[Article published in Pakistan Management Review Vol. XL No.1 First Quarter 2003]
This article is based on research readings and personal experiences of implementing career development programs at various organizations served by the author in his over 20 years professional career in Human Resources field.
The businesses in the last couple of decades have seen rapid transformation with the Information Technology intervention. The pace of technological transformation is posing greater challenges for HR professionals to retain and maintain competent employees to gain advantages of IT revolution. The emerging concepts of global village and global competition have resulted in change in the strategic perspective of organizations. The ever-increasing strategy of mergers and amalgamations to capture bigger market share have created complex HR issues. The global competition means an increased awareness of competitive environments. Not only are these organizations competing with others for a share of the market, they are also competing to keep employees. With the fast paced technological advancements, the employment market is faced with a dearth of skilled and competent people available to fill the gap. In these days of job seeker’s market employers will have to provide more than a good salary and benefits to keep good and even mediocre employees
Companies are vying to be the “employer of choice” and it is expected that competition for employees will continue to be fierce, especially for technically competent persons. Today’s employees want to work for an employer who will continually upgrade their skills to keep them competitive with their peers from other companies. One might think that enhancing employee’s skills means preparing them for job elsewhere. This is not necessarily true. Employees are probably more likely to be loyal to an organization that shows a personal interest in them. Today, workers expect and demand more as they change jobs and even careers throughout their lifetime. Job security and benefits are not as important as feeling a part of the organization that offers upward career mobility and a balanced quality of life.
Therefore, organizations are offering a variety of special retention programs for their employees, such as flexible work schedules, employee recognition programs, telecommuting, job sharing, and internal career development programs.
Why a Career Development Program?
Career development programs within organizations are effective retention tools and are fast becoming an employee expectation. One of the frequently asked questions during employment interviews by applicants relate to career growth and advancement that the prospective job offers. Career development can help an organization [a] minimize employee dissatisfaction over unclear future opportunities, [b] keep employees focused on long-term objectives, [c] lower replacement costs when higher-level employees resign or retire, as readily available candidates may exist, [d] increase flexibility in assignment of duties as employees become multi-skilled in different areas.
What is Career Development?
Career development is mostly seen as a succession planning whereby the employers develop high potential employees for future job vacancies that may be created due to resignation, retirement, or retrenchment. In essence career development is seen a step beyond succession planning where the organization makes an effort to match individual employee goals with the needs of the organization. It is a systematic process of guiding the movement of organization’s human resources through various positions and layers of the hierarchy. The objective is to have highly multi-skilled personnel available to assume greater responsibilities in future to align the organization’s strategies for growth and advancement.
Internal career development programs are a relatively recent phenomenon. Larger corporations began to develop them in the late 1980s and early 1990s and they are beginning to appear in smaller organizations. It would seem logical that employee morale and productivity would rise if an organization invested in the careers of its employees. After all it is a win-win situation for both employer and employees.
The call for career development has become critical in almost all the organizations moving towards or faced with the threat of global competition. The need for multi-skilled workforce equipped with competencies to operate highly technological advanced equipment and instruments in industries necessitates organization to initiate career development plans to have human resources edge in transformation of business with the changing technological environment.
Career development programs within organization, can be an effective tool for retention, improving communication, broadening employee skills, raising employee morale and job satisfaction and even attracting quality applicants. The typical employee views a career development program as a path to upward mobility, the manager sees it as a retention and motivational tool and upper management views it as a tool for succession planning. From any angle, it is a win-win proposition.
Career development programs may consist of any of the following: individual career counseling where the employee explores his or her values, skills and interest; the creation of an individual development plan; ongoing training in a variety of areas such as communication, computer software, management and supervision and technical skills; tuition reimbursement plans; courses that teach employees how to successfully interview for positions within the organization; in-depth orientation programs that inform employees about all aspects of the organization; annual performance reviews; a career information library; coaching and/or mentoring programs; and succession planning programs.
What are the Elements of a Strong Career Development Program?
A comprehensive career development program will contain the following:
- An employee orientation program that offers detailed information about the career development program and the organization, its mission and its values.
