A Little Help?

little helpI recently spoke with Mark Royal and Mel Stark of The Hay Group, to discuss the latest edition of the annual “Most Admired for HR” list; a group of companies Hay and HRE annually identify among Fortune’s Most Admired Companies as those that typify best HR practices.

Over the course of our approximately 50-minute chat—snippets of which will appear in our December cover story highlighting a few of this year’s winners—we talked a lot about the traits Most Admired organizations share.

When asked what sets the HR functions at these companies apart, both Royal and Stark repeatedly pointed to their ability to redefine career arcs; getting employees involved in customizing their professional development courses—wherever they may lead—and helping them create plans for navigating their chosen paths.

Leading employers, for example, “are clarifying where employees should expect career development to happen—in their day-to-day job roles versus through formal development initiatives—as well as the roles and responsibilities of employees, managers and the organization in career development processes,” said Royal, senior principal at Philadelphia-based Hay Group Insight.

Some recent data, however, suggests the “average” employer hasn’t yet latched on to this idea.

For example, a recent survey from Woodcliff Lake, N.J.-based talent mobility consulting firm Lee Hecht Harrison asked 379 U.S.-based workers if their organizations used career planning and development to prepare employees for roles. Respondents said:

• Rarely (35 percent)

• Never (30 percent)

• Sometimes (19 percent)

• Frequently (10 percent)

• Nearly always (6 percent)

So, if you’re scoring at home, that’s just 16 percent of employees saying they are the beneficiaries of career planning and development support on a consistent basis, with 65 percent saying they hardly ever receive such support, if they receive any at all.

Those numbers align with Hay Group employee opinion norms, which reveal that only 57 percent of employees hold favorable views of their opportunities for learning and development in their organizations, and just 44 percent rate their opportunities for advancement highly.

Without the proper career planning and development support, workers will naturally scuffle, said Kristen Leverone, senior vice president of global talent development practice leader at Lee Hecht Harrison, in a statement.

“Pressures are mounting for a hyper-efficient workforce made up of just-in-time employees who are skilled and ready to take on roles and responsibilities quickly,” said Leverone. “But, with just 16 percent of employees [in the LHH survey] reporting they receive career planning and development support, many employees will struggle to succeed if they lack resources to build the skills needed to perform optimally.”

And, employees that aren’t adequately equipped to perform their jobs aren’t typically happy employees, which creates employee-engagement and possible retention issues as well, adds Royal.

“Opportunities for growth and development,” he says, “are among the most consistent predictors of employee engagement.”