CONTEMPORARY THOUGHTS IN THEORY AND PRACTICE ON CAREER DEVELOPMENT

Dr. SANDEEP K KRISHNAN
About the Author Dr. Sandeep K. Krishnan is an Associate Director at People Business. He is a Fellow (Doctorate) of Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad. Prior to joining People business, he has worked with organizations like IBM, Infosys, Ernst and Young, and RPG. As a consultant he has led large assignments in the areas of leadership development, talent management, and employer branding with both public and private sector organizations. He is a certiÞed Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR) from HRCI and has completed certiÞcation in Executive Coaching from University of Cambridge. Sandeep is also an Adjunct Faculty at the Indian Institute of Management Indore. Career development has been an area of interest from an individual’s perspective for long. However, organizations have started taking a structured approach towards career development. In the past few years we have seen organizations focusing on practices that align with employee career development. Although career is one of the key element of employee retention, and ensuring that he/she sees a long term focus of the organization, structuring the softer aspects and harder aspects of career management is not easy. For example, we have seen organizations focusing on organization structuring; having detailed career paths supported by job descriptions, promotion criteria and venturing to change it as and when the business realities warranted. Clearly, it led to lack of understanding for employees in terms of what they can expect in the organization and very less in terms of options, what the whole structure meant for their career growth. So while established organizations had career management infrastructure and tried to make it as a unique proposition
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for its employees, it was difÞcult to tailor to the aspirations and competencies of employees. In practice we would have seen tenure based promotions in private sector organizations that were no different from a bureaucratic government enterprise. For example, a software engineer would become a senior software engineer in two years and would probably become an assistant manager in another 3 years (the difference was only whether the year was good for business to give enough promotions). This eventually led to meaninglessness in career growth from an employee perspective. The concept of Protean Careers (Hall, 1996) also got attention with the whole career management becoming a responsibility of the individual employee and the belief that individuals should own their career and seek opportunities, develop themselves, learn continuously, and adapt to the changing environment. This context eventually led to the understanding that career management is a joint responsibility of employees and the organization – where

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individuals need to have a say in making their career choices. Current Concepts in Career Management: One of the interesting concepts in career management that got interest of industry was Mass Career Customization (MCC) (Benko and Weisberg, 2008). The concept of Mass Career Customization brought forth two critical aspects. One there is a growing interest and trend to move away from the traditional hierarchy based career growth. Second, it supported the life cycle of a human being and their career. The key was giving an opportunity for individuals to have a say in customizing their career along four dimensions (Pace, Workload, Location and Schedule, and Role). This meant that the employee could have a say in terms of his/her pace of career progress, workload they would like to take up at any point of their career, location preferences and schedule, and role). The key was giving this choice would lead to higher employee retention and commitment. The second aspect was that it demystiÞes the vertical growth aspect. Employees could take a choice to move vertically, horizontally, or even take a call to work at a lower responsibility level in a new area. It also provides employees massive scope in terms of career opportunities. For example, a Human Resource Head may choose to take up a functional sales head responsibility and then move on to be a marketing lead and come back as a HR Director. Similarly, a software engineer who is technology oriented, may choose to do a part-time MBA, do a special project in consulting and move in to IT consulting and after a few years return as a project manager in technology. The key is to understand that there should be mutual understanding between the organization and the employee and there is a long term focus. Which meant that it should be well entrenched into the talent and career

