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Career Planning: The Way it Was
Many organisations had, and some still have, elaborate schemes for career planning. ‘Talent Management’ as it is often called can focus on the career of all staff. Most, however, focus on the career of a few. This happens for two main reasons:
- Providing each individual with a satisfactory career – aiding retention and motivation.
- Ensuring the organisation makes the best use of its people.
To do this, they rely on either the formal data of assessment forms, or on the informal data of subjective impressions. Mostly it is a mixture of the two. These career planning processes cause continual issues in most organisation. This is largely due too:
- Succession planning does not always come to fruition. In one organisation for example, after ten years, only 10% of the managers in the scheme were in the positions planned for them ten years before. As we have stated, the world of work changes at an increasing rate. Plans become irrelevant as departments shift, technology updates, and organisational structures flatten.
To do this, they rely on either the formal data of assessment forms, or on the informal data of subjective impressions.
- Succession schemes often rely on the subjective impressions of senior managers. They are often hidden so that staff do not know if they are on a succession scheme or not. The consequence is that many employees mistrust them. They feel they have not really had the opportunities they wanted and merited. Hence, they feel frustration.
- Good managers are often ‘hidden’ within divisions at the expense of the whole organisation.
- Assessment is usually judged against the individual’s current career pattern. So it is difficult for a technical specialist to become a manager and vice versa.
- These career planning tools often take little account of the staff members’ own desires. No one asks or takes account of their view as to where they should be in their next 5 years.
- Failure in a role can be permanently damaging and produce a permanent stigma – people get ‘labelled’.
- As the organisation is seen to take responsibility for the individual’s career, less emphasis is placed on self-development.
To alleviate some of these negative consequences, the following have been tried by organisations:
- The HR department initiates all appointments. That then becomes an issue for managers feeling like they ‘own’ the member of staff.
- Appraisal forms are destroyed after a fixed period of time and so loosing a negative incident.
- The organisation assess the ‘potential’ of a member of staff rather than just their ‘performance’.
- Open systems of appointment are adopted. All positions advertised and all (or a certain band) employees invited to apply.
However, despite these corrective devices, it remains true that career planning in many organisations is a ‘weeding out’ process rather than a developmental process. Hurdles of different sizes and shapes are placed in the way of progression. This might fulfil an organisations hidden objective of promoting the philosophy of the survival of the fittest. However, career planning drawbacks are considerable for the organisation and the individual. These include:
- Rigid hurdle systems tend to have older management, and high departure rates from younger levels.
- There is no remounting process for when people fall at a hurdle. This again exaggerates departure rates.
- Some intervals (time in each job before the next promotion) are too short. As a result, most successful managers seldom do a job for more than two years before their next promotion. This teaches them nothing about long-term planning and strategic follow-through. They often also become too much of an all-rounder with no specific focus or expertise.
Developing People In Changing Structures: The Way It Became
A study by a leading management training centre reported widespread disillusionment and low staff morale within organisations that were changing their structure. For many employees, the new flatter structure was seen solely as a cost-saving measure. It was also seen as having put an end to their career hopes. They viewed promotion through an established structure with training schemes to support each move as a thing of the past. For many managers, their career planning to date had led them to expect this from their organisation. All too often change results in a demoralised cadre of managers who have lost many respected friends while their opportunities for promotion melted away. As a consequence, they have begun to view their employer in a less favourable light.
As a reaction to the negative impact on careers, organisations are attempting to fight back. They are using a number of methods to replace the need for career planning:
- A concentration of ‘high potential’ staff. This is a group of staff that could be at any level of the business. Unfortunately, they account for only 3-5% of total staff. Harvard University state that they are:
“High potentials consistently and significantly outperform their peer groups in a variety of settings and circumstances. While achieving these superior levels of performance, they exhibit behaviours that reflect their companies’ culture and values in an exemplary manner. Moreover, they show a strong capacity to grow and succeed throughout their careers within an organization—more quickly and effectively than their peer groups do.”
- Engagement has become a hot topic at Board level. In basic terms, it is a principle that with the right stimuli, staff can feel part of the brand and the business. Thereby increasing their length of stay, overall productivity, and their willingness to contribute to the organisations goals and objectives.
- Relaxing working patterns and enhancing the working environment.
- Enhancing the employability of staff to the outside world. This has been called the ’employability paradox’. Roughly translated means, the more I make you employable to the outside world, the more you stay with me. They idea is that you stay because you know your personal objectives are being taken care of.
- Finally, staff have begun to take more control of their career planning.
Controlling Your Own Career: Self Career Planning
From the individual’s point of view there are three good reasons why they must take responsibility for their own career planning:
- The organisational spotlight is on everybody since everyone’s contribution is now important.
- As organisations cannot easily predict the future and the skills required. Only the individual can make sense of this from their point of view.
- Organisational staffing has become more fluid. It is unlikely that it is worth the investment in all staff given the increasingly transient nature of staffing requirements.
- Therefore, nobody else is going to do it.
Together these arguments embrace not only job survival but also job satisfaction and long-term personal development, so they can truly be seen as the province of the individual.
The logic of career self-management seems obvious, yet people are reluctant to commit themselves to it. A survey of career attitudes of managers in the finance sector found what was described to be an ‘expectation lag’ – a naive belief that the axe will not fall on them. A second reason is that individuals may often have general ideas about career. However, they lack the skill to link their full range of personal characteristics with a range of possible career roles. Career planning appears complex and strange to them.
The logic for self-development and career planning can also be seen from the organisation’s point-of-view:
- Everyone’s contribution is important and everyone needs to be motivated. Therefore, to obtain maximum work performance, the process for career planning adopted by the organisation must take account of every individual’s needs. This is clearly an uneconomic approach for all but the smallest of organisations.
- Short-term working patterns make it impossible for organisations to manage people’s careers in the long-term. So to avoid employee alienation, employers must provide people with the knowledge, skills and facilities to manage their own careers.
- As stated above, organisations are unlikely to have the resources and desire to manage employees individual career planning needs. It therefore makes sense to encourage people to manage their own development.
There is no doubt that technology will catch-up with this issue over the next decade. Some software sellers already believe they are there. And they are in part. However, that software still largely concentrates on the top level of the organisation.
You will find on-going changes to careers for those following pathways.
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