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<i>Dear Workforce</i> How Could We Help Employees Develop Career Plans

June 25, 2004
Dear Bewildered:

It's not uncommon for employees to wonder, "Where will I be in two years?"--especially when the economy is depressed or stagnant. Providing employees with individualized career plans is a logical answer, but one that requires you to avoid making clear promises. To help remedy your situation, consider trying the following:
  • Let employees develop models of individualized career plans based on their expectations, along with a few specifications that you submit as boundaries. Be prepared to accept the format they produce, since they already have bought into the concept.
  • Replace your career plans with a "where I want to be" profile that each employee completes independently. Then work with each employee to develop a career-achievement plan, examining the education, experience and personal development they will need to obtain career milestones.
When redesigning your efforts, keep the following in mind:
  • Don't make or imply promises of advancement. (Promotions are granted on the basis of a number of considerations. Consider showing employees the probability of advancement based on historical records adjusted for organizational growth.)
  • Allowing your staff to help in the design process will overcome a good portion of their lack of acceptance.
  • Developing employees for some future role in the company may require them to gain experience outside your firm. Firms such as Intel have long understood that sometimes employees should pursue opportunities outside the firm to prepare for future roles inside the organization. Consider looking at your firm's partners, customers and vendors for career-growth opportunities for your employees.
If you treat employees like potential customers, you soon realize that it is essential to provide answers to their questions. Providing them with realistic career-achievement plans can both excite them and improve your odds of retaining them.
It takes courage to treat employees this way. Unfortunately, most HR people lack that courage. If you're going to recruit and retain top talent, you need to take risks and act differently than you have in the past. Consider adding economic rewards tied to the attainment of milestones in the individual's achievement plan.
SOURCE: John Sullivan, head and professor of the Human Resource Management program at San Francisco State University, July 25, 2003.
LEARN MORE:Use an assessment to determine if you're doing enough to develop employees.
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.
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