- A training program in which managers learn how to coach employees;
- A career development center or library where employees have access to job search and labor market information;
- Access to a career counselor for individual sessions;
- A performance appraisal system where employees receive ongoing feedback;
- Career development workshops on topics such as networking, interviewing, interest/value/skill exploration and identification, managing career burnout and goal setting;
- A job posting system where employees have access to position announcement;
- Access to organizational job descriptions so employees are aware of necessary competencies and requirements for other positions;
- A career pathing system so employees know what careers are available to someone with their skills and training;
- Internal training programs where employees can build upon their skills and learn new ones to prepare them for promotions and to learn about the organization;
- A formal mentoring program where employees learn from others who are already in position to which they may aspire;
- A succession planning program that identifies competencies for higher positions and identifies and develops potential employees who would fit those positions;
- A tuition reimbursement program that allows employees to enroll in colleges or professional development courses;
- A course on how to apply to colleges and select a program of study;
- A program for job rotation or internal internships where employees can have on-the-job experiences working in a new setting to develop and use new skills;
- A supervisory/management development program that trains supervisors and develops potential supervisors; and
- Exit interviews to ascertain why employees leave the organization.
The above list provides a broader view of human resources initiatives that lead towards a comprehensive career development activity in an organization. Certainly, not every organization will be able to implement all of these elements due to staffing issues, budget constraints or employee needs. A strong career development program does not have to contain all of these elements. Knowing the need of your organizations and its employees will help you decide which of these elements to implement.
Creating a Career Development Program
One of the biggest challenges HR professionals face is to decide how to develop an effective career development program? It is a core HR activity that requires a well-planned and time-monitored approach as its effects have longer-term implications for the organization.
So how do you go about creating a career development program for your organization? First, decide which of the aspects listed above you want to include in your program. One of the critical thing to consider at this stage is staff time to develop and maintain the program and the cost of the program which also includes cost of assessment tools, training materials, possible new staff, books and videos about career development, external educational costs etc.
Next, create a team of people from various functions to prepare a comprehensive program for your organization. Consider employee needs by conducting a needs assessment if necessary. If your employees are mainly intermediate or diploma holders in a manufacturing or industrial setting, the career development program might consist of soft skills training such as communication, business writing and supervision skills; a plan for employee mobility up the ladder; and job rotation. If your employees were financial professionals, you would obviously have a completely different type of program focusing on continued finance and business education, succession planning and so on.
Developing a comprehensive career development program for your organization requires a systematic approach where your HR team has to have a complete support from top management team. Every step in the career development program requires high degree of interaction and ownership from each functional area and individuals involved. It requires a team approach where players have to commit to accomplish their role within time limits. A comprehensive career development program may include the following steps:
I Business Plan:
In order for a career development plan to be effective, start with the organization’s strategic plan. Once an organization knows where it is going, how fast will it grow and what types and number of employees will be needed in the future, it will be ready to help map the career plans of its existing employees. Business plan preparation should essentially focus on both short (3-5 years) and long term (5-10 years). At this stage the focus is on the following activities:
- Mission Statement:It is the starting point for any career development activity. Developing your mission statement is the step, which moves your strategic planning process from the present to the future. At times we get confused on Vision and Mission Statement. Vision is a big picture. It is a dream, conception of an image. In a vision statement you say where it is you want to go. The Mission statement flows directly from the vision statement. It is the implementation of the vision and it outlines what must happen to realize the vision. It should be broad enough to allow for the diversity (new products, new services, new markets) you require of your business. And it will also be specific enough to provide the focus necessary to the success of your business. The mission statement should clearly indicate the strategic direction in which the organization plans to move. If the organization already has a mission statement, then it is the time to review it and make it more meaningful and in line with the vision statement. A good mission statement: will do/contain/is the following:
- Elicits an emotional, motivational response
- Is easily understood and can be transferred into individual action
- Has a measurable, attainable goal
- Is three to four sentences long
- Is simple, honest and frank
- Define Objectives at Functional levels:Mission statement provides a guideline for each functional area in the organization to plan their future strategies and operations. At this stage each core functional areas (Marketing, Manufacturing, Finance, Human Resources, Commercial etc) develop long and short-term objectives that are challenging and stretching enough to achieve the mission statement.
