Career mobility in organizations: implications for career development – Part I

Thomas N. Garavan Lecturer in Human Resource Development, University of Limerick, Ireland and Michael Coolahan Electricity Supply Board, Limerick, Ireland

Reviews the literature on career mobility and considers its implications for career development practices within organizations. Focuses on individualistic and organizational perspectives and identifies a range of factors which facilitate or inhibit the mobility process. Identifies a range of career development implications including changing notions about what constitutes a career, the need to take into account business issues and the move towards joint career planning.

Strategic approaches to training and career development are now discussed with considerable regularity in the HRD literature. This change of emphasis has brought with it a realization that the effective management of an individual’s career within the organization can make an important contribution to an organization achieving competitive advantage from within. Garavan[1] refers to the growing body of literature on the relationship between organizational commitment and career issues and the need to manage the career of an employee in a strategic fashion. There is, however, considerable confusion about what constitutes career mobility and development in practice. This confusion stems in part from the fact that career theorists have to date tended to focus their attention on either: • the individualistic approach to careers which generally takes the view that career advancement is a function of background, education, ability, job experience, ambition, timing, etc.; or • the organizational approach which views careers as a structural issue. Slocum[2] contends that individual careers in organizations are determined by, for example, internal labour market structures, vacancy chains, and organizational politics. The individualistic perspective tends to assume that employees assess their career prospects accurately, make optimum human capital investments and have a good understanding of the factors that affect their future mobility This view of careers is, however, . somewhat simplistic, specifically on the issue of career decision making. Phillips et al.[3] have identified three such styles: 1 rational: where the advantages and disadvantages of various options are considered logically and systematically; 2 intuitive: where various options are considered and the decision is made on gut feeling; 3 dependent: where the individual essentially denies responsibility for decision making and waits for other people or situations to dictate what they should do.

Journal of European Industrial Training 20/4 [1996] 30–40 © MCB University Press [ISSN 0309-0590]

A rational, individualistic perspective ignores the fact that human resource policies are sometimes ambiguous or misleading about the ways in which promotional opportunities are determined. It downplays constraints on career paths because of the desire not to dampen employee motivation levels[4]. Organizational approaches are also limited in that they are not easily related to individual characteristics and experience or their actual career paths within the organization[5]. Given the complexity of internal labour market structures and the emergence of multiple job ladders in many modern organizations, it can be safely posited that the Horatio Alger idealized career pattern of office boy to president will not be easily realized in the future because access to higher-level positions has become increasingly closed to those who start at the bottom rung of the job ladder. Moreover, the emergence of job ladders divides the labour force because the relatively privileged position of those within the ladders gives them an incentive to exclude others. A system of “haves” and “have nots” is created and tends to perpetuate itself[6,7]. A further feature of the modern organization which directly affects career prospects is the adoption of new technology Educational . criteria and demands for technical knowledge lead to the segregation of higher skilled from lower skilled jobs and the virtual elimination of the bridge between both, i.e. the dead-end job has become the rule rather than the exception. Cassell[8] argues that the emergence of specialized education has led to the horizontal stratification of organizations, limited upward mobility and the creation of barriers which impede mobility within the organization’s divisions and departments. He contends that this has two consequences: 1 limited career prospects and variety of experience which inhibits an employee’s psychological and intellectual growth; 2 lack of experience and, specifically experience at the shopfloor level has reduced the supply of people with the overall understanding of the organization needed to be effective leaders.

