Career Management. Whose Responsibility is it Anyway?

Business woman shrugging her shoulders working in office

Organisations and employees agree that whereas organisations owned careers ten years ago, employees are now responsible for their careers.  But is it really possible for an employee to take full ownership of their career when they are reliant on their manager and their organisation for opportunities?  In this blog post I’ll explore the roles and responsibilities for career management.

The reality is that we can’t develop others’ careers for them.  Career development is like all personal development.  You can’t stop smoking for someone, you can’t lose weight for someone, you can’t get fit for someone and you can’t develop their career for them.  All you can do is help them work out what they want to do and what they need to do to get there and you can guide and support them as they take action. 

There is a three-way partnership involved in career development between employees, managers and HR. 

Employees Role – Taking Ownership and Responsibility

It starts with the employees. Employees need to take ownership of their careers.  That means demonstrating the organisation’s values.  It means focussing on their professional development and building their professional networks.  And it means spotting or seeking out opportunities.

There are a number of areas employees need support with to take ownership of their careers:

  • Where they’re at.  How they feel about their current job and career situation can clarify matters and discharge some negative emotions which can get in the way of positive thought and action.
  • What’s important to them in their career – What skills do they like to use?  What kind of activities do they enjoy most?  What are their values in relation to work?  What kind of work environment do they prefer?  What kind of people do they enjoy working with? 
  • What does success look like for them?  What kind of activities would they be doing on a day to day basis?  Where would they be working in terms of geography or location?  What kinds of responsibilities would they have?  What kinds of outcomes and deliverables would they be producing?  Who would they be working with and for?  
  • What skills and qualities do they have?  What are their strengths and weaknesses?  How does the organisation view them? 
  • What opportunities are available to them – in their current role and elsewhere in the organisation?
  • How to navigate the processes and politics of the organisation.  Understanding how things are done ‘around here’.  That includes both processes and tactics. Areas to explore are how to raise their pro?le and be more visible to key people; how to crack the system for moving job if that’s what they want to do.
  • Identifying and evaluating different options and opportunities.  That is looking at the pros and cons, making a decision, or at least being clearer about where they want to go and the development or experience required.
  • What career development strategies can they use to make progress?  What actions can they take?

Some people can do this for themselves, but most of us find it a lot easier to have someone else to talk to and test our ideas on.  And that’s why career conversations have such a valuable role to play. 

Managers’ Role – Providing Support and Opportunities

The most important step managers can take is to show they care about their employees by talking to them about their careers.

It’s like any relationship – you show you care through conversation. When managers don’t have career conversations with their employees, the business relationship becomes like an unhappy marriage where the couple no longer talk to each other about anything meaningful. Next thing you know, one of them has packed their bags or moved into the spare room.

The same happens with employees if their career needs aren’t met. They quit physically and leave. Or worse, they quit psychologically and stay.

Through career conversations, managers, mentors and coaches can help employees develop:

  • A clearer sense of career direction – not necessarily a detailed career path but an idea of where they are going in the future
  • Increased self-insight – a more realistic view of their abilities and potential
  • A broader understanding of the career options available to them and the resources available to help them learn more
  • Increased confidence and motivation – an emotional impact, which often lasts a long time

After a quality career conversation, employees will be in the best frame of mind to share their aspirations with the organisation. They can explore future career options and produce a focused and realistic development plan.

As part of the career conversation, managers have a valuable role to play in providing genuine positive feedback to employees.  They can shine a spotlight on the individuals’ strengths, attributes and achievements. And they can identify and create opportunities for development.  Their responsibility is to dovetail the employees’ needs with the organisation’s needs to create a win-win.

HR’s Role – Facilitate and Enable

HR’s role is to provide the tools and resources for employees to manage their careers and for managers to support them. HR acts as a facilitator and enabler. They make sure there is a link between career management and other people processes. They develop the tools, technology and processes that allow visibility of opportunities and facilitate moves across the organisation.

Creating a partnership between employees, managers and HR encourages collective responsibility for career management.  It fosters a collaborative environment that drives successful engagement, retention and development.

Do you have an Office Career Champion?

Someone who:

  • Demonstrates commitment to the organisation and its values.
  • Mentors and supports people to get the best out of them.
  • Champions career development within the organisation.
  • Takes and creates opportunities to progress their own career.
  • Has regular career conversations with their team members.

Career Management Culture Health Check

Does your organisation have a culture that supports growth and career development? Or is it at risk of losing valued employees because of lack of career development and management? Assess your organisation and discover strategies to engage, retain and develop your people. Click here to take the Health Check.

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