.
Although most of the executives we interviewed described good intentions and significant investments in career development, less than half (40%) of survey respondents overall believe that their organization is committed to helping employees achieve personal career goals. One UK manager shared, "People development is seen as increasingly important — in fact as a strategic imperative. However, a lot of this relates only to the top commercial people in the company, and I see it as lip service only for most functional employees."

The large majority of employees don't benefit from career development initiatives.
Fewer than one in three respondents (29%), regardless of organization size or employee tenure, indicated that their employer's approach to career development meets their personal needs. One U.S. manager wrote: "You must take ownership of your career. Do not allow yourself to become a 'victim' of your company's misguided or ineffective structures."

Employees value advice and development over mere information.
Career coaches, career coaching training for managers, training/workshops for employees, and temporary assignments/secondments were rated by survey respondents as the most helpful career resources. Information (whether in print or online) consistently ranked as least helpful. During our interviews, employees often described how mentors or managers influenced their career decisions. They also praised the value of special projects, as a U.S. federal employee explained, "Temporary stints are very valuable. They help you broaden your skill set, and you make a lot of lasting contacts."

Lateral moves can be uphill battles.
Less than half of survey respondents overall (40%) agreed or strongly agreed that their employer makes it easy to pursue lateral career moves, not just promotions. Our interviews confirm that mobility across functions is a challenge — one that organizations are addressing by educating employees on alternate career paths and using internal PR to "legitimize" moves that aren't up an obvious career ladder. The sober tale of one CLO of a global division: "When we looked at the unacceptable turnover of our high-potentials, we found we had 'renters' not 'owners'. We also discovered it was easier for them to leave than to negotiate a career internally."

Our recommendations
Despite solemn findings, our interviews uncovered success stories in firms large and small. Here are three of the report's recommendations for ensuring that career development initiatives positively impact employee engagement, retention, and the bottom line.

Establish three cornerstones of career development success.

  • Individuals must own their careers, be clear about what they're looking for, and be committed to taking action. They cannot succeed on their own, however, nor should they manage their careers in a vacuum of free agency.
  • The organization must have a point of view about career development and provide tools and a structure to enable employees to develop their careers in the context of what the organization needs.
  • Managers stand at the cross roads where their team members' capabilities and goals meet the organization's priorities. They need to understand and buy in to the organization's career development point of view. They also must be competent and confident in supporting (not directing) employees' career journeys.

Link career development and business priorities.
The more employees know and care about the organization's direction and business priorities, the more willing and able they'll be to satisfy their career aspirations and apply the necessary skills when the organization needs them.

Take a multi-faceted approach.
Creating a strategic talent management strategy, with a blend of information, high-tech tools, coaching, development, and HR processes. High-tech tools excel at providing information to employees or gathering information about employees. Yet employees themselves place highest value on career coaches, managers or mentors, networks of colleagues, special projects, even training sessions — where they can exchange ideas and get advice.

The potential rewards are worth the effort to crack the code for career development that delivers for your unique organization and workforce: increased employee engagement, reduced turnover, and high performance that results from the right skills in the right place at the right time.