Employees Demand More Career Agility

by Sharlyn Lauby on September 12, 2012

(Editor’s Note: Today’s post is sponsored by The Career Engagement Group, a consultancy focused on delivering strategic career management software solutions to organizations worldwide. They have recently appointed Stephenson Mansell Group a Valued Strategic Alliance Partner in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia. And will be preparing for their first visit at the HR Technology Conference next month in Chicago.)

According to Randstad’s 2012 Employment Survey, approximately 86% of employees are leaving their jobs due career, agility, development, career development, agile, career engagement group, training, engageto a lack of career development. Honestly on some level this isn’t a surprising number. Organizations have been focused on the here-and-now. They are trying to recoup the losses of the Great Recession. Expansion efforts have been slow. Career development hasn’t been a priority.

While this mindset is understandable, it doesn’t mean employees don’t want more. The Career Engagement Group’s 2012 Career Agility & Engagement Report revealed some interesting findings:

31% of employees want fast-tracked careers

35% of employees want more work responsibility

75% say they’re willing to use their own time to further their career

You can check out the entire report here. My takeaway from the report was either companies need to start stepping up and developing their talent or their talent is going to walk out the door.

But I believe there’s a new challenge for companies as they think about career development strategies. Traditionally, career development has looked something like this:

career, agility, development, career development, career engagement group, training

When this model is disrupted, you start to see employee disengagement, dissatisfaction, and turnover. Because the employee and company don’t agree upon the future of a person’s career. Unfortunately this is where I also see a lot of employee-employer relationships turn ugly. And they don’t have to. Career development doesn’t have to be anyone’s fault – the needs of the company change. Or the needs of the employee change. Stuff happens.

Back to the new dynamic in career development – the speed at which employees want to consume learning. Years ago, companies could develop a career plan and employees would patiently work the plan. Those days are gone. Employees want to know the company is going to invest in them. And they don’t want to pay their dues for development.

I’m not sure it’s practical for organizations to think they can control the career development process any longer. In order to keep up with demand, companies need to equip their employees with the tools to drive their own careers. Employees want career agility – the ability to identify the best methods for achieving career success.

Now, make no mistake – this doesn’t mean that employees get to design their own job and redefine work standards. It does mean they get a significant voice in what they learn, when they learn and how they learn. Anne Fulton, director at The Career Engagement Group says, “It’s time we re-think our responsibilities as an organization when it comes to the career development of individuals within our business. The world has changed and many organizations only provide an ‘ambulance at the bottom of the cliff’ approach to career development. Now organizations must develop career agile employees.”

Some of the building blocks in a career agility strategy include:

  • Developing a competency framework with a clear line of sight for employees to see future opportunities
  • DIY or self-service resources including career coaches and mentors
  • Career toolkits communicating career paths, learning opportunities and organizational networks
  • Management training to support career coaching conversations

Anne adds that developing a career agility strategy and providing support throughout the employee life-cycle has significant benefits and is becoming the next big thing in the drive for improved engagement, talent development and retention.  “Career-agile employees are likely self-directed learners, with resilience from having increasing career marketability, and they bring a benefit to businesses because they are more open to volunteering for stretch assignments.”

Career agility isn’t the end of career development. In fact, it’s a refreshing new dynamic that allows employees to share responsibility for their own careers.

If you’re interested in learning more about career agility and how to develop a career agility strategy, be sure to check out The Career Engagement Group website, read their blog, like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. You can also meet them in person at the HR Technology Conference next month in Chicago. Be sure to say HR Bartender sent you!

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Rob Kelly September 13, 2012 at 9:42 am

Career agility is an interesting concept! It can be difficult for employees who are already proactive in their career development and strategies to not be provided with any supportive infrastructure. Employees should be asking themselves if their job will get them from Point A to Point B. Career agility is great way for employers to ensure they are.

Sharlyn Lauby September 13, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Rob. I believe as we see a larger contingent workforce, more virtual teams and a desire for employees to own their career development…this will be an even bigger issue.

Anne Fulton September 13, 2012 at 8:54 pm

Great comment, Rob. We believe strongly that career agility is a mutual responsibility between the employer and the individual. Career management is changing so rapidly that people need to keep their “career skills” up to speed – think of how LikedIn has changed career management so dramatically in the last 5 years! employers need to take some responsibility for supporting staff to remain agile and understand the importance of lattice career moves and social networking skills impacting both personal and corporate brand management. Career agility is going to be a core career skill for us all.

Promise Phelon September 14, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Incredible study and post–the reason companies can’t sustain/increase earnings per share is because senior leaders assume that what employees want is in conflict with what the enterprise wants. So, “career management” is imposed, versus something bottoms up. We need to get these objectives: profit and agility to line up. Great HR execs should be the catalysts for this transformation.

Jo Mills September 16, 2012 at 8:18 pm

One of the interesting findings was that 71% of respondents would use their own time to accelerate their career. Where there is a clear link between personal career goals and those of the organisation, the discretionary effort kicks in. This has some clear business wins, as well as driving career engagement.

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