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This characteristic can be observed in the many competing definitions of “career” put forward. He further emphasizes that organizations desire their employees to pursue career development which is relevant to organizational goals and [ 31 ] . employees are more interested in opportunities for advancement. it is more sensible to . particularly where trade unions are involved. Garavan[1] points to research showing that individuals and organizations view careers differently Such research shows that while . It is also accepted that barriers to career mobility create dysfunctional outcomes for both the organization and its employees. Hall’s[11] more psychologically-oriented definition defines it as: a perceived sequence of attitudes and behaviours associated with work related experiences and activities over the span of a person’s life.Thomas N. Both definitions reinforce the common perception of a career to be a series of jobs which are played out over time in a hierarchically organized setting. It is accepted. “stratification by credentials” has led to the development of a management cadre that has achieved its position in the absence of experience at the bottom rungs of the ladder. this ignores the fact that in many organizations. Garavan and Michael Coolahan Career mobility in organizations: implications for career development – Part I Journal of European Industrial Training 20/4 [1996] 30–40 Moreover. managers can experience career growth “inplace” (without moving) as their function or department expands beneath them.. etc. Part II considers these issues in the context of a specific organizational setting. gaining along the way additional increments in formal authority. more validity since the organization represents the most pertinent status hierarchy for many Furthermore. In this paper the authors will concentrate mainly on barriers that affect intra-organizational career mobility as opposed to interorganizational mobility This approach has . however. Preoccupation with vertical mobility fails to recognize that for “early” managers in fast growing high-technology[12] the very notion of “career” as a sequence of moves may have little meaning. employers are more concerned with ensuring that managerial succession is orderly and efficient. ageing. artists. In the first part of this paper the authors will look at some definitional issues relating to careers and mobility. There is support in the literature for the view that such barriers result from a failure on the part of human resource practitioners to integrate individual and organizational perspectives within career development practices or what is termed by Garavan[1] as “career planning” which focuses on the individual and “career management” which focuses more on the plans and activities of the organization. For example. intrinsic/extrinsic rewards. dentists. Wilensky’s definition is inherently restrictive in its emphasis on vertical mobility The common perception . through which persons moved in an ordered (more or less predictable) sequence. not between occupations[9]. etc. viz: doctors. However. Barriers impact on the latter category because internal job mobility is seen as an important component of career advancement and failure to fulfil psychological needs results in decreased motivation and commitment to organizational goals. The former suffers from an inability to optimize its return on its human resource investment because of failure to identify its best talent and the evolution of internal labour market structures which creates bureaucratic barriers prohibiting staff redeployment. However. that careers can and do exist outside the organizational setting and that vertical movement is not necessary for an individual’s ability to form a meaningful career. many barriers exist which impede intra-organizational career mobility . obsolescence of technical skills. horizontal or lateral movement (at the same level in the hierarchy) is encouraged and very often necessary as a means of acquiring the necessary broad experience before moving from a specialist to a more generalist management position. While it is accepted that organizations cannot fulfil every employee’s promotional expectations. What constitutes a career and career mobility? Some definitional issues What constitutes a career? An immediate problem facing the researcher in the area of careers is the fact that the literature is extant but fragmented. impact of a decline in company performance. instead. Wilensky[10] writing from a sociological perspective defined a career in structural terms as a: succession of related jobs arranged in a hierarchy of prestige. etc. of a successful career involves successive linear movement up the functional-line organizational career ladder. study career attainment within occupations or organizational hierarchies because this is where most of the advancement occurs. and a followership that has grassroots experience but no opportunity for vertical movement. review the literature on career mobility from both individual and organizational perspectives and consider some of the development implications arising.

