Everybody Wins: Providing Career Leverage Support
‘’I’m pretty clear on the immediate benefits of remaining at employer X over the next 2-3 years, but is there an ‘opportunity cost’ to my career if I stay with my current employer?’’
Every career opportunity has a cost
The ‘opportunity cost’ principle states that for every beneficial opportunity or situation I experience, there could very well be a broad range of alternative opportunities or situations that I may be missing out on that may benefit me more greatly. Ultimately, one’s opportunity cost can be measured in terms of career progression, learning, financial wellbeing, lifestyle balance, self actualisation, etc.
From a career / lifestyle efficacy perspective, the implication of this way of thinking is clear. Very often this is the line of thinking which leads people to go out and get a second qualification in a different area to embark on a second very different career, which leads the plumber to become a teacher, and a teacher become a plumber, and which makes talented people leave world-class organisations for other organisations which offer greater learning opportunities.
Why should talented people care?
It’s unusual however for most working people to consider their situations in terms of ‘opportunity cost’, as most would review their situation in terms of the direct and intangible rewards they receive; workplace recognition and status, their enjoyment at work, relationships with bosses and peers, expectations of organisational stability, opportunities for learning and reasonable promotion, engagement with the objectives of the organisation, and so on.
These elements are all descriptions of what is known and experienced, and, for the most part, an optimal balance against these criteria can be highly rewarding, and can sustain a successful career which does not require regular review and adjustment, as the benefits (if any) of shifting role, organisation, industry or sector are less material in cases, far more material in others, e.g. the implications of an FMCG production line manager moving organisations may not necessarily be highly material career-wise, but what about the talented fund manager leaving a well established global fund management company for a new upstart in the market, driven by the keenness to have greater autonomy to establish excellence within a green field enterprise?
For the highly talented, and hence highly marketable; very often time in-post, or time within a specific team, organisation, industry or sector can have significant impact on relative levels of career and personal success. Giving up known and predictable success for a riskier venture, or vice versa, may be costly to the career, or highly rewarding if the timing is right. Either way there is a cost, and for the talented, the size of this cost is greater. So, talented people should care strongly about opportunity cost.
Why should employers care?
Within organisations, millions of hours have been spent discussing and rolling out talent management strategies for managing top talent, high potentials, graduates and so on, and organisations spend millions implementing technology-led talent and career solutions.
Very often though, where organisations are highly resourced, talent management inputs become grand, highly structured strategies, focused on broad objectives like talent pool development, graduate talent attraction, senior talent succession, future proofing and so on, but very often the individual career objectives and career opportunity costs of those talented people and groups identified are neglected in the interests of the bigger picture, delivery frameworks and (by definition) narrow talent objectives of the organisation around addressing existing or envisaged attraction, engagement and retention limitations to the organisations talent pipeline.
What is often missing is one-to-one conversation.
Amid all of the talent management activity that may be going on, few questions are asked of talented people about the constraints they are currently experiencing career-wise within the organisation, even fewer are asked about the career options they have considered outside the organisation, and even fewer, the extent to which they have identified the size of the opportunity cost to staying in their current role.
Unless organisations show that they take an interest in individual needs, and have an awareness of individual expectations, they are very unlikely to engage organisational talent with the organisation’s talent strategy.
What can employers do?
In-house careers advice centres
Recognising that much is to be gained from engaging all staff in honest career leverage conversations, in the interests of staff engagement at all levels, and the development of the employer brand; some organisations have recognised the need to shift focus from quid pro quo top talent career engagement initiatives, to providing services to all staff via in-house careers advice centres.
This type of in-house careers advice service may include access to:
- one-to-one career coaching,
- group networking and facilitated career development events,
- assessment and 360 degree feedback tools, and
- online resources, including:
- skill and knowledge profiling vs both organisational competencies and external benchmarks,
- online information in the form of text, video, pod casts and webinars, covering a broad range of career development and career transition advice and knowledge.
The opportunity with this type of initiative must be for the employee to utilise the service provided by their employer to develop conscious personal career ownership; to identify personal strengths and weaknesses, to create personal accountability for specific career growth objectives, to develop an understanding of the opportunity costs of alternative routes of personal career development, and to identify internal career growth resources and constraints within the organisation. Ultimately, the aim should be the creation of an individual personal marketability inventory which may potentially be beneficial for the employee both inside and outside the organisation.
A 21st Century approach - providing career leverage for staff, for future success inside or outside the organisation
Any internal career advisory service should be underpinned by the realistic expectation that there will not always be a direct match between the organisation’s need for talent, and the current availability of that talent. Redundancy is not a new thing, it affects an increasing number of people at some point, and it is often a valuable career development step. Setting expectations of long-term internal career development and succession is an increasingly out of touch activity from the perspective of the majority of people in most organisations.
Effective internal career advisory services can simultaneously support those who have ongoing roles and bright futures in the organisation, and those whose roles no longer fit the organisation, but who should nevertheless be supported into a ‘new future’.
Simply put; organisations which improve the marketability and career prospects of their staff are likely to hold onto them longer, and when they release them, they do so with their employer reputation enhanced. Everybody wins.
Written in collaboration with DONINGTON UK Partners HDA Associates members of CNI CareerNet International by Pip Furlong,
Pip Furlong, National Director at Donington, has held executive Trans-Tasman HR roles consulting with organisations on developing robust retention strategies which focus on developing career roadmaps for talent within the organisation.