Ask someone in the people and culture space, what is an organizations most valuable asset, and most will respond with “the employees”. You can have a great organizational brand or a number-one product, but without the support of your employees your organization won’t thrive. So, if we know our employees can help make or break our success, why do so few organizations actively invest in their people?
Review this scenario: A key employee with 5 years in your department informs you they’ve applied for an opportunity in another department.
- Yes, this will cause a disruption and back-filling the role will take time
- The employee has depth and breadth of knowledge that you really don’t want to lose
- Other employees may need to help during this transition
What if the manager also looked at this as an organization win? Through regular coaching conversations the manager knew this employee was ready for a change. Telling them no, or being unsupportive is only going to buy the manager minimal time before this key employee leaves the organization entirely. That’s a much greater loss, and they know it.
An organization that makes this work
A year ago, HR Business Partner Lillian Davenport now at Whirlpool Canada contacted me and asked if we had a speaker that could do a few presentations on Career Management to their employees. During discovery meetings with them, I learned about their philosophy on career development strategies. I was honestly amazed how they both embraced career development and made it an integral part of each employee’s personal career growth.
As an organization with few layers, they realized they had to help employees understand, success is no longer defined by the traditional corporate ladder. It's building individual skill sets through cross-department transfers or stretch assignments. As it relates to their careers, employees are encouraged to be open-minded, nimble and learn about the entire company as much as possible. They want employees to not only think about their next role, but think two or three roles ahead, through to their aspirational role.
Following a holistic model of career development, the employee still owns and drives their career, however there is shared accountability. The ownership for these discussions follows a push-pull model from both the employee and manager; each with their own responsibilities to the career discussion.
For employees who love their jobs and don’t want to make a significant change, career development is also about enriching your role by keeping current and acquiring new skill sets.
“We have been coaching and supporting employee's careers by building a ‘cross-functional development mindset’. After a few years now, we are able to point to real examples within the organization. Employees can see how this really works and how it enhances an individual’s overall career. We feel that we are building well-rounded business professionals by enabling opportunities outside an employee’s initial area of discipline, if this is something they are interested in.” “Antoinette Armenio, Director, Human Resources – Whirlpool Canada”
Whirlpool Canada believes they are a stronger organization when employees understand the inner workings of all departments – how roles in all aspects of the organization from Customer Service to Finance through to Marketing and Sales, create a stronger organization, a happier and engaged workplace and drive the organization to have a stronger brand.
Developing Your Career Supportive Organization
If you want to develop a career supportive organization, it has to be supported from the Executive Team. It can’t be seen as a HR project, or some quick training to show action from poor engagement scores on an employee survey. You have to believe in the benefits, and show commitment from the top of the organization.
“We have been able to run several informational sessions where we spotlight employees at all levels who can talk about how they were able to build their skills by doing cross functional roles along their career path, to get to the role they are in today. It’s one thing to have HR encourage this career philosophy, but when peers get up and share personal success stories about it...that's 10x more powerful!” “Antoinette Armenio, Director, Human Resources – Whirlpool Canada”
I like to think of Whirlpool Canada as a Michelin organization for career development. Like Michelin Star restaurants, it takes years of continual growth and commitment to achieve this status. Organizations that provide supportive career environments have to both maintain and continually improve the employee-organizational bond.
In 2015, LHH published a Talent Mobility research report called Mobilizing Your Workforce that highlights a number of barriers to help understand, develop and deploy talent within the workforce:
- 85% of organizations identify themselves as failing to demonstrate key behavior linked to effective talent mobility.
- Only 10% of respondents agreed that their organization always or nearly always invested in and prepared managers to have effective developmental career conversations with employees.
- Nearly 50% of respondents report that employees are only sometimes assuming responsibility for managing their careers.
Invest in your employees, encourage their career development and strive to be a Michelin Star Career Development Organization.