Garavan and Michael Coolahan Career mobility in organizations: implications for career development – Part I Journal of European Industrial Training 20/4 [1996] 30–40 are essentially interested in making sure that there is a good match between the person and the job. gender and family influences. salary level. Kotter[16] found that those headed for the top had usually been promoted out of their positions within 2. At the organizational level the emphasis is on creating a suitable career system which co-ordinates staffing activities into a process that helps the firm adapt to its environment[21]. When careers are examined from the individual’s perspective it is important to recognize the distinction between the internal/subjective and external/objective meanings of a career. This definition allows for the incorporation of objective as well as subjective notions of career. researched included education. and career development ultimately determines whether an employee gets “stuck” in the hierarchy . and those which do not. formal status. success in relation to one’s own goal and values) is a major career motivator for most people. since it is important for an individual’s climb up the corporate hierarchy . is a person’s own subjective idea about work life and his/her role within it. They point to the difficulty in measuring those kinds of mobility which result from the gradual accumulation of small changes in job duties with increased responsibility. Heuseman and Hatfield[17] and Birch and McMillan[18] found that a manager changes his job within a company on average 2. and hierarchical ascension. Schein[19] suggests three dimensions of career mobility within a firm: increasing centrality and acceptance to the core organizational membership. Even the most cursory review of the careers literature reinforces the view that in order to fully understand the dynamics of career mobility it is necessary to distinguish between organizational and individual levels of analysis. The focus is generally on independent variables that predict career mobility Issues . For the purposes of this paper a career will be defined as a pattern of workrelated experiences that span the course of an individual’s life. through promotions. an individual who is considered to have achieved hierarchical success may not be satisfied with his/her level of advancement. In similar studies. or the internal career. Schein and Van Maanen[22] postulate that an individual’s definition of a career. Creedy and Whitfield[20] argue that internal mobility has not been comprehensively researched and is difficult to measure. employees’ mobility prospects depend not only on their ability and motivation but also on the position of their specific job within the organization’s internal labour market[13]. How is career mobility defined? What objective measures may be used to define career success? Gattiker and Larwood[15] suggest that the frequency of promotion within an organization is a valuable indicator of career success and mobility.. and does not confine a career to professional and managerial occupations or conventional career paths involving increased seniority within a single occupation and/or organization[14].e. At the individual level the emphasis is on how people make sense of their own individual careers and where they fit into this organizational process. Equally. where the degree to which an internal labour market exists and its complexities significantly defines the scope of an individual’s organizational career. The way in which organizations are organized and the way in which the employment relationship is organized defines the type and scope of career an employee may have. This distinction has important implications for individual career outcomes and career development. Essentially a career is something that an individual experiences but is not solely of his/her own making. An objective career on the other hand is defined by title.9 times during his/her career. rank. or an individual may not consider a move to a higher level position if that position is perceived (by him/her) to be a step backwards in the prestige stakes. an individual’s chances of mobility are better if the organization operates a policy of promotion from within.4 years.Thomas N. For example. social class. lateral movement across functions. Moreover. specifically the relationship between social class and [ 32 ] . etc. Social class determinants Ironically the very first wave of career research (almost 50 years ago) focused on occupational mobility. Put another way psychological success (i. This distinction is important because employees may experience the illusion of mobility when in fact their career is “blocked”. Career mobility: the individual context The individual perspective on careers has generally been the domain of psychologists. The latter point is important within the context of a multi-disciplinary organization such as will be discussed in Part II of the paper. all of which are visible and defined externally to the employee[23]. once recruited to an organization.

