Nowadays, not investing in the development of employees means an increase in employability and retention issues. Most organizations understand the importance of employability, resulting in important efforts directed towards up- & re-skilling and agility. This is only appropriate, as focusing on employability is part of building sustainable careers for the individual, the organization, and society as a whole. Next to the “productive” aspect of sustainable careers, more attention is recently also being given to the “happy” and “healthy” aspects of sustainable careers.
In this blog, I want to show that building sustainable careers is about integrating the organizational and individual perspectives on development and careers is key, and I want to give HR professionals some tips on how to go about this.
What I see within organizations is that ‘(career) development’ is often interpreted strictly from an organizational perspective. Organizations tend to ask this question: “What are the competencies this person needs to develop to stay relevant for our business?” Where answering this question may have been enough in the past, in the contemporary employability labor market, answering this question equals selling employees short. The reason is that this question does not include the individual perspective on both development and careers. Meaning that the employee’s definition of career success and his or her personal aspirations are not being taken into consideration.
The reason I put so much emphasis on the individual perspective is twofold:
1) no organization nowadays is able to guarantee stability both in terms of job content and job security. Constant change is part of any individual’s career. If we fail to add the personal perspective on success and development in our approach to employees, we fail to prepare them for career choices that will inevitably cross their path. In the long run, both the individual and the organization win if employees understand what it takes to self-manage their careers.
2) As individuals grow more aware of the unpredictability and dynamics of careers, they tend to reflect more consciously about this subject. As a result, an organization might end up with a ‘fait accompli’, only being informed about an employee’s career decision when it has already been taken. A continuous dialogue with employees is therefore advisable.
I think that the organization that takes responsibility for sustainable careers is the one that is willing to seek the answer to the question: “What can we do to help this person consciously build a sustainable career vision and what can we do to facilitate it?
The arguments are many:
- Careers/development cannot be managed, only facilitated. The individual has to do some of the work (self-manage his/her career), preferably in a dialogue with his/her employer.
- A dialogue will allow a stronger and more mature relationship between employee and employer.
- Employees who are encouraged to know themselves and their motivators and who are encouraged to build a long-term career vision will make more conscious decisions about their careers, ultimately leading to higher employability rates, more growth, and well-being.
Here are some tips to include the individual perspective (what does the employee desire?) in development efforts:
- Think about ways to integrate the individual perspective when conceptualizing development centers, assessment centers, development programs, training, coaching, building personal development plans,…
- Make self-management in the career a topic of your conversation; to what extent is the individual equipped to build his/her career? This topic should also be part of for instance development centers, training programs and such.
- Use evidence-based tools to measure and report on the individual perspective on the career. We tend to spend quite some money on measuring a wide range of competencies and analytical skills, and much less on the softer issues like career values, subjective careers success, career identity, ad career adaptability which is much harder to get to a grip on. Career Analytics are in order here.
In the current employability context, we need to find ways to integrate the individual and the organizational perspective in development, work, and careers. This can be done in an evidence-based way, through integrating Career Intelligence into your approach. This way, we are building sustainable careers.
De Vos, A. et al. (2018). Sustainable careers, towards a conceptual model. Journal of Vocational Behavior.