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Effective career management

Wednesday December 24, 2014 Written by 
Many employees believe they will need to leave their current employers in order to advance their careers.

Career management programs are supposed to help employees understand advancement opportunities and chart career paths with their organizations. However, new research reveals that employers and employees alike agree career management programs are largely failing to meet these goals.

According to the Towers Watson Global Workforce Study, 46 per cent of all employees - and just 59 per cent of high-potential employees - say that their organization provides useful career planning tools. An even smaller group (42 per cent) report their employer provides advancement opportunities.

Roughly four in 10 employees believe they would have to join another company in order to advance their careers.

Employers also see shortcomings

Employers for their part also recognize that their career management programs are falling short.

The Towers Watson Talent Management and Rewards Survey reveals that less than half of employers (49 per cent) say they are effective at providing traditional career advancement opportunities, while an even smaller group (38 per cent) report they are effective at providing nontraditional career development opportunities.

However, employers rank career management opportunities as the number one reason that employees would join a company, ahead of base salary and challenging work.

“Many companies are failing to see the big picture when it comes to career management programs and are in danger of losing some of their best talent,” said Renée Smith, a talent and rewards director at Towers Watson. “The lack of career advancement opportunities is the number two reason that employees leave an organization. Pay is the number one reason. At a time when hiring and turnover are increasing, and employers are experiencing problems attracting and retaining talent, employers need to understand the importance of providing career advancement opportunities. Currently, their programs are coming up short.”

In a newly published paper, “Career Management: Making It Work for Employees and Employers,” Smith says that while it might seem simple enough to organize jobs, provide career planning tools, define competencies and communicate opportunities, the reality of building an effective career management program is more complicated. Smith points to several challenges identified in the Talent Management and Rewards Survey that employers face in developing and delivering effective programs:

  • Career architectures and paths are poorly defined. Less than half of employers (48 per cent) report their organizations have career architectures or formalized frameworks and career paths in place.
  • Managers are ill equipped to deliver. Only one-third of employers (33 per cent) say managers are effective at conducting career development discussions as part of the performance management process.
  • Technology is not effectively leveraged for career management. Less than half of employers (45 per cent) make effective use of technology to deliver career advancement programs.
  • Most organizations don’t know if their programs are working. Only one in four respondents (27 per cent) monitors the effectiveness of their career management programs.

Smith says other factors are also contributing to this challenge. “Information related to career management is often communicated in a disjointed manner. In some organizations, different parts of HR own different elements of the career management process without clear accountability or partnership. Additionally, organizations may lack the business buy-in for career management programs, which can make career management the sole domain of HR. Given this situation, it’s critical for employers to step back and think through how to best design, deliver and measure an effective and integrated career management program,” said Smith.

The Towers Watson Global Talent Management and Rewards Survey was conducted from April through June and includes responses from 1,637 companies worldwide, including 337 companies from the United States. The participants represent a wide range of industries and geographic regions.

The Towers Watson Global Workforce Study covers more than 32,000 employees, including 6,014 from the United States, selected from research panels that represent the populations of full-time employees working in large and midsize organizations across a range of industries in 26 markets around the world. It was fielded online during April and May.

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