The effects of family background on career attainment was initially studied by Miller and Form[26]. They propose that inter-firm career mobility (“promotion”) is uncertain and subject to employer decision-making processes. managerial competence. The significance for individuals and organizations of employees having a [ 33 ] . security and stability. The theory predicts that. An individual’s internal or career selfconcept is developed as a result of early socialization and experiences in the workplace where employees learn what they are good at and what motivates them. manager or professional) were at least six times more likely to sit the Leaving Certificate Examination and thirteen times more likely to enter third level education than boys from an unskilled or semi-skilled labouring family background. On the other hand. specifically the father’s occupation and father’s education. their careers are likely to involve fewer distinct occupations than less educated workers.[31] in their study of participation levels in the Irish educational system found that: pupils from an upper non-manual background (i. A plausible explanation for these statistics can be observed from research by Blau and Duncan[29]. ability and job experience. values. The anchor is the thing the person would not give up if he or she had the choice. Of most relevance to this paper. and replicated by other sociologists. It also predicts two opposing effects in relation to career mobility On the . Education and professional training In developing a theory of career mobility. motives. Hout demonstrates that: in numerical terms. the probability of promotion is a function of schooling. status. Breen et al. A more recent study by Hout[28] on social mobility in Ireland proves statistically that the advantage of upper middle class origins in relation to career attainment is significant. talent and values.e. is the work of Blau and Meyer[25] who suggested that social structure influenced career in two ways: 1 It shaped the social development of the individual and thus his/her career orientation. titles. upper professionals’ sons have a chance of landing a good job that is six times higher than the chance of proprietors’ sons and twenty four times higher than the chance of semi-skilled workers’ sons. Sicherman and Galor[30] analysed theoretically and empirically the role and significance of occupational mobility (mobility with the context of moving up the hierarchy) in the labour market focusing on an individual’s career and taking into account investment in human capital (education and professional training). 2 It affected the occupational opportunities available to the individual. Schein[33] conceptualized careers as a process of finding a career anchor which becomes a guiding focus in an employee’s life. education and training increased the likelihood of occupational He identified five career anchors: technicalfunctional. These two forces were found to be strong predictors of a person’s education and their first job. one hand. He described these orientations as “career anchors”. While there is some disagreement among sociologists about the strength of this relationship. however. In addition. Schein argues that the career anchor is an: overriding concern or need that operates as a genuine constraint on career decisions. whose father is an executive. upgrading. This in turn could predict their current job. Garavan and Michael Coolahan Career mobility in organizations: implications for career development – Part I Journal of European Industrial Training 20/4 [1996] 30–40 intergenerational changes in occupation status[24]. Schein[32] formulated a conceptual model which articulates that different career orientations develop. The values of the particular society also contribute to this process. highskill careers might involve fewer changes in tasks over time (fewer hierarchical movements are open to highly skilled specialists) and fewer changes of firm. self concept. giving him/her a selfimage built around needs. Access to education is differentiated according to social class. creativity. Roberts[27] points out: the assertion of the social class approach that job opportunities partly depend on position in the social structure cannot be denied. having started their career at a higher level. more educated and trained workers. given an occupation of origin. Internal career self-concepts Attention has already been drawn to the need to differentiate between the internal meaning given to a career by the individual and the objective or external perception of a career as in formal position. interest. since well-educated and trained workers can start their working careers at a higher-level occupation. etc. face longer career ladders and greater opportunities for hierarchical advancement. They suggest that the most influential forces on career attainment come from the individual’s social class background.Thomas N. hierarchy. autonomy and independence.

A similar argument can be made for a craft person moving into a supervisory position. or the process of personality development and its role in vocational selection[38]. that people with high self-esteem make better career decisions than people with low self-esteem. linear and spiral.Thomas N.[36] argue that the fast pace of societal and technological change generally favours the spiral and transitory career concepts. The opportunity cost of not developing the necessary social and technical skills at an early stage may lead to premature career plateauing.e. For example. or accept it only with reluctance. particularly if the spouse had to forgo his/her career to accommodate the move. Second. individuals with a strong technical competence career anchor may move upwards hierarchically to management or supervisory positions with disastrous consequences for both self and organization as a result of the misfit[34]. steady state. He adds that education plays an important role since it commits a person to a certain course of action and eliminates others. He described four “career self concepts” that underpin a person’s thinking about his/her career and also seem to be built into certain occupations or organizations. career anchors can create barriers to career mobility for individuals. i. experience poor career satisfaction. in order to advance career-wise. Research by Hall and Hall[43]. Hall and Isabella[44] found that the financial independence of the dual-earners lessened the motivation to relocate. for example. However. but may be unwilling to challenge for a higher position. Two-thirds of a group of managers surveyed in 1986 over the age of 35 would not accept a job move. Forster[40] refers to studies on managerial attitudes to relocating. Familial influences – dual career families Research shows that community ties. an individual with a “security anchor” may be content to work hard enough to maintain job security and a reasonable income.