Technology, changing business strategies -like the continuously changing processes of restructuring-, the lengthened work life and a more flexible job approach are all impacting today’s labour market and are shattering traditional bureaucracies all around the globe.
In response to these market shifts, the traditional linear career is taking a backseat and the multidirectional or fluid career is on the rise.
Remarkably enough, many employees are navigating through these career-defining changes alone as employers are still hanging on to the more traditional constructs of HR causing a disconnect between the employer and employee.
A staggering 1 in 5 professionals believe that they are in the wrong position according to last years research conducted by Right Management. Leaving many of them disengaged and less productive.
With a well thought-out transition process in place and a fresh perspective, employers can use career transitions as an employee engagement tool and as a way to strengthen their talent pipeline – thus improving the boomerang employee return performance- instead of letting it have a negative impact on their corporate image and office morale.
Start with a fresh perspective on your career development processes
On one hand, careers are -and have always been- the “right and responsibility ” of the individual, but on the other hand, careers have often been planned and managed by the organisations they work for. This can be explained by the fact that organisational structures, cultures and processes always were -and often still are- essential inputs for career systems.
Currently, this relation is realigned as most departments are still focusing on linear career paths while employees no longer feel bound by linear advancement. On the contrary, they feel bound by the traditional way of thinking.
Whilst companies are aware that the psychological contract between the employee and employers has changed from job security to opportunities for development, many HR processes are still focused on the linear transition and aren’t fully adjusted to accommodate fluid career development processes.
The reality is that multi-directional careers are emerging and that this approach actually complements the agility that many companies are now looking for. Leaders should come to realise that companies are no longer the sole owners of the career system. Instead, they should bid their farewells to the steering approach and welcome an open, more fluid and facilitating mindset.
A great example of a company that is embracing this change is that of Accenture, where they have created open learning systems for all employees. With that, Accenture facilitates the possibility to develop multi-directionally and at the same time empowers and engages the employee.
Change is about awareness and thoughtful planning
Organisations going through substantial changes should always have a well-rounded change management plan in place. A thought-out strategy will help leaders to remain grounded while going through the different phases of change and prepares them for most of the issues that arise during times of change. The plan will also provide the necessary insight into how your leadership team can support and engage the remaining employees. And just as important: it will prevent panic-stations.
Personnel planning should remain strategic
One of the biggest pitfalls of change comes with the general budget cuts as many managers are told to cut their budgets rigorously with a certain number. Generalising downsizing, however, is never a sound business advice and often comes with a hefty price tag in the long-run.
Reassigning employees should be about the skills that are needed to reach the organisational goals and not about percentages per department. It is a question about what talent should be retained and where the potential lies for employees which skill set did not fit the current need of the organisation. The answer can be found through a skill analysis of your workforce, yet it would be even better to build and maintain a skills inventory.
Always ask yourself what alternative opportunities can be provided within or outside of the organisation for every employee involved and do so in a timely manner. These actions are not only meant for times of change, redeployment channels should always be in place to facilitate the movement of talent.
The most talented employees are often the first to look for greener pastures.
Both mentoring and coaching are key
With the limitless possibilities of fluid careers also comes insecurity, anxiety, doubt and the fear of missing out. Luckily we are guided in our day-to-day lives by friends and family. However, it is extremely helpful to your employees to have others who will challenge and guide them along their professional path as well.
Having role models and peers in place who help them understand their personal and professional goals, to get those goals aligned with their norms and values and finally, to help them match their skills with what is desired by the marketplace is of tremendous value. Your employees deserve and value a strong support system (by the way, so do you!).
In order to realise that professional support system, create mentoring and coaching programmes for your employees. Continually help your leadership team develop their coaching skills and encourage them to facilitate career conversations. Make sure to incorporate transitional support in your separation plans and remember to tailor your coaching programmes for different career levels.
If you succeed in showing that you value your employee, even as he or she is leaving the organisation, you will construct a strong network of brand ambassadors and foster relations. By doing so, you will encourage your employees to return to your company -with added value- in the future.
Google is a great example of an organisation that fosters its relations through their alumni network. Ex-Googlers and Googlers alike are supported and support each other, creating a powerful network and cultivating brand ambassadors along the way.
If you don’t show your sincere appreciation to those deserving of it, they will learn to stop doing the things you appreciate.
Communicate in a supportive manner
Especially when reduction scenarios are on the table, the strength of your communication network will be tested. Leaders should explain the reasons for the changes in a timely, accurate, honest and compassionate manner.
As it will take some time for the message comes across, keep communicating in an autonomy supportive way. Make sure that everyone knows what is expected of them, what the time frame looks like and what means of support are available to them.
It is just as important for leaders to remain approachable. Whether your employees are staying or exciting the organisation, they need to have the ability to have meaningful conversations and ask questions. Their feedback will provide the necessary input to navigate through the changes more effectively.
What tools does your company use to help employees transition?