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How Do We Develop a Solid Career Development Plan?

How do we facilitate a discussion with our employees on the meaning of career development? We want to ask probing questions that give us a meaningful plan of action. We know from a recent employee survey that most of our staff is not satisfied with our career development and we need to start a conversation to make improvements. —Career Doldrums, assistant human resources manager, mining/oil/gas, Singapore
June 5, 2013
Related Topics: Career Development, Plan, Employee Engagement, Learning & Development, Training & Development, Dear Workforce, Talent Management

Dear Career Doldrums:

Before you start a broad conversation on career development, it is first important to be an expert on benchmarking the various definitions of career development and the range of career-development practices of your closest competitors. Why, you may ask?

It's because your employee's expectations are influenced by the career practices of your competitors.

Understand the different perspectives on career development.

There usually is a huge difference between the expectations of employees and managers. Employees tend to view career development as an avenue to higher pay and a promotion (which carries more job security and prestige). By contrast, most senior managers want it to create enough future leaders, provide cross training, fight boredom and boost employee retention. Executives almost always consider lateral movement and project work part of career development, while employees expect it to mean completing formal training and utilizing whatever support management provides to get promoted. But both managers and employees agree on this: It's a good idea to highlight the most common and fastest "career paths" that enable employees to move up the ladder.

Determine your internal "movement speed" and before you set program goals.

Before starting a career conversation with employees, your firm's management needs to determine what it hopes to accomplish by focusing on career development. Move beyond the options and start to track the internal movement and development speed of people on the fast track. Identify the strengths and weaknesses of your existing process. Use this information to set a target "movement speed" for your high-priority jobs (i.e. how many months on average between a change in an employee's assignment or job). Your organization may set additional career development goals too: prepare future leaders/managers, improve skills, get extra work done, heighten motivation and engagement, increase retention and cross-fertilize between strategic business units.

Begin the conversation by identifying employee expectations.

Start the conversation with employees by informing them the company wants to improve career development. To get employee input and buy-in in a nonunion environment, form an informal advisory group of influential employees to work with management. Employee advisors need to be involved in developing a survey of at least a sample of your employees to identify issues and set expectations. Some potential probing questions to pose to your employees include:

  1. Help us understand what employees like yourself consider to fit under a career development program, by listing in descending order of importance the major components or elements would you like to see included in a career development program (Typical elements often include: career planning workshops, skill training, short-term projects, coaching, degrees or certifications, a career path map, individual career development plans, lateral transfers, promotions).
  2. What are the issues or problems with our career development effort?
  3. What should our company stop doing in the area for career development?
  4. What should we add to career development?
  5. What should we continue doing in this area?
  6. If we were to offer individual employees their own career development plans, what components or features should be included?
  7. If we were to plot out the most likely career paths for employees in a job family, what components or features should be included the career-path map?
  8. How as an employee would you know or assess whether career development has improved at our firm?

The next steps:

Management should work with the advisory team to process the survey's answers and assess the proposed career-development program. Consider trying a pilot effort in one business area to refine the plan before rolling it out. Otherwise, hold divisional conversations with the employees to educate them on the key components of the program, answer any questions and outline how individual employees can get started on their own path to career development.

Source: Dr. John Sullivan, professor of management, San Francisco State University

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.


 The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

If you have any questions or concerns about, please email or call 312-676-9900.

The Workforce fax number is 312-676-9901.

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