- SWOT Analysis:Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats make up the acronym SWOT. Strengths and Weaknesses are your internal business issues, while Opportunities and Threats are external to your business. In this age of new economic challenges it is essential that the organization get geared to meet and overcome these challenges. Traditional thinking and approach to business is not the answer. New business strategies and tactics are the need of the hour. The need is to take stock of current strengths and weaknesses and to identify opportunities and threats to determine a niche, which one can create for the organization in this age of mega businesses. One needs to analyze and determine where one can fit in the big scheme of things. SWOT Analysis on periodic basis for each functional area provides opportunity to review core organizational activities in the light of changing business environment. It helps in identifying areas requiring immediate attention to stay competitive in the business environment
II Organization Analysis
Having prepared the base for strategic business planning for the organization now is the time for HR team to review the human resources planning. To achieve mission statement, functional objectives and business competition strategy, the organization requires competent human resources available both in numbers and quality to meet the future organizational requirements. HR needs to review the core human resources systems to align with the business plan. The objective is to have competent personnel available to match the future job requirements. Some of the initiatives at this stage may include:
- Organization Structure:Review of present organization structures in the light of the business plan. Organization structures may be revised keeping in view Functional, Decision and Relations requirements. The strategy to transform present position into new structure has to be developed simultaneously.
- Job Analysis:Once the organization structure is reviewed and the strategy for transformation of present positions into new structure is developed, the next step is to conduct Job Analysis for new positions identified in the new structure. Job Analysis is a process to identify and determine in detail the particular job duties and requirements and the relative importance of these duties for new job. A typical method of Job Analysis would be to identify job duties, responsibilities, equipment used, work relationships, and work environment. The completed information will help to draw a job description and/or job specifications. The Job Analysis will also help future training, selection, compensation, and performance appraisal.
- Job Evaluation:Job Evaluation is a process of systematically determining the relative worth of the job to create a job structure for the organization. The challenge is to blend the internal forces of the organization with the external forces of the market. It facilitates in a fair wage and salary administration policy that is essential to employee retention. You must have a sound compensation structure that will be understood and accepted by your employees while allowing you to establish control over one of your largest investments – payroll. There are different methods both quantitative and qualitative for job evaluation. The focus should be that whatever method is used for job evaluation, the compensation structure so established should be market driven.
- Performance Management System:A well-designed Performance management describes the processes by which managers improve the performance of their employees by utilizing their power to reward, develop or discipline as appropriate. It will give them the power to:
- Retain their best employees,
- Give these employees a reason to maintain their good performance,
- Deal with poor performers appropriately, and,
- Attract the type of employee that they need. Each organization has its own approach to appraising employees. However every Performance Management System must include the following essential components to make it transparent and meaningful for both the organization and the employee:
- A performance plan is negotiated between a manager and employee for a given period (usually one year). The employee agrees to achieve a specified level of performance in exchange for a reward or to avoid discipline. The plan also commits the manager to assist the employee improve his/her performance.
- During the year the manager gives employees feedback on their performance and may suggest how it can be improved.
- Performance is appraised at year-end and decisions are made to reward, discipline or develop employees. Performance is measured in terms of either goals or competencies. Goals are best reserved for professional or managers and competencies used for employees who are less skilled and/or have less control over their work environment. Performance pay or promotional opportunities are typical rewards. Discipline may include dismissal, suspension, loss of privileges or counseling and are usually applied only to willful misbehavior.
- Employee development, (rather than discipline) is used to address incompetence. Employees who either cannot or will not successfully undertake this development are made redundant to their position and either redeployed to a position they can handle (if one is available) or given a redundancy package.
- The cycle is completed with a new performance plan. The second stage of organizational analysis enables the organization to review its core HR systems and to prepare the base for launching the career development activities. The review of organization structure, job analysis, job evaluation and performance management provides a sound HR system for organization to retain most competent people that will grow and transform to attain the organizational vision.
o Key Result Position: It relates to review of organization activities and identification of key result positions within each functional area that are critical and contribute towards success of each respective function.
o Key Result Areas (KRAs) in Key Result Positions: For each Key Result Position an analysis is made to identify the core activities that need to be performed to meet the job responsibilities. This can be achieved by critically reviewing job content. The 80:20 Rule is applied to identify those 20% of the job responsibilities that have 80% effect on the success of the job position.
o Performance Standard: For each KRAs, a performance standard is set to objectively evaluate the competence of employees performing it. Performance standard has to be measurable in terms of quality, quantity, time or cost. The evaluation of each employee on KRAs will facilitate in identification of performance gaps that would become the development plan for individual to attain a desired level of competence.