[39] suggest that some employees may not understand the consequences of passing up promotional opportunities in their early careers. He identified a range of personality types which are compatible with particular occupational environments. people will have a more successful career when there is a good match between the individual’s personality (orientation) and the occupation they have chosen. The latter example is analogous to the paradox outlined by Gattiker and Larwood[15] to the effect that the individual could achieve “objective” career success. Arnold et al. on the effects of dual careers on mobility. have a negative impact on employee mobility[40-42]. Holland’s theory does not explain the process by which effective career decisions are made[36]. Basically it suggests that people with particular personality traits will choose predictable types of occupational environments. Self-imposed constraint Dalton et al. Driver[35] in a similar vein developed a conceptual model of internal career maps. Osipow[38] refers to the problem of not being able to start a career in the “primary” area of interest and suggests that “chance” can play a significant role in career choice. but because of their internal perspective. An employee with a “technical career anchor” such as an engineer may be unwilling to forgo his/her main competence to move up to a general management position where this expertise will not be required. Therefore.[36] refer to evidence which suggests. First. Garavan and Michael Coolahan Career mobility in organizations: implications for career development – Part I Journal of European Industrial Training 20/4 [1996] 30–40 particular “career anchor” or what could also be called “mindset” can be observed as follows. transitory. i. Given the age profile of many organizations. such as relatives and friends living in the same geographical area. but these have not historically been perceived as normal or legitimate patterns in many organizations. found that transfer and relocations were the main problems for both two-career couples and for companies. most organizational cultures restrict esteem to those who climb the hierarchical ladder. Arnold et al.e. Low growth need Although a person may have the ability to perform at a higher level in the organization he/she may not value highly enough the rewards increased responsibility may bring. Holland’s hypothesis is based on the notion of congruence. Career choice One of the most influential theories of career choice is Holland’s[37]. [ 34 ] . The principal non-work reason given by employees for refusing job moves is the potentially disruptive effect on spouses and other family dependants. Sixty per cent of the managers surveyed by the Institute of Manpower Studies (IMS) in 1987 had at some time refused a job because of family commitments. Another influence affecting employee attitudes towards promotion is the growing number of dual-earner or dual-career couples in the labour market. individuals who subscribe to a linear concept will have difficulties with their career.

Other studies have shown that women have difficulty in acquiring a mentor in male dominated jobs[50. Other variables such as education. ILMs offer advantages to both employee and employer: the former enjoys security of employment and privileged access to promotion while the latter benefits by retention of firm-specific skills transferred to employees through on-the-job training. • The tendency to locate low-skilled assembly type operations. Career mobility: the organizational context It is clear that a considerable number of individual factors influence an individual’s career success. mainly staffed by women. Such claims are used as justification to deny women access to job ladders leading to the top. in periphery functions removed from the core firm. he/she is seen as behind schedule and may never attain that position. technology. Garavan and Michael Coolahan Career mobility in organizations: implications for career development – Part I Journal of European Industrial Training 20/4 [1996] 30–40 Age The negative correlation between increasing biological age and career mobility is widely accepted.51]. is that organizations of the same size and operating within the same basic industry ranged from having no formal promotion system to extensive ILMs covering most workers with many variants between these extremes. and centralized pay systems. and whether one’s job is in a job ladder or not. However. limits career opportunity for women. associated with Levinson’s model of Life development.. there is support for the Gender/race There is a considerable body of research and literature explaining how racial and sexual discrimination and the treatment of ethnic minorities may influence career dynamics. Rosenbaum[46] suggests that organizations have occupational age norms that indicate career progression norms. The complexity of the internal labour market (ILM) structure. These variables can be best described as moderating in influence.