The latest indication that career-planning programs are basically failing to help employees plot their courses and understand advancement opportunities they might find at their companies comes from Towers Watson’s 2014 Global Workforce Study, which finds fewer than half (46 percent) of more than 32,000 global employees polled say their organizations provide useful tools for plotting their career paths.
Worse still, at least in my opinion, is that 59 percent of high-potential employees — a group employers should be working hard to keep — say their employers provide the right tools.
Here’s another discrepancy: According to another Towers Watson poll — the 2014 Global Talent Management and Rewards Study – half of employers (49 percent) say they’re effective at providing traditional career-advancement opportunities; however, employers also rank career-management opportunities as the No. 1 reason employees would join a company, ahead of base salary and challenging work.
“Many companies are failing to see the big picture when it comes to career-management programs and are in danger of losing some of their best talent,” says Renée Smith, a talent and rewards director at Towers Watson. “The lack of career-advancement opportunities is the No. 2 reason that employees leave an organization. Pay is the No. 1 reason.
“At a time when hiring and turnover are increasing, and employers are experiencing problems attracting and retaining talent,” she says, “employers need to understand the importance of providing [these] opportunities. Currently [and clearly], their programs are coming up short.”
In a newly published paper, “Career Management: Making It Work for Employees and Employers,” Smith says that, while it might seem simple enough to organize jobs, provide career-planning tools, define competencies and communicate opportunities, the reality of building an effective career-management program is more complicated. She points to several challenges identified in the Talent Management and Rewards Survey that employers face when trying to get the right kind of programs off the ground:
- Career architectures and paths are poorly defined. Fewer than half of employers (48 percent) report their organizations have career architectures (or formalized frameworks) and career paths in place.
- Managers are ill equipped to deliver. Only one-third of employers (33 percent) say managers are effective at conducting career-development discussions as part of the performance-management process.
- Technology is not effectively leveraged for career management. Fewer than half of employers (45 percent) make effective use of technology to deliver career-advancement programs.
- Most organizations don’t know if their programs are working. Only one in four respondents (27 percent) monitors the effectiveness of their programs.
Smith says there are other factors contributing to this challenge. “Information related to career management is often communicated in a disjointed manner. In some organizations, different parts of HR own different elements of the career-management process without clear accountability or partnership,” she says.
“Additionally, organizations may lack the business buy-in, which can make career management the sole domain of HR. Given this situation, it’s critical for employers to step back and think through how to best design, deliver and measure an effective and integrated career-management program,” says Smith.
Granted, we’ve gotten wind of this problem from other sources as well. This HREOnline™ news analysis in June by Tom Starner is based on research from BlessingWhite that found fewer than half of 2,000 employees surveyed expect to receive any kind of career-planning advice from their employers.
In that piece, Jeff Kudisch, assistant dean of corporate relations and a professor at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, says the main challenge is that many leaders and managers lack basic people-development skills.
“They can’t begin to help with career pathing if they can’t coach their people,” he says. “And worse, in many cases there are no incentives to hold managers accountable for that responsibility.”
There have also been pieces through the years pointing out that managers not only lack coaching skills, but are simply — and perhaps selfishly — reluctant to buy in to the whole internal-mobility thing and let (or even usher) top talent out of their hands.
“The company wins when you think about it from an employee’s perspective,” says Kurt Metzger, vice president of talent management at Newark, N.J.-based Prudential, in the Starner piece. “We are less focused on retention specifically than we are about what will get them excited and engaged [and] in the end, we have a much more productive workforce.”
Food for thought.