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Career Management

Making It Work for Employees and Employers

Stuck in neutral. Thats how many employees around the world would describe their career. In fact, according to the 2014
Global Workforce Study, 41% of employees say they must join another firm in order to advance. Even more troublesome, almost
the same percentage (40%) of employees who have been formally identified as high potentials by their organization say they
would need to leave their organization to advance their career. Overall, employees tell us career advancement opportunities
rank among the top reasons why theyd join or leave an organization.

Rising talent mobility complicates this picture even


further. Globally, nearly half of employers (48%)
participating in the 2014 Talent Management and
Rewards Study say hiring activity has increased
compared with last year, and more than one-third
(35%) indicate that turnover is rising. At the same
time, nearly two in three respondents are experiencing
problems attracting top performers (65%) and highpotential employees (64%), an increase from two
years ago. Additionally, more than half report difficulty
retaining high-potential employees (56%) and top
performers (54%).
In the face of these challenges, employers need to
understand what employees value if they are to attract
and retain the right talent. Our research shows that
employers do in fact agree with employees on the
critical importance of providing career advancement
opportunities to get and keep employees (Figure 1).
But this understanding is not translating into effective
career development and management programs. A
mere 46% of employees say their organization provides
useful career planning tools, and only 42% report that
their organization provides opportunities to advance.

46%

of employees
say their
organization
provides useful
career planning
tools.

Figure 1. Career management is valued by both employees and employers, but many
organizations fall short in delivery

Employee view

Employer view

3rd

Organizations are clearly missing the mark when it


comes to career management the process that
helps employees understand career opportunities and
chart a career path within their organization (Figure 2).

#1

Advancement in career is the


reason employees join an organization.
Lack of career advancement is the 2nd
most cited reason they would leave.

Advancement in career is the


most cited reason they joined their
organization. Lack of career advancement
is the 2nd most cited reason to leave.
Source: 2014 Global Workforce Study

Employers

need to understand
what employees value if they
are to attract and retain the
right talent.
Employers for their part recognize they are falling
short. Less than half (49%) report being effective at
providing traditional career advancement opportunities
to employees, while an even lower percentage (38%)
report being effective at providing career development
opportunities beyond traditional concepts. Moreover,
only 41% of employers agree their employees are
often able to achieve career advancement by moving
across organizational boundaries. And a disturbingly
low 35% say their employees understand how they can
influence their careers.

42%

report that
their organization provides
opportunities to advance.

Source: 2014 Talent Management and Rewards Study


Only

41%

agree their employees are often able


to achieve career advancement.

Only

say their employees understand how


they can influence their careers.

35%

Figure 2. What is career management?


Career management is a process to help employees understand career opportunities and chart
a career path within their organization.
Career
management

Overarching
career
management
strategy

Established
career
framework

Visible
and viable
career path
alternatives

Enabling
experiences
and
opportunities

Integrated
development
planning
process

Aligned
competency
framework

Career management encompasses the strategy, tools, processes and technology that enable
talent development, agility and mobility.

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Career Management: Making It Work for Employees and Employers 2

While it might seem simple enough to organize jobs,


define competencies, provide career planning tools
and communicate opportunities, the reality is more
complicated. Our research reveals several key pain
points that employers face in developing and delivering
career management programs:
Career architecture and career paths are poorly
defined. Fewer than half of employers (48%) report
that their organizations have career architectures
and levels in place.
Managers are ill equipped to handle key aspects of
career management and development. Only 33% of
employers say managers are effective at conducting
career development discussions as part of the
performance management process.
Technology is not effectively leveraged for career
management. Less than half (45%) of employers
say their companies make effective use of
technology to deliver programs to help employees
advance their careers.
Most organizations dont know if their career
management programs are working. A low 27%
of employers say their organizations monitor the
effectiveness of their career management programs.
In addition, we know from our experience that there
are other factors contributing to this challenge.
Information related to career management is often
communicated in a disjointed manner. In some
organizations, different parts of HR own different
elements of career management without clear
accountability or partnership. Finally, organizations
may lack the business buy-in for career management
programs, which can make career management the
sole domain of HR.
Given this situation, its critical for employers to step
back and think through the components of an effective
career management program.

