Firms need to help employees map careers

Jeff is a manager in a large manufacturing firm. When his company announced an expansion in his division he was excited because he thought there would be opportunities for him to advance. A few months into the process, however, he was surprised to learn that he was to get a new manager. The vice president had recruited his new boss from the outside without giving Jeff a chance at the job. Jeff was disappointed and discouraged. He wondered why he hadn't been considered, and he thought there must be something wrong with his performance that his boss wasn't telling him.

Pat is a dynamic woman who has worked in the information systems department of a financial services company for the last four years. She has recently been asked to take a lateral move to the customer service area. It wouldn't increase her income or her title but she knows it would give her additional experience in an important area of the company. The trouble is, she is worried that she will be out of the loop for promotional opportunities in her department and might lose her technical edge if she goes in this direction.

Tom's company has been laying off employees as a part of a reengineering effort. He's been told his department is going to be outsourced and he's going to be laid off. He wonders if he should stay in his current field or change careers altogether.

Jeff, Pat and Tom are facing career crossroads. What they need is in short supply in most companies: objective career coaching. Unfortunately, their companies, like many others, don't do a very good job helping them through these important career issues. Managers don't have the necessary skills and many short-handed human resources departments can't help except when a crisis hits.

Now that the unspoken contract of "guaranteed" job security has been broken, employees have begun to do what they should have done all along: take responsibility for their own careers instead of relying on the company to provide a promotional career path.

As a result, a new trend is developing that companies ought to pay attention to. Companies that provide career development resources to employees are becoming the preferred employers. And in this tight market for talent, these smart employers will have a strategic advantage when it comes to attracting and retaining the best workforce.

Here are some ideas to help your organization get smart about career development:

·        Make it a part of your corporate culture. Examine your corporate values and make "personal growth" or "helping each person succeed" part of your core philosophy.

·        Identify the core competencies that people will need to be successful in your company. And then use those competencies as a foundation for your people systems such as hiring and promotional criteria, training programs and performance reviews.

·        Teach managers how to be good performance and career coaches. Above all else, these skills are what the new workers crave the most from their managers.

·        Go beyond career development forms to design a living system. In other words, design a process where employees rotate to other areas, cross-train, go on temporary assignments and move through areas of the company on special projects.

·        Get creative and proactive with your development activities. For example, start assessment centers, hire an outside corporate coach for managers, and set up a career center.

·        Encourage honest and open performance and career feedback. If a 360-degree process is used, include coaching and facilitation support for managers and their teams.

·        Step up the training for employees so they have the know-how to manage their own careers.

Smart companies have begun to realize that the new social contract demands that employees bring up to date skills to the workplace. In return, the competitive company will help them acquire those skills and provide the tools to help them manage.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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