planning process in the organization. Creating the “Soft Infrastructure” Baruch (2006) studied eighteen career management techniques or practices that would be relevant or effective. 18 Practices studied by Baruch (2006) 1. Use of performance appraisal (PA) as a basis for career planning 2. C a r e e r c o u n s e l i n g b y d i r e c t supervisor 3. Career counseling by HRM unit 4. Books and/or pamphlets on career issues 5. Common career paths 6. Assessment centre 7. O t h e r w a y s o f i d e n t i f y i n g management potential 8. Dual ladder 9. Postings regarding internal job openings 10. Appraisal committees 11. Formal education as part of career development 12. Career workshops 13. Written personal career planning for employees 14. Retirement preparation programmes 15. Mentoring 16. PA as a basis for salary review 17. Management inventory (succession planning) 18. Training programs for managers The study found that it is lack of information with employees about the programs and its relevance, lack of long term view about career, and lack of proper implementation of programs that leads to programs January | 2014 NHRD Network Journal
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not yielding its purported objectives. Interestingly, Budhwar and Baruch (2003) did a similar study with Indian organizations and found that organizations use these practices in different clusters. Some are related to planning (linking career development to performance appraisal), some are progressive (use of assessments like development centers), some are foundational (dual ladders), and aspects related to HR department (their involvement in career development) showed that HR is playing a more proactive role in career management in organizations. This also links up to the fact that HR is expected to have understanding of career guidance and development. While looking at research and practices, the key elements of a career management infrastructure are broadly. 1. Information and understanding 2. Assessment and Guidance 3. Development 4. Internal Job Placement Many organizations have invested along these lines to manage the career interests of its employees. For example, Infosys as described in Saha (2013) has developed the whole range of programs under the banner “PathÞnder”. PathÞnder is a platform that provides information about career streams and opportunities in the various business units, supports managers and employees to have career guidance discussions, enables career development through an array of development programs, and supports internal movements through “Career Fairs” and “Career Seminars”. As an organization which is large and has many career streams and job openings, career seminars and fairs helped individuals to get a fair amount of understanding of the opportunities available for them. Second, career guidance program helped them to have a conversation with their managers
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and HR and develop a customized career development plan. Third, the development opportunities through formal training, job shadowing and internal special projects helped them for skills development, and get a Þrst hand idea about how the next job looks like. The key success factor of PathÞnder was branding, support from leaders, programs that were easy to access by employees, and brilliant execution. Similarly, at IBM, a whole array of career guidance resources was made available to its employees. Termed as “Learning @IBM” the focus on career development encourages employees to do a self assessment of their skills for a particular role or career path, use resources available that are customized for their development, and participate in organization wide development activities like “Mentoring” and “Job Shadowing”. The programs that are linked to talent review like “Bottomsup”, or “Business and Technical Resources” also helped to identify the key resources in technical and business domain and fast track them through career development interventions. The interesting aspect that both IBM and Infosys had used is having a route of real experiences that provides a vertical or horizontal job experience. IBM and Infosys have extensively used stretch assignments – mostly special projects and job shadowing to support career development of individuals. This gave individuals an opportunity to try out different functions and businesses or work in a different technology altogether. Some of the organizations also use career development and opportunities aligned to it as a core employee value proposition. For example, RPG Group deÞned one of its core employee value propositions as “Diverse Strengths Diverse Opportunities”. While working closely with People Business on deÞning its value proposition,

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research showed that employees having an opportunity to work across sectors and many having successfully moved are a great value proposition for current and prospective employees. The successful execution of this value proposition helped the group to leverage talent pool across group companies to its advantage and at the same time providing employees a canvas beyond their function or company to a larger group. Element Information and understanding Induction program

Career Development Elements: The elements of career development clearly gives a lot of scope for organizations to develop practices in line with their size, industry, technology infrastructure, manager capabilities, and talent management maturity.

Processes deployed

Recruitment related information Employee internal website Career related workshops, HR sessions, leader talks Career portals Employee stories

Assessments

Employee self assessments Career Assessments provided by organization Manager assessment of potential Development Centers Team based assessments

Guidance

Manager discussions during performance appraisal Formal career guidance discussions Up-line manager guidance Formal talent review discussion and decisions

Development

Career Development / Individual development plan Mentoring Job Shadowing Coaching Formal training Special assignments Career counseling Special programs for top talent January | 2014 NHRD Network Journal
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Element Placement

