Career mobility: why it matters and 3 important ways to make it better

Organisations that improve career mobility will have a far easier time keeping good staff

With technologies that dangle new job opportunities in front of employees every day, staff retention is only going to get harder, according to Peter Kokkinos, who says that organisations that improve career mobility will have a far easier time keeping good staff (and save money along the way)

At some point in our lives, we’ll leave a dead-end job – quite literally. The type of job where you’re promised exciting growth and development opportunities but encounter the opposite – repetitive work, few training opportunities, minimal career mobility, and only a slow, linear path to promotion.

Job-hopping is considered normal these days, partly because we have more freedom to move and chase opportunities. But mostly it’s because people won’t tolerate a company where they don’t see a future. We get pigeonholed into particular roles or departments and, because we’re all ‘passive’ job-hunters thanks to technologies like LinkedIn, we’re more exposed to the alternatives – we’d rather move companies, start a business or return to study and switch careers entirely than wait around for things to change. Few companies offer true career mobility, like transitioning from account management to finance, or from recruitment into sales.

We’ve heard the expression ‘people leave managers, not jobs’. A study by Gallup found 50 percent of employees left their job “to get away from their manager to improve their overall life at some point in their career.” That doesn’t mean all managers are terrible people to work for; the problem is companies and managers aren’t good at setting career paths. In the same study, engaged employees were more likely than their colleagues to say their manager helps them set work priorities and performance goals.

“People won’t tolerate a company where they don’t see a future”

Re-hiring is costly, and companies need to do better at career mobility; at understanding the aspirations of their employees and working with them to find opportunities within the organisation – whether that’s up, down or sideways into new territory altogether.

Here are three key steps to introduce or improve genuine career mobility within your company.

1. Introduce frequent staff assessments
Understanding what motivates, and what doesn’t motivate, an individual is crucial when developing a career plan. And waiting for an annual review process to find this out, puts you at risk of losing them in the interim.

In a TriNet survey, 85 percent of employees said they’d feel more confident if they could have more frequent conversations with their managers. For employees, feedback is more impactful when given immediately. It enables more timely behaviour change and keeps them focused on the most important goals. So scrap your annual review process and introduce a continuous feedback approach to employee development. This keeps the employee accountable for reaching their goals, as well as your managers for ensuring the company is delivering on its promise of career mobility to that employee.

2. Leverage technology to build pathways
To really allow people to ‘move’ within a company, investing in the right talent management technology is essential. While a manager or HR can identify issues and opportunities, knowing how to convert that knowledge into a tangible development pathway for the employee is more difficult. What qualifications or skills do they require to switch paths? Who offers it? What does it cost? How can I track results as well as ensuring an employee is still meeting the needs of their current role?

What works best is a single, cloud-based data model that simplifies and streamlines staff assessment and training within an organisation, helping companies identify skills and competency gaps and giving employees access to the resources and training to move forward. Career mobility isn’t hard to offer, but achieving it requires a consistent approach and effort from both parties. Technology that simplifies this process is a worthwhile investment.

3. Offer personalised, on-demand learning
Once you’ve established a framework that promotes career mobility, it’s important to empower each employee to see it through by giving them the autonomy to guide their own learning and development.

Today’s learners expect the same from a learning platform as they do from Netflix or online shopping; personalised, self-curated and on-demand learning is key to giving individuals a sense of ownership to reach their development goals at the pace they decide, and in a way that keeps them motivated. When the future is tangible and not simply in the hands of a manager, they’re more likely stick around.

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