o Improved productivity stemming from the identification of key competencies that drive the organization
o Clear linkages of competencies with performance evaluations
o Enhanced training effectiveness through focus on the right skills at the right time.
o Improved retention of qualified people through increased developmental opportunities and more flexible work design
III Career Path:
The previous stage set forth the foundation for developing career paths or maps as they are sometimes called. Normally career paths should be created for all employees, but especially those who are identified as having long-term growth potential within the organization. From an individual’s perspective each person’s career progresses through stages that together make up the career cycle. There are basically three stages to a career cycle:
- Exploration Stage: In this stage, a person explores various occupational alternatives. Some broad occupational choices are usually made (for example, the desire to be in a technical field and work in the computer industry) and then it is narrowed down to a process of working in different jobs within the industry (for example, starting in hardware maintenance and then migrating to programming or network administration).
- Establishment Stage: During the establishment stage, an individual has found an occupation that suits him or her and begins to focus on the activities that will help him or her earn stability or mobility within the field. Examples of this would be to pursue additional education, certifications, or promotion opportunities. This stage begins as a trial establishment stage in which an individual may still wish to pursue different specializations within a chosen field. For example, in HR field, this may include working in benefits and then possibly moving to another functional area such as recruiting or compensation.
- Maintenance Stage: The final stage is the maintenance stage. At this level, an individual may become more focused on gaining seniority within their field and achieving recognition as a subject matter expert or informal trainer or mentor of new employees.
Understanding these stages will help managers better plan for their employee’s career paths that also meets the future requirement of the organization.
To prepare career paths in the organization, the HR needs to collaborate with each functional area to initiate identification of:
- COMPETENCY ANALYSIS
Competency Analysis is very critical to career development activity as it is one of the best tools for developing and preparing the qualified and competent employees for the future requirements of the organization. Competencies are the knowledge, skills, abilities, personal characteristics, and other person based factors that help distinguish superior performance from average performance under specified circumstances. It is a derivative of job analysis. Competencies are comprised of sets of skills, knowledge, and behaviors that are observable and measurable. Thus a Competency Model enables the organization to use consistent groupings of competencies for hiring, training, performance management, development, and selection. Different groupings of these core competencies are used to reflect the complexity of today’s work and workers.
Benefits of using a Competency analysis can include:
Better promotion selection and reduced perception of unfairness. Greater employee support and trust for an integrated human resources management system that delivers the same messages and reinforces the same values.
There are many sources from which the data for competency analysis can be drawn, for example task analyses, focus groups, surveys or combination of these methods. Analysis of the data is best done with a team of subject matter experts, human resources staff and OD professionals.
The approach to develop competency profile requires breaking down the job into various skills required to undertake it. The strength of this approach is that it gives a common language to describe a specific competency, and thus avoid any later misunderstandings. The competency profiling is based on clearly defined characteristics that not only look at individual jobs but across a range of jobs in and across business and functions. A well-designed Competency Model will include the following four categories:
- Core:These are competencies seen as common across the organization.
- Product:These are related to product knowledge and will be specific to the relevant businesses or functions.
- Regulatory:These include both external and internal regulatory competencies and control/compliance.
- Technical:Specific skill sets related to detailed use for each function e.g. under Human Resources Management will be HR specific skills.
These categories of competencies are further defined in four levels to describe all the jobs in the organization. A generic skills profile for key jobs would look like a chequer board showing how the competencies and levels are displayed.
While developing a Competency Model the focus may include to address the following questions:
- What level of detail is needed to meet our human capital functions?
2. How different is our environment form other successful organizations like ours?
3. To what extent do the competencies of today’s employees reflect the competencies required of tomorrow’s employees?
4. What resources to invest and within what timeframe to accomplish this efforts.
Competency Analysis stage is the core activity in the career development program and the success of the whole process depends on how well we have defined job roles and skills profile for each job level. The above questions if taken care off properly will help in developing a valuable career development plan for the organization.
