With budgets under pressure, it pays to identify the most promising individuals and plan their career development

As budgets tighten career management is going to become an increasingly important skill for NHS leaders to have in their toolkit. The dual imperatives not to cut frontline staff at the same time as the need to shape the NHS to meet the demands of the changing population present an interesting challenge.

75 per cent of organisations do not offer any career coaching or planning

Career management helps employees in evaluating their skills, values, motivations and aspirations and to identify other employment opportunities internally. In an ideal world, it will uncover latent ability and place individuals into roles they feel most motivated in.

A research project we ran with Manchester Business School surveyed senior human resources and learning and development managers to find out what’s happening at ground level in career management. The research looked at what drives the adoption of career management strategies and plans for the next year.

Employees want managers who commit to developing and empowering them. Management should discuss with staff what they want, their aspirations, and where they want to be in three, five or 10 years’ time. They should help staff understand how to advance their careers towards achieving such goals.

But developing a culture that encourages and supports career management requires managers to be trained to actively support staff. Establishing rigorous, tangible criteria for assessing the effectiveness of career management will enable integration with other human resources activities. So, career management can have a key contribution to developing and managing core capabilities and organisational resourcing needs.

The research reinforces the concept of mutuality and reciprocity inherent in career management but found a lack of understanding about available interventions and their benefits.

Survey participants considered the psychological contract between employers and employees and the symbiotic relationship resulting from good career management processes. Staff exit interviews and engagement surveys regularly show that people leave organisations for opportunities to develop. Bizarrely, companies offer outplacement to staff made redundant but do not provide career management for talent they want to keep.

Marketing an organisation as an “employer of choice” requires a demonstrable commitment to career management. It improves retention of key staff and boosts the attractiveness of an employer while making them better able to respond to the changing needs of the marketplace.

Employers must address career management, but research shows 75 per cent of organisations do not offer any career coaching or planning.

Organisations considered effective at career management typically had communal, high trust cultures encouraging employee commitment. Those able to integrate career management with resourcing needs and performance management are more likely to create shared understanding of business objectives and develop the capacity to achieve them.

In theory and practice

The most popular interventions by employers come as no surprise, but they are not necessarily the best possible career management tools to use.

What organisations are doing:

  • Promoting internal vacancies (57 per cent very frequently/always do this)
  • 360 degree feedback (48 per cent very frequently/always)
  • Personal development plans (38 per cent very frequently/always)
  • Outplacement (33 per cent very frequently/always)

What organisations are not doing:

  • Career coaching (75 per cent never/very infrequently do this)
  • Career path mapping (59 per cent never/very infrequently)

What organisations plan to introduce this year:

  • Offer support and guidance (57 per cent suggest a high possibility of adopting this practice)
  • Mentoring (45 per cent suggest a high possibility/definitely)
  • Career coaching (39 per cent suggest a high possibility/definitely)

Why manage careers?

  • Performance will improve Employees want career planning and development opportunities, and there’s a correlation between engagement and performance. Executives put attracting, motivating and retaining high performing employees top of their list of factors able to increase business success.
  • It builds employee engagement and productivity Going to the heart of the workplace relationship between employee and employer, McLeod’s Engaging for Success report suggests engagement can be a key to unlocking productivity and to transforming the working lives of many people.
  • Staff want commitment It’s not good enough for line managers to say it’s too difficult to have meaningful career conversations with staff. If commitment to career management is lacking then good employees will leave.
  • Everyone benefits With HR policies and practices aligned for talent management, you need line managers who are incentivised and rewarded for developing career management skills. This will permit employees’ careers to be steered in a way that benefits the individual and organisation.