Processes deployed Internal job postings Internal messaging Internal job market Employee CV and internal hiring Promotions Specialized leadership job Þlling based on internal placement drills as part of talent review planning and execution

Current research and theory rests at balancing individual and organizational objectives of career management. Based on Budhwar and Baruch (2003), it is important for organizations to realize that individual careers are not predetermined and also not completely ßexible as per organizational needs, it is important that individuals have a say in their careers and understand that individual preferences towards career will change with age, life stage, or approach towards work life balance or material success. While most of the engagement surveys show that employees expect more in terms of career development and manager supporting them in the process, organizations are taking cognizance of this feedback and the focus has been mainly on hipo development (Bhattacharya,2012). The focus has been on giving them more live experiences that will stretch them beyond regular jobs and hence able to learn through action. Secondly, it is important that they get enough guidance and support from the ecosystem, including managers and experience a differentiated development support. Thirdly, it is important from the individual and organizational standpoint that feedback and assessment is done for their readiness for a new role as they grow. Organizations are also focusing on transitions like promotions, job moves, re-entry to job after sabbaticals or career
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breaks. The interesting point here is organizations are moving from formal training and focusing more on giving job experiences on the Þeld. PathÞnder Next (internal internships at Infosys, that gives employees short term assignments (Saha, 2013), Stretch assignments at IBM (IBM, 2013), Results based coaching as practiced by consulting organizations like People Business are examples of on the job learning that also provides a clear outcome for the organization. Organizations are also focusing on providing career support to retiring employees. Educational institutions like IIMs have given opportunity for their retiring professors to continue on a contractual basis till age 70. Similarly, it is not uncommon for senior professionals to get extension beyond their regular retirement age. Many growing Þrms that Þnd it difÞcult to find trained hands, have also opted to employ retired professionals. Large NBFCs like Manappuram Group and Muthoot have retired bank ofÞcers as their branch managers and use their service to groom younger managers. “Second Innings” by retired professionals is an interesting aspect that will be seriously looked at by corporate (Kunhikrishnan and Krishnan, 2009). Many benevolent organizations also prepare their senior executives with skills like executive

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coaching to prepare for career post retirement. Conclusion: Career Development as a practice is going to be of more importance for organizations and the challenge would be to balance organizational and employee interests. While the processes can have a short term impact, the fruits of a deep career development program will be long term. It is also important

for organizations to deploy practices in line with their industry, size, and nature of employees. However, the common factor is that career development is about providing more information, giving individuals an opportunity to express their aspiration and assess their potential for the same, providing guidance and development opportunities and having a strong internal job market to support the Þnal outcome of career move.

References:
Baruch, Y. (2006). Organizational career planning and management techniques and activities in use in high-tech organizations, Career Development International, 1(1), 40-49. Bhattacharya, S (2012). Companies like IBM, HCL Tech, Cognizant, others roll out initiatives to nurture young talent well, Accessed Online: http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2012-09-11/news/33763229_1_development-programmes-young-leadersdevelopment-experiences. Benko, C., and Weisberg, A. (2008). Mass Career Customization, Building the corporate lattice organization, Deloitte Review, Accessed online: http://www.deloitte.com/assets/Dcom-UnitedStates/Local%20Assets/Documents/Deloitte%20Review/us_ps_ USDeloitteReviewMassCareerCustomization_051310.pdf Budhwar, P.S., and Baruch, Y. (2003). Career management practices in India: an empirical study, International Journal of Manpower, 24(6), 699-719. IBM (2013), Career Development, Accessed online : http://www-07.ibm.com/employment/bcs_career/non-flash/bcs_careers_ development.html Saha, S. (2013). Gaining the competitive advantage, Human Capital, Nov, 50-53. Kunhikrishnan, K. and Krishnan, S. K. (2009), Second Innings, Human Capital, May, 29-31. Hall, D.T.(1996). Protean Careers of the 21st Century, Academy of Management Executive, 10(4), 8-15.

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