- POTENTIAL ANALYSIS
Potential Analysis is an assessment process designed to identify high potential employees on a periodic basic, normally between 2-3 years time period. A potential evaluation activity should be carried out independently from annual performance appraisal exercise so that the current year performance may not bias an individual potential evaluation. The common mistake of promoting someone as a reward for doing well in the present job at times results in failure of individual to meet the next higher job requirements. Conversely the current job performance of an individual may not be very encouraging but the individual may have some of the skills, which are not applied at current job level but could be of value to next higher position, Potential appraisal is normally done by the immediate boss or departmental manager and focuses on employee’s capability to perform higher-level jobs when it becomes available. The potential appraisal form may contain the critical competencies, personal characteristics, and work experiences required for next higher position. The potential appraisal ratings are normally kept different from performance ratings. It provides information on whether the person is capable of taking higher job assignment immediately or will require certain development of skill to qualify for the higher job or does not have potential to move any further in the organization. The evaluation provides indication of employee’s potential to assume job responsibility for 2-3 higher levels. It also provides information on employee’s reaching the maximum level within the organization. The information provided in potential assessment is useful for preparing career development plan for each employee.
HR department has to maintain appropriate information on potential analysis of each individual and periodically assess the status of each employee over the years of employment tenure. The potential evaluation information provides useful information to HR for identification of high potential employees who according to their respective department are considered to be high value employee and may be future managers of the organization.
- HR INVENTORY OF POTENTIAL EMPLOYEES
Having followed the above five steps, your HR team is now fully equipped to launch the career development activity for the organization. The business plan is tied up with the required organization structure and systems for developing competent employees to meet the future requirements. At this stage a comprehensive inventory of each employee is prepared and maintained on a continuous basis for use in development activity. This information is critical in planning and effecting career moves at the right time of each employee. It is important that this inventory clearly identifies high potential employees whose performance and potential appraisal is reviewed periodically to ensure that they are provided enough challenges and career growth to retain them. The HR inventory of potential employee may include basic information on
b.Current Job Performance Ratings
c. Present Level of Competence
d. Potential Appraisal Ratings
e. Competency Skills Ratings
The above information may be maintained manually on well-designed card or on computer but should be handy and available to concerned functional managers conveniently.
VII. INDIVIDUAL CAREER DEVELOPMENT PROFILE
Employee Development Plan. as it is widely known. is almost universally recognized as a strategic tool for an organization’s continuing growth, productivity and ability to retain valuable employees. The profile basically guides an individual to do self-evaluation of current performance and competence and to develop capabilities for future job assignment. Normally the intention behind the Employee Development Plan is to produce a “contract’ between the employee and his/her boss relating to his/her development needs to enable them to be fully effective on the job. It is designed to clearly show what an employee has agreed to do in the next 12 months and specifically aims at restricting the development priorities between 6-8 to ensure that quality in achievement prevails. Alternatively instead of 12 month’s plan, the Employee Development Plan may be planned to achieve development in few key activities within each quarter of a year, with a fresh set of development activity for the next quarter. The development plan should be flexible to meet individual needs.
HR has to develop a step-by-step guide for preparing Employee Development Plan that also defines the role of individual employee, the immediate boss and HR role. A typical role may include:
- Individual employee’s Role:
Ultimately, career development is the employee’s responsibility. Using the job profiling prepared during Competency Analysis individual employee compares their current skills to the skills required in their job. Identify their personal skill gaps (by self-assessment against these). Consider possible training/development solutions. Prepare a personal development plan to discuss and agree with the immediate boss.
- Immediate boss’s Role:
The immediate boss has a critical role in development of their employees. Before individual career assessment meeting the immediate boss needs to identify the expertise, education, skills etc. needed for each position in the organization, division or department. Awareness of expertise, education, skills etc. currently available. Knowledge of higher-level positions that may become available for existing employees to be promoted and the types of positions which will most likely to be created in the near future based on organization’s growth strategy. The manager or immediate boss can help employees establish a formal plan by setting aside some time to meet with each employee to brainstorm what jobs/activities they have already performed, their strengths and development needs, review the Employee Development Plan and monitor progress periodically through performance appraisal, quarterly or annual meetings, informal periodic status check.
- HR department’s Role:
HR plays a vital role in keeping individual career development profile by completing the employee record of training and development activities and updating on the skills profile and act as a mentor for both employee and the manager in guiding on charting the development need, arranging training programs and appropriate job transfers for on the job development. Once the system is developed for Employee Development Plan, it at times becomes cumbersome for the organization, frustrating for employees and of uncertain for both if certain elements are neglected. Absence of following points may make the program less effective for the individual and the organization.