Start by Defining Your Strategy


An overarching strategy is needed to anchor and guide
the development of a career management program.
This strategy should capture an organizations highlevel perspective on career management, and reflect
its talent priorities and strategic business objectives.
Begin by defining the why and the how of your program
through:
An overall statement (why) of what the company
believes and wants to communicate about the value
and importance of career management. For example,
an organization pursuing a business strategy focused
on innovation might state that the goal of its career

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48%

of employees report
that they have to
take ownership of
their own careers.

57%

of employers indicate
that employees and
managers should have
joint ownership of the
career management process.

Its
critical for employers to step back and think
through the components of an effective career
management program.
management program is to provide employees with
the ongoing skill building and development needed
to enable breakthrough thinking and career success
while ensuring the talent pipeline to support the
companys long-term growth.
A set of principles (how) that will guide the
direction and execution of career management
communications and tools. For example, one of
the guiding principles of the innovation-focused
organization cited above might include the importance
of building a culture of continuous learning and
professional development, which in turn leads to new
ways of addressing business challenges. Details on
the types of learning and professional development
opportunities that the organization invests in would
be showcased in the strategy.
A basic question to consider when developing a career
management strategy is who is responsible for the
career management process. According to our latest
research, almost half (48%) of employees report that
they have to take ownership of their own careers,
while 57% of employers indicate that employees
and managers should have joint ownership of the
career management process. An effective career
management strategy will help reduce employees
feeling they are on their own when it comes to career
development and advancement opportunities.

Career Management: Making It Work for Employees and Employers 3

Building the Foundation


With its career management strategy in place, an
organization can begin to build the foundation of its
program, which should include three elements: a
career framework, scaled competencies and enabling
experiences.
Career framework. An organizations career
framework consists of a series of career bands,
which represent how jobs contribute to the
organization, and levels, which show the relative
contribution of a role within a career band (Figure 3).
The framework is supported by the job architecture
(e.g., how jobs are organized by titles, functions
and families) and job leveling (i.e., the process for
determining the relative ranking of jobs). Given that
only 40% of employers globally have defined job
architectures, and a mere 39% have defined job
levels and a career framework, there is room for
improvement here.
A globally consistent career framework across all
functions and business areas of an organization
serves as a foundation for organizing jobs and
clarifying career paths. Additionally, in many
organizations, such a framework becomes a
platform for describing overall work requirements
and responsibilities. It also makes it easier for

A
globally consistent career framework across all
functions and business areas of an organization
serves as a foundation for organizing jobs and
clarifying career paths.
managers and supervisors to clearly communicate
career opportunities and have more effective career
development discussions. Many organizations have
some type of career framework in place, often to
assign compensation grades and ranges. Being
transparent about the career framework can help
employees shift out of neutral and into first gear.
Scaled competencies and technical skills. While
the career framework describes what employees
at various levels do, competencies define the
how the knowledge, skills and abilities required
for successful performance. We can think of
competencies as behavioral concepts that may
apply across job families, for example, analytical
thinking, creativity and project management. On the
other hand, technical skills refer to more discrete
knowledge areas that are relevant across fewer
job families, for example, application development,
database administration and requirement analysis.

Figure 3. Foundational element: Career framework*


The career framework sets the stage for clearly communicating careers and discussing career opportunities and development.
Executive
Management

E1
Vice
president

Career band
Represents broadly
how jobs contribute
to the organization

M3
Senior
manager

M4
M5
Group Senior group
manager
manager

Professional

Individual contributor

CEO

Management
M1
M2
Supervisor Manager

P1
P2
P3
P4
P5
P6
Entry Intermediate Career Specialist Master Expert

Technical support
T1
Entry

E2
E3
Senior vice
Executive
president vice president

Career level
Represents the relative
contribution of the role
within the career band

T2
T3
T4
Intermediate Senior Lead

Business support
U1
U2
U3
U4
Entry Intermediate Senior Lead

Production
W1
Entry

W2
W3
W4
Intermediate Senior Lead

*Actual alignment of career bands and levels will vary based on types of jobs within each organization.

