Creating the environment for career alignment

In my researches into succession planning, one of the aspects I am exploring is how HR can build an environment, where honest, well-informed and continuous conversations about career opportunities can take place. Here are some of the ideas that are emerging:

  • Take risks with people, by giving them opportunities and encouragement to take on roles and projects, for which they may not be obvious candidate. If it doesn’t work out, it is a learning opportunity for both the employee and the organisation.
  • Try to build a greater balance between:
    • Authority of expertise and position. Sometimes the best person to lead an initiative may be relatively junior. The less emphasis on hierarchy, the more encouragement for talented people to seize opportunities to lead.
    • Reward for contribution and seniority.  Focusing reward more on what people contribute beyond their job description (and assuming that they achieve at least acceptable performance in their core role), encourages innovation and allows genuine talent to stand out.
    • Recognition for contribution and performance with regard to all the teams, of which you are a member, rather than just the one you lead. The risk of basing recognition and performance appraisal on behaviour in one role is that it rewards people, who are particularly competent in a narrow context, more than those who are more widely capable.
    • Develop the expectation of constant and honest exchange and forums, where it can happen. Internal social networks provide practical platforms, where employees can share career-related information. What’s lacking is similar openness and sharing by HR and business leaders about organisational plans.
    • Invest in information, for example, by:
      • Making personal development plans (PDPs) more dynamic. Put them on-line, make them transparent, and encourage people to both blog about their developmental experiences and make comments to help colleagues put their PDPs into action
      • Creating an employee business plan at both corporate and business unit levels. This kind of easily available, annually updated information can be invaluable in discussions about career options and direction.
      • Transparency of information from working parties, such as change teams. The talent wave can offer valid and insightful opinions. In return, they gain an understanding of the change team’s thinking, which they can use in their own career planning.
      • Actively investigate the career alignment process itself. In what circumstances is alignment between the employee’s ambitions and those of the organisation high and low? What barriers most commonly prevent people having in-depth, frequent and informed career conversations?
      • Make succession planning processes less opaque. The better people understand them, the more influence they are likely to feel they have over them.

HR can’t realistically expect to conduct regular, frequent, informed career conversations with the entire talent wave, let alone with all employees. What they can do is enable employees and managers to have the confidence and information to have those conversations. But that won’t happen without a radical rethink of both HR’s role and the impact of other HR processes on succession planning and career conversations.

© David Clutterbuck 2011

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