Tuesday 24 April 2012

Career Development: Challenges and Opportunities for Talent Managers / 3


    The other recent report on talent management I thought was interesting is SHL’s Assessment Trends report.  I’m particularly taken by SHL’s third key finding – that companies are giving up on career development:

“Despite the focus on engagement in 2012 and the finding that more than half of companies indicated focusing more on internal talent than hiring externally, just over a third of HR professionals cited career development as a top priority. Likewise, fewer HR professionals are using it as a retention strategy and fewer are offering a formal way for employees to find new careers internally.”


The report goes on:

“Providing internal career opportunities can help organizations keep top talent from seeking those opportunities elsewhere. Contrasting our findings from 2011, fewer organizations, nearly 60%, indicated using career development as a means of affecting retention. Likewise, formal career development programs were only used by a little more than one-fourth of respondents.

Are companies giving up on career development? If organizations believe that engagement is a top priority for their companies, formal career development programs are crucial to demonstrating to their workforce that career opportunities exist within their organizations. With only 30% of respondents indicating that career paths exist in their organizations for all jobs, it is not surprising that engagement is low. Best-in-class organizations are offering such programs to their employees, and for good reason, as some experts find that three areas that make the biggest impact on business are development planning, talent mobility and career development expertise.”


This last comment refers to Bersin’s analysis which I’ve posted on recently too.  However, I strongly echo the sentiment from a personal perspective as well.   And it’s no wonder that, if organisations are giving up on career development, that in their 2012 Management Agenda, Roffey find that 30% of employees (35% in the public sector) feel their careers are on hold.


We know that career paths have changed, becoming much more complex (if they’re still in existence at all).  For example, in their mass career customisation work, Deloitte (Benko and Weisberg) suggest that in the talent age, the industrial age ‘one size fits all’ career ladder is morphing into a series of flexible, personalised, zig zag career paths, or career lattices (and I think that is the positive spin).



Instead of trying to force nonlinear careers into one career ladder, they urge organisations to embrace and capitalise on these different expectations.

Bersin take the analysis further, suggesting a range of options that can support career development and mobility, and proposing that the key is matching organisational needs within individual needs and desires.



I agree with this too, though I lean more towards the importance of the individual in this equation than Bersin do (they find that simply telling an employee to manage their own career has a –5% impact on firm performance – “when you tell an employee to manage his / her own career, you are telling them that you do not really care - some will manage well, but most will manage themselves out of your company” - whereas an open, social market for careers has around a +15% impact.)

I agree there are some wonderful examples of firms which use career development to help match the supply and demand of their talent (eg IBM’s workforce management initiative, which I’ve blogged about previously).  And I also agree that use of a broader social networking system to share vacancies and allow people to promote themselves will increasingly become the norm (I’m less sure about the future for separate social networking tools that just support career development – see Taleo’s recent report on social talent).

But I still think equipping the individual to manage their own career within the organisational lattice is the most important thing an organisation can do.  And it’s why I like A&DC’s approach they call career engagement:

“Career development is focused on what the organisation can do for the individual, such as training and promotion opportunities. Therefore the responsibility is predominantly on the organisation and not on the individual. This is a relatively transactional approach as the focus is on satisfying the employee, rather than on what will help them flourish. This means that the potential benefits for both the organisation and the individual may not be as sustainable.

Career engagement is more collaborative and aligned with both the individual’s and organisation’s goals. It is about what an individual can do for the organisation, whilst also developing themselves and their career opportunities. Importantly, it can be achieved without the need to offer employees more financial rewards or necessarily providing promotion opportunities. The impact of career engagement is that these employees will be happier and more fulfilled, which will lead them to be more productive and proactive.”




Career engagement requires that employees:

  • Take ownership for their careers
  • Know themselves and their strengths
  • Know their own organisational impact and purpose
  • Knows their future career vision and how they are progressing
  • Has a positive mindset and the resilience to maximise their potential.


But employees will need help to engage in career development in this way.  For example, in Roffey’s Future of Careers report, survey respondents asked for:

  • Career seminars
  • Career workbooks
  • Career workshops
  • Externally facilitated career development/portfolio building events.


The problem with these is that workbooks are unlikely to be used for long and workshops, plus coaching etc, are prohibitively expensive in most organisations - hence the need for technology solutions.  And the best technology solution that I know of, and I’m now working to support, is Careergro.

The system focuses on three areas:

  • Assessment (3 basic tools on core values, skills and world of work plus advanced tools)
  • Development planning
  • Socialising career goals (goals, I think, can benefit from a separate social networking system, as having this split reinforces the focus on the individual vs just the company).




Let me know if you’d like to know more about this system.

I’ll also be continuing to post on talent managers’ challenges and opportunities, and will shortly be offering up two tickets to attend the Economist’s Talent Summit in London on 14th June, which I will also be speaking at and blogging about on the day.



  • Consulting - Research - Speaking  - Training -  Writing
  • Strategy  -  Talent  -  Engagement  -  Change and OD
  • Contact  me to  create more  value for  your business
  • jon  [dot] ingham [at] strategic [dash] hcm [dot] com



  1. Internal career mobility is monitored at my organisation and manged, encouraged via internal career portal and supported further by internal career mobility, promotion and advancement framework. This has overall improved succession readiness as well as reduced resourcing costs not to mention time to fill vacancy etc. contributed enormously towards engagement and overall talent credibility as well.

  2. Thanks John, hope to get the chance to discuss with you further one day I'm back in South Africa / the UAE or you're here...

  3. Hi Jon, I liked your blog on career development. I would recommend you to read www.harjeetkhanduja.com


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