[49] analysed the main . the type of career system. if by the age of 40 a person has not been promoted to a managerial position.’s [52] research. In mobile dual career families the dominant “bread winner” is usually the male[41]. was consistent with a reluctance (if a promotion required a move) to relocate in order to avoid family disruption. Internal labour market Once inside an organization. career development opportunities and the kinds of career an individual can have. the strength of this relationship may vary depending on the organization and it is difficult to measure. and individuals at this stage were least likely to relocate if requested to do so[48]. The lack of child-care facilities provided by work organizations is also a problem. However. may be more significant in inter-organizational promotion contests[45]. Another problem for analysts of ILMs highlighted in research by Baron et al. Despite Baron et al. experience. Organizations also benefit because the promise of a promotion at some time in the future elicits compliance and provides incentives for employees to retain organizational membership. This article will confine itself to those aspects of ILM arrangements which facilitate and/or constrain career mobility and career development opportunities. Despite increasing participation rates in the labour force worldwide. skill. etc. Internal Labour Markets (ILMs) are characterized by recruitment at specific “points of entry”. barriers to career mobility faced by women in hierarchical bureaucratic organizations. viz: • Societal stereotypes which sees women as “properly in the home” rather than the workplace depict women as less committed than men to jobs and careers. • the decline stage. formally defined job ladders that provide individuals with promotional opportunities. an individual’s career mobility prospects are dependent on the extent to which “promotion from within” policies exist. etc.[47]. • Women lose out because of the political nature of the internal promotion system in hierarchical organizations.[52] (corroborating earlier work by Pfeffer and Cohen[53]).Thomas N. associated with Super’s career development model. shape mobility patterns. provides further information on the effect of age on career mobility: • the mid-life transition period (age 40-45). Ornstein et al. very few women have risen to positions of leadership and authority Martin et al. size. In many organizations. • Primary responsibility for home and children affects the ability of women to relocate. structure. [ 35 ] . • The educational system prepares women for female-dominated jobs usually involving short career ladders. and the facility to screen workers of differing ability through observing job performance. was consistent with withdrawing from the job/career. careers are usually made within organizations and therefore career dynamics are influenced to a considerable degree by matters organizational. organizational life cycle.

They concluded that the division of labour leads to a political contest in organizations with different groups such as occupational groups. even when the position was open to other ladders. smaller number of jobs at the top. This may be especially so where trade unions are recognized. Rosenbaum[46] found that managers have insufficient information about employees’ abilities and relied on certain “structural indicators” to signal ability such as: • educational credentials are thought to connote ability. • individuals’ past education and job attainments are equated with ability. i. high status early in the career and nowhere to go afterwards. personnel specialists. fostering both vertical and horizontal distinctions within similar occupations. Another problem highlighted by Osterman[7] is that rules and procedures within ILMs considerably limit management discretion concerning deployment of the labour force. within a short time of entering an organization. Such labelling. the allocation of cross-functional assignments to prepare individuals for upward mobility may owe more to political favouritism than any objective assessment of an individual’s potential[57]. mini-pyramid. training. [ 36 ] . Baron and Bielby[56] argue that large organizations are more likely to proliferate job titles. Osterman[7] noted that there can be more than one ILM in an organization. having common technical skills or customs. Lee and Piper[50] refer to the process of “labelling”. Some ladders reach the top of the organization. Distribution of grades by job ladder can make advancement difficult if there is a concentration of lower level grades at the bottom. Despite the importance of career systems for the individual and the organization. thereby limiting their upward potential.Thomas N. viz: functional overspecialization/high-level dead end jobs. He explains how craft. difficulty in measuring a person’s attributes. Job ladders can be differentiated both vertically and horizontally with limited lateral movement. i. Promotions At the very basic level. Kanter[54] identified three major sources of blocked mobility associated with ILMs: 1 dead-end jobs with short ladders and limited opportunities for horizontal movement. Job ladders The notion that job ladders develop around work roles. industrial (firm specific). determines whether an employee becomes a “high flyer”. “steady climber” or “slow mover”. striving to shape jobs to further their own interests. Garavan and Michael Coolahan Career mobility in organizations: implications for career development – Part I Journal of European Industrial Training 20/4 [1996] 30–40 view that formal ILMs are synonymous with large hierarchical type organizations and consistent with bureaucratic functional-line career ladders. • supervisors’ ratings are unreliable because competing candidates are often in comparable jobs. job characteristics are likewise hard to measure. Kanter[54] also identified sources of career blockages in hightech firms. trade unions. and secondary employment systems can exist in the same organization operating under different industrial relations rules. is a recurring theme in the literature. there is support for the view that many vertical and horizontal distinctions among jobs reflect custom and status issues and not simply distinctions in skill and knowledge requirements. This rigidity prevents employees from gaining experience through cross-functional lateral moves. very little is known about the dynamics of employment conditions within which firms define opportunities and equip people for job changes[21]. For example. 2 wrong route to a high-mobility job: inexperience inhibits further moves. Lee[58. an employee’s chance of competing for a vacancy in a promotional hierarchy is primarily dependent on that individual being aware than an opportunity exists. 