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Career Management: Making It Work for Employees and Employers 4

Figure 4. Foundational element: Enabling experiences


Sample template for defining enabling experience opportunities
Question:
What are the enabling experiences to prepare an employee to move through the job family (i.e., from level to level)?
1

IT developer
I

P1

IT developer
II

P2
Regularly
introduce
new ideas
and process
innovations to
own team
Coordinate
and assist
department
efforts

IT developer
III

P3
Successfully
manage a
few projects
independently,
under limited
supervision
Present technical
analysis/results
to a nontechnical
audience

The scaling of competencies enables organizations


to show the changes in expected competencies and
associated behaviors at different career levels. For
instance, creativity at a lower level might involve
demonstrating a willingness to try new processes
and approaches. At a senior level, creativity might
involve creating opportunities for employees to
generate new ideas, products, methods or solutions
that enhance organizational effectiveness.
According to the findings of our 2014 Talent
Management and Rewards Study, 55% of
organizations have already implemented an
organization-wide competency model applicable
to all employees. Yet only 42% of all companies
participating in the study have implemented scaled
competencies, suggesting that many companies have
yet to realize the full benefits of using competencies.
Enabling experiences and opportunities. These
are the experiences and opportunities that help
prepare an employee to move from one career
level to the next. While enabling experiences and
opportunities help guide career development,
they are not intended to be used as a checklist
for promotion. For example, Figure 4 illustrates
the enabling experiences and opportunities for
an IT developer, from successfully managing new
projects with limited supervision, to participating
in the development of technical standards for
their organization. With increasing frequency,
organizations are supplementing the career
framework and scaled competencies with enabling
experiences and opportunities.

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IT developer
IV

P4
Participate
in special
assignments
to gain deeper
knowledge/
expertise in a
particular area

IT developer
V

P5
Speak at an
internal or
external industry
conference or
event
Serve in a
leadership role
for a crossfunctional
project or
activity

IT developer
VI

P6
Demonstrate
success in
defining,
delivering and
implementing a
strategy
Participate in
the development
of company
standards or
capabilities

Visualizing the Possibilities


Once the foundational components are set, its time
to help employees understand what it all means for
them. Career path visuals will help bring your career
management program to life by illustrating potential
movements between roles (Figure 5, page 6). A career
path is unique to an individual and will vary depending
on business needs, career aspirations and capabilities.
There are typically two types of movement that career
paths are used to illustrate:
Progression Movement to a role at the same/
equivalent level or a lower career level as the current
role; offers an employee breadth of experience
Promotion Movement to a job at a higher career
level than the current role; requires demonstration of
increased competence and additional responsibilities
Its important to note that the intent of a career path is
to provide a sense of whats possible not to chart
every potential course and to remind employees
of what the organization values. These illustrations
serve as a very effective tool to help differentiate the
organization and illuminate the career management
strategy. Our research shows that only 43% of
companies have defined vertical career paths, and a
mere 27% have defined lateral career paths, which
could help explain why so many employees feel they
are on their own when it comes to career development.

Career Management: Making It Work for Employees and Employers 5

Figure 5. Sample career path


Gain foundational and
advanced
experience
Database
in database
analytics
Analyst
I
and development

Database

Database
analyst and
developer II

Information
Information
Move into systems
security
security
engineer
to
gain
specialist I
specialist II
broader organizational
IT knowledge

Information
security

Senior
database
analyst and
developer

MakeLead
a move
to Database
gain people
management
Project
Manager
experience

Senior
information
security
specialist

Information
security
manager

Enterprise
database
architect

Systems
engineer

Systems
engineer I

Systems
engineer II

Senior
systems
engineer

Gain experience
Systems
in IT security
engineering
project
manager

Systems
engineering
director

Systems
support

IT systems
support I

Senior
IT
Move to more
senior
IT systems
systems
role
with
continued
support ii
support
focus on gaining

