The Importance of Career Planning

Written by: Rainee Busby
28 Mar 2015

Career planning is one of those subjects that just never seems to get past the talking phase. Promises are made, discussions are had, we may all have great intentions no doubt but, unfortunately, it doesn’t typically happen. If it does it’s very difficult to maintain, unless you leverage some sort of a tool and who even has the time to capture the data and keep it current for all their employees. But, if you could empower you employees to drive their own career it would be a win for all parties. Not only is this possible, but I believe it is necessary to create that sense of ownership that an employee should have over their own career.

By creating this type of environment you will open up time for your HR department to focus on strategic aspects of their job, which is a big benefit to the business and their on-going success. You will also add a foundational element to your employee value proposition which is instrumental in talent attraction and retention.

Create an Employee Inventory

This is the most valuable part of career planning. The goal is to understand your employees’ values, skills, likes or dislikes, interests, agility, competencies and motivators. You want to know about the employee as a person and know their behavioral traits. Certain traits are going to be more successful in certain positions than others. Although there are many ways to do this, I recommend understanding this through a series of exercises that are combined to provide critical data and gives an accurate picture of your employee.

Create a Job Inventory

If you don’t already have one, you should create a similar inventory of all of your jobs. Look at the job and what are the traits or characteristics that make people successful in this job. What are the typical employee inventory traits that makes someone a perfect fit? There’s an easy way to do this if you don’t currently have an inventory.

The Career Path Discovery Process

We encourage employees to learn from others and their experiences on similar career paths. It’s a great way to really understand a role and validate whether it’s a good fit. Young people frequently find that they are pointed down a career path that isn’t expected and sometimes has nothing to do with their course of study.

Informal Mentor Coaching Program

Collaboration is a critical part of career planning. Learning from someone who’s already journeyed down that path is the best approach. What a great way to learn and evaluate the pros and cons of their future positions and also the lessons learned along the way. Many companies attempt to create formal mentor/coaching programs. Very difficult to maintain and most fail. The informal atmosphere encourages and creates collaboration across your organization and is especially helpful for large companies who have multiple locations.

Identify Individual Skill Gaps for Employees

You can easily create a targeted development plan for each employee to set clear direction and realistic expectations. Through the career evaluation process a tool can identify what skills they will need to develop now and in the future as they prepare to move onto their next position. This can be helpful for our younger generations who sometimes have an unrealistic perspective of how quickly they can move within a company.

Challenges of Internal Movements

The movement of people into jobs causes business disruption unless it is managed in a structure way. I’m sure you’ve heard the term – ripple in the pond effect – too many ripples cause lots of disruption. Being able to plan in advance and encourage all your leaders to build succession planning within their areas of responsibility is a great way to avoid unnecessary disruption and helps smooth out the process. As they say, prior planning prevents poor performance!

Workforce Planning for the Future

Many companies don’t have the time to think about today’s plan let alone start thinking about 2 to 3 years down the road. Unfortunately, it’s an essential part of future business growth and targeted development to support that growth. Identify what are the future skills you are going to need, what roles are going to be necessary to execute your business plan. Once you have an idea what future roles you’ll need you can begin to identify internal talent early since we all know it takes time to develop. Hiring people from outside the organization have a high failure rate versus growing from inside the organization.

Right People in the Right Role

As employers we need to think in terms of strategic alignment (link talent gaps) both short and long term. Career planning does that for you. Through your employee inventory you are able to look at alignment and ensure that you have the right people in the right positions. Some positions provide more value than others. You want to best people in your most valuable positions to gain your competitive advantage.

Increase Employee Engagement & Retention

Employee engagement can be defined as an employee’s level of commitment or passion around a business and their positions within that business. Engagement has been proven to improve revenue, productivity, customer satisfaction, profitability, safety… Engagement surveys are very popular and effective if a company acts on the results. Unfortunately, many don’t which is a huge mistake causing a further decline in engagement. The #1 driver globally is career development and planning. People want to know what’s next and how they are going to get there.

Validated Succession Planning

We discussed how valuable succession planning is in one of our previous shows, and career pathing gives purpose to that plan. Many companies create succession plans based on the leaders best guess. Very seldom is it validated with that employee. Typically it’s kept confidential and many times the employee is unaware they’ve been identified. Sad but true. By leveraging the critical data that is captured with a career pathing tool you can validate that employee’s interests which in turn validates your succession plan as well. I really like to think of it as succession management.

Employee Inventory Data

The only way to make decision is based on real data – the FACTS! Our people related technology/software is outdated in many cases. Capturing employee specific data that related to them as an individual is seldom done. Typically, it’s discovered through leader/employee conversation but never systemized. Using real data to make critical career decisions takes you way above the competition when it comes to employee satisfaction and engagement. It really enables you to know them and what’s important to their career. Not what you think is important.

Targeted Development to Promote Agility

CEOs need a workforce that can react quickly to volatile market demands and changes. They need employees who can plug and play when needed. Planning in advance to validate succession planning and to use data you can easily identify the best people to move where you need them most. The visibility is so critical to every business no matter how big or small you are.

Effective Performance Management Discussions

Traditional performance management processes are outdated and painful for many. We believe you should focus performance on not only the current role but also their future role as well. Conversations every 90 days to assess progress, change direction, create the synergy between a leader and employee that builds a high performing culture which is a key benefit of career planning.

Knowledge Transfer and Capture

Many industries are getting hit hard with a large number of people planning to retire. They are struggling with how to extract the intellectual knowledge that is also walking out the door. Getting people to collaborate and work together will push this knowledge down into the organization and dramatically reduce the risk of losing critical expertise and knowledge. It requires planning and career pathing can enable that.

Overcome the Challenges

It takes some work but the benefits way out weight the effort. Many people feel so overwhelmed they don’t want to add anything else to their plate, but if you implement something like this, your problems will be resolved by default through developing leaders and bringing up people within your organization to help alleviate some of that stress.

Career Pathing Tools – Fuel50

Any type of software will help you streamline, automate and leverage your best practices. One tool that we use and we recommend to our clients is Fuel50. This tool is developed by career engagement specialist who needed a tool to support their consulting business. They now market the tool and no longer provide consulting services. It was clear a tool was going to be an integral part of creating the career experience that is so necessary as our labor market continues to tighten.

Give you employees the keys and the GPS system and turn them loose. Your leaders should be coaching and supporting them on their journey. Many leaders are uncomfortable in this space and having these type of conversations. Fuel50 offers training at all levels to ensure everyone has the skills they need to be successful. It also supports all the key elements of career planning that we’ve mentioned in this article.

As we move forward, our younger workers are going to demand career pathing as part. It is currently a major factor in why they are job hoping so frequently. We promise career paths and opportunities and before long they realize we try hard but are challenged on the actual delivery

Ultimately, the cost is minimal per employee – what a great value it can add if you can include a self-driving career tool in their benefits which will drastically improve the whole employee value proposition.

Next week we’ll be talking about HR systems, software and tools. The employee related software packages in many cases are either outdated or don’t exist. It’s sad that a company’s most valuable asset is barely tracked. It’s a big cost and a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Check us out next week where I’ll give you some tips and techniques to ensure you’re getting a fair deal and not being taken advantage of by software vendors.

Learn more about topics from our Career Planning discussion by contacting Rainee Busby to start your company’s Career Planning Development.

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