3 the “Pyramid Squeeze”. DiPrete[55] found that employees on the same job ladder and in the same division as the vacancy were more likely than others to get the job. Equally other HRM policies in areas like promotion. However. irrelevant and subjective evidence. an individual is attributed with qualities. where. abilities and attitudes based on limited. • employees are viewed as being more capable if they have “rapidly advancing careers” or if they are “younger” than their peers in their status level. Research by Fagenson[60] showed that the inability to secure a “mentor” can adversely affect a person’s career chances.59] argues that the formality of the promotion process creates problems for both promoter and promotee. providing different career opportunities for diverse groups of workers. which is in turn somewhat dependent on the existence or otherwise of companywide job posting arrangements. others have ceilings at fairly low levels. they argue.e.e. recruitment and the reward systems can have an impact on an individual’s career attainment.

in subsequent secondary tournaments. Opportunities for career advancement are also directly [ 37 ] . career paths are not identified and advancement is ad hoc. Kanter[12] found that high-technology companies provided “dual ladders”.[36] point out that the high expectation of advancement of new recruits can lead to disillusionment. Another problem is the obsolescence of technical professions.5] to explain individual career mobility in “pyramid” shaped organizations. Internal competition A tournament model was proposed by Rosenbaum[4. 3 Mechanistic career development: Bureaucratic rules and procedures can lead to a loss of motivation when the criteria for career advancement are adhered to rigidly . In this case vertical moves predominate. The model suggests a dynamic series of contests generated by organizational events. Inglos[61] found that “the selection for and participation in training and development activities carries powerful symbolic messages within an organization. Such industries are typified by short career ladders with limited opportunity for hierarchical advancement. technical employees advanced along a track supposedly in parallel with a managerial track. however. Selection criteria and methods An employee’s mobility within an organization may be restricted if there is a mismatch between the abilities and attributes of the individual and the requirements of the job. Early losers on the other hand receive a “custodial socialization process” and their subsequent performance is largely irrelevant and goes unnoticed. However. non-selection implies/signals a “dead end” career. Arnold et al. He advocates realistic job previews to describe jobs “warts and all” to overcome this problem. Fast-moving high-technology organizations may have no option but to “buy in” expertise. loss of motivation and intention to leave the organization. defining future opportunities. This phenomenon creates a blocked career path for those coming up behind in the hierarchy . They may compete. and mobility prospects for staff are further limited if the organization has to downsize in order to survive. In this situation the normal pyramid restrictions on upward mobility are exacerbated. Guntz[62] makes the point that the lateral moves are possible when the technology is simple but difficult when the technology is complex. the unavailability of training.Thomas N. Slocum[2] found that there were significantly fewer career opportunities in “defender” strategy companies than in “analyser” strategy companies. Over-reliance on typically unreliable selection devices like interviews and some personality tests can facilitate this mismatch. independent of performance levels. Poor human resource planning Inaccurate human resource forecasting can result in overstaffing. organizations create unnecessary restrictions by not making cross-functional promotions. Employees who have failed to make it into general management may become surplus to requirement in the event of technological change. Guntz[62] argues that an excess of training or over-specialization in one area may make it difficult for an individual to change job ladders. or the refusal by the individual to undertake training and development. Early winners are seen as “high potential” people who can do no wrong and receive challenging assignments which prepares them for future success. The costs of losing a contest is “instant death” and this often discourages risk taking and innovation on the part of employees. 2 Political career development: Organizational politics can promote or impede an employee’s career. Organizational technology The type of organizational technology and the technological environment can significantly influence an individual’s career opportunities. External business conditions resulting in slow organizational growth can limit the number of opportunities for increased responsibilities. He argues that each competition differentiates a group of employees. Extrinsic rewards Some employees may have the skills and abilities to perform at a higher level but do not value the reward highly enough. 4 Neglected career development: Individuals are left to take charge of their own development. Garavan and Michael Coolahan Career mobility in organizations: implications for career development – Part I Journal of European Industrial Training 20/4 [1996] 30–40 Training and development Over time.” Equally. can impede an employee’s progress up or across job ladders[42]. Weaknesses in the organization’s career development system Nicholson and Arnold[63] identified four typical shortcomings of organizational career development systems: 1 Restricted career development: No organization can provide unlimited opportunities for staff mobility due to the pyramidal nature of the organization.