- Executive Support –
The top management supports in Employee Development Plan starts with a commitment to communicate the need for development and its importance to the organization from a strategic perspective. If they do not understand or agree with how development fits into workforce planning, a succession process or retention program, then HR will have real problem putting together a system that requires a budget, managerial attention and cross-organization support. The top management support is critical when opening occur in an organization for looking first to the system for internal selection.
- Management Involvement –
If top management show support for the system, there is a good chance that managers down the line will pay attention to the development needs of the organization. The manager’s role is to ensure that there is a connection between strategy and tactical implementation and to integrate development planning into everyday business. Manager has to believe that development of their employees will make a difference to the organization.
- Relationship to Performance Management –
Employee development should be clarified with respect to its relationship with the performance management system. HR has to ensure that employees and managers know how the process and documents fit together. Short-term plans for projects, long-term plans for the organization, career development plans for individual employee and skill-building for immediate performance deficiencies should be clearly differentiated and developed during the appropriate phase of performance management process.
- The Employee and the Development Process –
Employee often have an intense interest in their own development. Understanding what the employee values and how that relates to his or her development needs can greatly affect the type of development activity, its cost and ultimately its success. Employee involvement in the development process increases the likelihood of a positive outcome.
- Clear Expectations –
The reasons for development planning are well understood and that no promises are made on the program’s front-end. When employee expectations are not met, it can result in a well-trained or educated person leaving the company. There may be many reasons, like employee performance may change, the organization’s external competitive environment shifts that may result in expectations unmet through no fault of the organization or individual.
- The Use of Employee Data –
Employee who engages themselves in various development activities often participates in different types of assessments. It is very important that they understand how the data may be used and who has access to it.
- The Budget for the Development –
Development budgets have a propensity to evaporate during the fiscal year. The concept of return on investment needs to be recognized and supported with evidence where real business problems are solved through the development process.
- Administrative Support –
With the development initiative growing rapidly it is unwise to underestimate the importance of administration. Making calls to vendors, buying training supplies, sending email to workshop participants, making room reservation for training etc become a full time job and need to be planned properly.
- Systems and Technical Support –
The system and technical support is essential for development process to succeed. There is a need to plan in advance the type of support needed from IT personnel of your development process so that they can identify personnel requirement, software purchase and configuration of systems with the externally hosted system.
- Maintaining the “Human” Component in Development –
The exponential rate of innovation and computer technology have made development in today’s organization a requirement, not an option. The ability to learn is important, and it is just as important to do it quickly. A continuous dialogue with an employee is important to keep the “human” in “development”.
Once the program is developed and ready to be rolled out, employee ideally should receive specific information about what is available accompanied by a formal memo or a presentation by organizational leaders. Employees need to see that the program is a new and an important part of their corporate culture and that it will be supported as such by upper management. An ongoing commitment to the program by the organization’s leaders is essential to its success; otherwise, the employees may not see the value of participating. A strong internal career development program has great deal to offer employees at all levels with an organization, including improved job satisfaction, lower turnover rates, increased employee loyalty and more. It is a valuable tool in the ongoing attempt to strengthen and retain employees in a competitive workplace environment.
- Succession Planning – Key to Corporate Excellence by Arther X. Deegan IIA Wiley-Interscience publication, 1986
2. “Succession Planning” by Tim Orellano, PHR and Janice A. Miller, SPHR, April 1997
3. Article on “Career Paths” by Frances Kennedy, November 1998.
4. “Designing Organizational Programs for Employee Career Development” by Shelly T. Prochaska, February 2000
5. “Building a Career Development Program” Nine Steps for Effective Implementation by Alto Palo, 1996
6. “Introduction to Competencies” by Kenneth H Pritchard, CCP, August 1997
7. “Competencies: The Next Generation.” by Patricia A. McLagan, Training & Development, May 1997
8. “10 Key Points for Better Employee Development Planning, by Marty Streim, July 2001
9. “ Strategic Planning – Vision, Mission – Values” by Bill Birnbaum, CMC
10. “What”s The Difference Between Vision And Mission Statements” by Marylyn B Schwartz, CSP
11. “Job Anaysis: Overview” HR Guide to The Internet