Magazine article Training & Development

When Careers Flower, Organizations Flourish

Magazine article Training & Development

When Careers Flower, Organizations Flourish

Article excerpt


Far-reaching economic and societal changes are transforming the developmental needs of people and organizations. Ongoing organizational restructuring has become a permanent feature of the corporate landscape. Employers no longer imply the promise of job security in return for employee loyalty. Instead, more employers offer opportunities for development and continuous learning in return for high performance and productivity during an employee's tenure.

The demographics and expectations of the U.S. workforce are changing, as well. The workforce is increasingly diverse and increasingly concerned with striking a better balance between work and home life. The post-baby-boom generation is largely uninterested in promotion at any cost; today's "new-values worker" tends to prize family and leisure time at least as much as work.

Fierce global competition has prompted a major commitment of energy and resources to total-quality management. TQM's emphasis on customer service and continuous improvement also has led to the increasing empowerment of employees, who must be able to make decisions, troubleshoot, and take responsibility quickly and flexibly. Effective quality initiatives require a new set of competencies for both managers and employees.

All of these changes make organizational support for career development systems and processes imperative. Where can organizations start? As the field of career development has matured, it has spawned a wide array of tools and techniques for organizations to draw on. But our research indicates that most HRD practitioners consider isolated interventions far less effective than a systems approach to career development.

We recently surveyed 1,000 large U.S. organizations about their career development practices and attitudes. We compared our findings from that study with those from surveys of organizations in Europe, Singapore, and Australia.

We discovered that practitioners around the world share some basic goals and concerns. Many HR professionals grapple with such issues as how to develop people from within the organization to meet new challenges, how to use career development to enhance competitiveness, and how to refine the role managers play in career development.

More significantly, respondents share a strong belief in the need for systemic career development, even if their organizations do not yet have such systems in place.

Thinking about systems

An organization that uses a systems approach devises career development activities based on a common language and assumptions and integrates this system with other HR activities and overall business goals. Successful career development systems involve partnerships among managers, employees, and organizations, with each partner playing specific roles and handling specific responsibilities. Within this kind of framework, individual career development initiatives serve as catalysts for a variety of mutually reinforcing activities.

Survey respondents reported that their organizations derive the greatest benefits by linking career development initiatives to specific business objectives. What's more, the respondents stressed the need for managers to support career development systems by helping employees identify their skills, interests, and values; by helping them align their career goals with the needs of the organization; and by encouraging continuous communication and feedback to their supervisors.

To find out how organizations have effectively implemented career development systems, we studied 12 organizations. We found that despite their many differences, all of the organizations are committed to creating and sustaining career development efforts that either lay the foundation for a systems approach or build upon one. What follows are pictures of three effective career development systems at different stages, drawn from our research data. …

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