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Help employees identify career opportunities

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What do you do when your organizational career ladder is no longer pointed upward? What can you do when you have downsized, right-sized and restructured to such an extent employees are confused about possible opportunities? What can you do when employees tend to flee from your organization first and ask questions later?

Today, organizational and human-resource leaders need to take on a new view of career management. They need to develop a partnership with their employees, working jointly toward building skills that can benefit the organization as well as the employee in the long term, no matter whether the employee remains with the organization.

Leaders need to know employee training is an investment rather than creating a flight risk.

Finally, a new reinvigorated view of career management will give leaders an opportunity to take a holistic view of all their organizational roles, the skills required within the larger workflow and to identify unexpected career opportunities.

At the same time, a holistic approach to career management gives leaders an opportunity to identify the multitude of skills that exist among their employees.

And believe me, leaders are often surprised at the level of employee talent the organization was not aware of and therefore was not being fully utilized.

The following ideas will assist you to take a career management point of view within your organization.

Conduct a job-analysis process: While job descriptions have long been a standard HR tool, most do not describe the skills and talents required for each job. Take time now to review the knowledge, skills, abilities and competencies required for each job structure in your organization. Use this data to determine both current gaps, future risks in the various skill areas and opportunities for development.

Develop a master chart of job families: List the job skills in chart form, look for common skills and competencies that could be transferred to various jobs within your organization and highlight them. Group similar skills into job families and determine what additional skills would enable more employees to cross-train in other jobs within the families. Create a total organizational framework that outlines the functions, the job families and the different levels in each.

Publish a competency dictionary: Each job has a set of core competencies as well as technical competencies at different levels of expertise. Create a competency dictionary and make it public. This helps employees to see the progression of skills and where they can be applied. This can also provide an awareness of what training might be required to progress toward a particular goal.

Map out career opportunities: Develop a strategic map of opportunities and demonstrate how one job can lead to another. This is helpful for employees as they try to envision a career path. Colour-code skill similarities so employees can clearly see opportunities that might exist upward, downward and sideways.

Conduct an employee-skills assessment: Organizations rarely conduct a complete survey of all the skills and talent found within the employee complement. Now is the time. At the very simple level, employees could complete a skills-inventory checklist or one could be acquired through interviews or a review of performance appraisal forms. Be sure to inquire about skills used outside work in hobbies or community work. These skills can often lead to new careers.

Develop a career-management philosophy: Work with all of your managers to ensure they understand and adopt the philosophy that career management is an investment in employees. Help to overcome the old fear philosophy of "train them and they will leave." Focus on developing a partnership between employee and employer and create ideas on how this can be applied in your organization.

Provide career-management training for employees: Develop a training program that helps employees understand personal success isn't always an upward progression. Help them to gain a sense of personal control by becoming more aware of workplace trends and the need for continuous learning. Help employees identify their passion, talents and motivators and discover how best to align their personal traits and career goals with the vision and objectives of the organization.

Offer career resources: While not all organizations are of the size to offer a career resource centre, leaders can provide resource lists, a library of books and/or refer employees to private coaching with a career consultant. This is especially effective for individuals who are struggling to identify skills and motivators because most people take themselves for granted.

Apply innovative strategies: No matter how small, an organization can offer some strategies to help their employees explore careers. Assign a personal career mentor, create brief job-shadowing opportunities by pairing employees with colleagues or managers for various periods of time so employees can get a feel for other jobs they may be interested in. Finally, the simple tactic of supporting time for informational interviews works well.

Incorporate careers into performance management: It's well-known individual employees rarely set aside time for their own career development, so it is important both for individuals as well as for organizational planning to include this in the annual performance review. Work with the employee to determine training and career goals and set a plan in place. Keep in mind your organizational needs.

Barbara J. Bowes is president of Legacy Bowes Group. She can be reached at

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 3, 2013 H1

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