IT systems
support
manager

IT systems
support
director

Software
engineer

Start in a
P1 job
entry into Software
job family Engineer I

Identified as a destination role


due to the high degree of impact
this role has on the organization.
Senior
This is the top individualDirector,
contributor in the IT function,
Data and
Security
with responsibility for designing
major components of the IT
infrastructure. This role requires
a high level of understanding
Director,
Information
of databases, security and
IT
systems. Individuals in Technology
this role
mustSenior
manage large projects and
Director, IT
project teams.
Engineering

technical knowledge
Software
engineer II

Senior
software
engineer

Software
engineering
project
manager
Software
engineering
manager

Software
engineering
director

Professional
P1

P2

P3

P4

M1

M2

P5

P6

Illustrative
alignment

M4

M5

Management

Integrated Development Planning


For a career management program to be effective,
it must be properly supported and linked to other
strategic HR initiatives and existing HR programs.
Tools and technology. Two of the most valuable career
management support tools include an employee
reference guide and an employee workbook. The
reference guide describes the career management
process and program fundamentals, while the
workbook enables employees to assess their
strengths and weaknesses, and to develop short- and
long-term career plans with their managers.
A technology platform that provides access to
current career information and tools, thereby
enabling employees to take an active part in
managing their careers, can facilitate effective
career management. Given that such a platform
typically captures performance management
information e.g., performance objectives, reviews,
competency assessments as well as career
management data, it shines a spotlight on the

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M3

aspirations and capabilities of the companys talent


pool. It is necessary that this type of platform link to
an organizations HR information system to ensure
seamless access to critical HR data including career
management information.
Manager training and support. Unfortunately, less
than half (47%) of organizations say they provide
their managers with career management training
and tools in the form of talking points or discussion
guides. This could help explain why only 41% of
employees rate their manager as effective in holding
career development discussions. It is important for
organizations to ensure that managers are trained to
have effective career conversations with employees.
Regardless of whether these conversations are
formally set at certain intervals or occur informally
at any point in the year, managers need to be
equipped with information on the organizations
career management strategy and tools. This will
prepare them to ask the right questions as they
guide employees through the process of developing
actionable career plans.

47%

of organizations say
they provide their
managers with career
management training
and tools in the form
of talking points or
discussion guides.

Career Management: Making It Work for Employees and Employers 6

Structured mentoring. Even a carefully planned


career management program may not sufficiently
prepare employees for all the challenges that come
with increased responsibility. For this reason, a
growing number of organizations are implementing
structured mentoring programs. The goal of
structured mentoring is to identify the deep and
often undocumented knowledge that senior people
have acquired over several decades, and transfer
that knowledge to those with less experience. This
reduces the risk of knowledge loss when senior
employees leave or retire. At the same time, it
provides an opportunity for employees to accelerate
the learning process, and reduce the amount of trial
and error they often face in new positions. Overall,
a structured mentoring program not only enhances
career development, but strategically fosters a culture
of rapid learning and growth needed to compete in a
complex, fast-changing business environment.

Change Management and


Communication
A thoughtfully planned and executed change
management and communication process will help
sustain your career management program over the
long term. As with any program, it is essential to
secure ongoing support and sponsorship from senior
executives and business leaders.
In addition, organizations should reach out to
employees early in the process, even as the program
is being designed, to help them understand the value
of the program. Be sure to engage key influencers,
including skeptics or those with dissenting views, and
solicit their input as a way to give them skin in the
game. To provide employees a sense of ownership,
consider including them as subject matter experts in
helping design different program components such as
competencies and skills required for different jobs.