The implications for career development are many. Organizational restructuring Recent trends. such as restructuring or rationalization of companies. 3 Later job opportunities will become increasingly relevant especially for older age groups. This shift in emphasis will have significant implications for successor planning and career management systems. Vol. i. This segmentation has precipitated a situation where “worker mobility between tiers is increasingly constrained by a widening skill gap and geographic separation”[8]. many of the organizational factors reviewed indicate a need to embrace other notions of a career. T.e. and the migration of work towards periphery firms where inferior labour markets exist. The notion of a job/career for life or guaranteed promotion will have to be specifically addressed with a greater emphasis on widening the individual’s perception of what constitutes a career. [ 38 ] . when there is often an assumption that development stops. Organizational characteristics act as moderators of the relationship between individual characteristics and mobility patterns. providing a flexible workforce which can be dispensed with in times of recession. Some of these issues will be addressed in part II of this paper which reports a case study on career mobility and development in a multidisciplinary organization. Growth in services One of the most significant structural changes to affect career opportunity for workers is the decline in manufacturing and the growth in services industries. 2 Planning career development must become more of a joint process involving both the individual and the organizational perspective. Multi-tasking Apart from reducing the size of the labour force. Key lessons for career development This paper has reviewed some of the literature on career mobility and proposes that career progression within organizations is constrained by a combination of individual and organizational factors. The decentralization of production.Thomas N. 1990. Industrial and Commercial Training. However. This will require some education type initiatives. have constrained job mobility and career opportunities. decline and turnaround. barriers may take many forms and may arise from major organizational changes and/or the types of human resource management and development practices prevalent within the organization. Such training and development is likely to occur early in the individual’s career and it will help to ensure that the necessary competences have been achieved early in the career and allow for greater flexibility in terms of career management and development processes.. • Careers tend to be perceived in traditional terms in many organizations. four particular implications are highlighted here: 1 Career development and succession planning cycles will need to relate more closely to the changing business strategies and developments in the structure of the organization than heretofore. increased opportunities for inter-firm career mobility by reducing demarcation barriers. New forms of work organization may facilitate this later movement. “Promoting strategic career development activities: some Irish experience”. Service industries are typified by short career ladders and are used to buffer core organizations. 22-30. References 1 Garavan. It will also provide the organization with greater flexibility when planning lateral moves and upward mobility (if and when available). maintenance. pp.N. However. 22 No. 4 The focus of training and individual development will most likely be the job itself. • Individual variables are important but do not fully explain the level of career mobility which a particular individual may achieve. A number of important issues emerge which have implications for career development practices: • Organizations intentionally or otherwise build-in barriers to career mobility These . multi-tasking has two opposing effects on career mobility On the one hand. however. Cassell[8] comments that the outcome of this type of restructuring and the breaking up of organizational job ladders will be fewer jobs at the higher end of the ladder and a decline in opportunities for future generations of workers. it . 6. the increased firm specificity and the abandonment of external accreditation of skills will lead to reduced opportunities for inter-firm mobility . Garavan and Michael Coolahan Career mobility in organizations: implications for career development – Part I Journal of European Industrial Training 20/4 [1996] 30–40 related to and reflect a firm’s size and organization’s life cycle position. have segmented the labour forces. growth.

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