Career Management: Whose Responsibility Is It?

By Nuno Gomes

You have probably heard (or even used) the slogan “Own Your Career” in your organisation. But is this really possible?

Many organisations are avoiding facing the growing challenges of career management by placing the full responsibility on the shoulders of employees. Others still act like puppet masters and believe they can map everyone’s career. And some are trying to strike the right balance that meets both employers’ and employees’ aspirations. So really, whose responsibility is it?

Modern-day career management seems to be reaching a paradox: employees want and feel more empowered as they can easily access external opportunities but complain that their organisations do not help them enough in their quest. Meanwhile, managers are becoming held more accountable for talent development but often are not provided the support to do so. Ultimately, HR often is stuck in the middle, mediating rather than facilitating. Equilibrium between all concerned parties is the key to effective career management.

The Accountability ‘Matrix’

Essentially, for career management to be successful, it must be a collaborative effort among employees, managers, HR, and the organisation. Employees must take individual responsibility for their careers by maintaining their individual talent profiles, focusing on personal development, demonstrating company values, and building their professional networks. Employees should understand their strengths and capabilities, outline career goals, identify development needs, create an individual development plan to close gaps, and be proactive in watching out for potential career opportunities.

The organisation provides an infrastructure in terms of the human and financial resources, business processes, and technology that support career management. It sets and communicates strategy, values, goals, and objectives, provides information about staffing needs, consistently supports and funds developmental programmes, and promotes an environment in which employees and managers are recognised for their efforts in talent development.

Managers are responsible for providing career coaching and candid performance feedback to employees, identifying opportunities for development, and advising employees about potential job opportunities. Managers should actively support employees in setting clear goals and personal objectives, assessing potential, identifying career options, and providing growth opportunities through assignments, developmental programmes, exposure, and visibility to other parts of the organisation and leaders.

HR’s role is to provide the tools and resources for employees to manage their careers and for managers to help employees in going so, aligned with organisational and business needs. HR acts as a facilitator, providing clear information on what it takes to get to the next level, visibility for developmental initiatives and job opportunities, career counselling, and technologies that allow access to talent information.

What Can Be Gained?

Through the powerful collaboration of the different forces in career management, employees and employers can reap benefits in the three strategic elements that must be considered when designing a career management solution:

  • Transparency — For the employee, transparency means enabling employees to understand the career opportunities that may be available to them. For the employer, transparency means visibility into employee capabilities and career aspirations as well as understanding how these align with what the organisation needs its workforce to look like.
  • Control — For the employee, control means providing the tools that enable employees to fully participate in the decisions about the progression of their careers. For the employer, this means having the right career-management processes in place to ensure that the organisation fills its key roles with the right talent.
  • Velocity — For the employee, velocity means being able to flex the speed of career advancement to meet his or her career aspirations. For the employer, it means having a ready talent pool that advances at the speed needed to fuel the talent pipelines.

Whatever your philosophy is, these are strategic elements that all organisations struggle with and often do not get right. Balancing the accountabilities among the four key stakeholders in career management — employees, managers, HR, and the organisation — will foster a collaborative environment that drives successful talent development, engagement, and retention.

Nuno is a Principal in Mercer’s Talent business based in Dubai. Nuno leads Mercer’s Information Solutions business for the Middle East (Gulf and Levant countries), including Mobility services and products. 

This article was reproduced from Mercer’s “HR Middle East” quarterly review with permission.

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