It
is essential to secure ongoing support and sponsorship from senior
executives and business leaders.
Linking and relating to other programs. In addition
to providing information and tools to employees
and equipping managers to have the right career
conversations, it is critical for an organization to
carefully link a career management program to
existing programs. Start by considering the following
questions:
How does your career management strategy
enhance or support your employment deal?
How does your career management program
support succession planning?
Have you clearly articulated how your career
management program differs from and/or
integrates with existing performance management
and development planning programs?
Does your career management program support
workforce planning, given the projected loss of
knowledge due to employee exits, and projected
knowledge requirements for sustaining and
growing the business?
Are mentoring roles and responsibilities integrated
into the expectations at various career levels to
enhance employee development?
If these linkages and distinctions are not made clear,
an organization risks having its career management
program be not well received and potentially regarded
negatively (for example, as a performance management
mechanism for determining who will lose their job in
a layoff).

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Employees can also offer feedback via focus groups


or pilot programs prior to program launch. Finally, it is
important to move beyond just tools and materials,
and create career development opportunities such as
mentoring programs or womens forums to support an
employees growth.
Program monitoring is an essential part of the change
process. It is important to measure the effectiveness of
change or rollout activities (e.g., through surveys) and
make required course corrections. Organizations can
also monitor the effectiveness of career management
programs overall (e.g., through engagement surveys and
movement reports).

Getting Started
Before starting a career management program, it can
be helpful to do an inventory of career management
components (e.g., job functions and families,
competencies and career paths) that may already be in
place and determine the visibility these elements have
within your organization. It is not unusual to uncover
stand-alone career management components that are
not linked together in a meaningful way.
Most often, organizations start developing a career
management program within a specific area of the
organization (e.g., within a function such as sales).
Once a career management program is launched
in one part of an organization, it often generates
excitement and buzz so that other areas are shortly
asking for their turn as well.

Career Management: Making It Work for Employees and Employers 7

There are various circumstances that provide


organizations with an impetus for starting a career
management program. In some cases, employers use
a career management program to help address talent
pain points (i.e., areas with current or projected talent
shortages) or to help valuable employees update their
skills in response to a changing work environment.
In other cases, an organization may decide to move
ahead with a career management initiative in response
to employee requests.
It is also not uncommon for an organization to focus
on career management after having gone through
a process of segmentation and differentiation.
Using insights from a workforce segmentation, an
organization can develop career programs tailored
to different employee groups, for example, by
stretching programs with increasingly complex projects
for employees in pivotal roles and high-potential
employees who are critical to business success.

A Win-Win Proposition
Finally, it is important to recognize that career
management is a key component of an organizations
total rewards portfolio. An effectively designed and
implemented career management program delivers
benefits to both employees and employers (Figure 6).
Employees will have the tools and resources to chart
career paths and own their careers. And employers will
see a return in the form of a deeper bench of future
leaders, a more engaged workforce and an enhanced
employment deal, enabling them to attract and retain
top talent.

Figure 6. Career management is important to both the employee and the employer

Employee view
Career management is the system
that enables employees to own
their careers.

Employer view
Career management generates an

ROI in employee development.

Career management provides:

Career management provides:

Clarification of the organizations


career management philosophy:
What types of skills are valued?
What are the roles of the
employee and manager in career
conversations?
Access to information on career
opportunities
User-friendly tools and resources to
chart career paths and develop a
career plan
Resources to enhance skill sets
and think about meaningful work
experiences

Career paths that fill a robust talent


pipeline to meet business demands
Deeper bench of future leaders who
have had the requisite experiences to
fill key roles in the succession plan
Engaged employees meeting personal
career aspirations and making a greater
contribution to business results
An enhanced value proposition that
attracts and retains top talent
Reduced turnover costs in critical
positions and levels
Diminished search firm and training
fees

About Towers Watson


Towers Watson is a leading global professional services
company that helps organizations improve performance
through effective people, risk and financial management.
With more than 14,000 associates around the world,
we offer consulting, technology and solutions in the
areas of benefits, talent management, rewards, and
risk and capital management.

Copyright 2014 Towers Watson. All rights reserved.


TW-NA-2014-38807

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