Systems and Scaffolding for Internal Mobility and Career Development
What You Need in Place To Make Career Development Happen in Your Organization
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This Week’s Newsletter:
Scaffolding For Career Development & Mobility
What I’m Following
Scaffolding For Career Development & Mobility
In my earlier post this year about 7 ideas to improve the workplace I talked about this idea of rethinking the employer value proposition. I wrote:
Talk to any product marketer or brand manager and they will tell you that developing a brand is not a one shot deal, they continuously need to renew a belief with the customer that the product or service is solving a problem the customer wants solved and is delivering value in exchange for what the customer paid. This is the shift that companies will need to make this year - Your Employer Value proposition isn’t just something you do once, but rather, is a framework for how your employee is continuously reminded that they want to come to work for you each and every day.
Your Employee Value Proposition might be the thing that your employee uses to come in the door, but unless you actually put in opportunities in their experience that remind them of why they signed up for this and why it’s worth it, they won’t stay for very long.
Inevitably, a component of that EVP is going to be the career development and growth opportunities that an employee gets when they join an organization. We know from research that this is an important component of the reasons why an employee both chooses a job (for the opportunities) and leaves a job (for the lack of opportunities) In a tight labor market and challenging economic reality, retaining employees is becoming yet again in vogue to organizations and senior leaders. But as companies rush to employee training, roll out technology platforms and tell their managers to have “stay conversations,” there seems to be an important reality that isn’t being discussed, which is what actually needs to be in place in your company for any of these things to actually happen.
The Importance of Scaffolding
If you’re familiar with construction you know the importance of a scaffold. Scaffolds help put structure in place when construction workers are building so the building stays steady and doesn’t fall down.
I think about scaffolding a lot when I think about the infrastructure and systems that are needed to ensure that things like an Employee Value Proposition and the programs that enable it (like career development, retention, training, well-being, leadership development) - without proper scaffolding, rolling out manager training on career conversations, asking managers to do “stay interviews” or hyping up internal mobility without any real mechanisms in place are just band-aids when you need stitches or surgery.
In a world of work that was much different than today, one component of scaffolding that held many employees together was the fact that employees could move around within organizations, and in some cases, a general belief that companies would look out for their employees. Companies like GE, Xerox, and IBM started numerous functional leader development programs, Henry Heinz (Founder of Heinz Craft) built the first Total Rewards department to help their employees who struggled with sobriety, and many companies had the ultimate “scaffold” in the form of an employee pension. That no longer exists, and the idea of lifetime employment with a company, while still happens, happens less and less. So how do you build scaffolding and infrastructure for programs like career development in your organization?
Start with a Philosophy of What Career Development is and Is Not
One of my favorite experts on career development is Ryan McCrea, who is currently the head of leadership and learning at Ameren, but who has successfully rolled out career development programs that have led to business outcomes in 3 previous organizations. In my most recent conversation with Ryan on my podcast, Ryan talked about the idea and importance of companies developing a career development philosophy, and actually writing down and mapping out clearly what that means and what that doesn’t mean before launching into any kind of program. Driving alignment and a clear agreed upon definition of what career development is, ensures that managers have clarity of what they should be working toward, and that employees can understand and align around.
Without one, managers and employees will define for themselves what they believe it should be, and that lack of consistency can lead to problems.
One common way to do this is to focus on language. For example, LinkedIn often uses the concept of “next play” to promote a culture of growth, but also in making it seen and normal for employees to talk to their managers about taking on a new opportunity.
This could be a new role, but it can also be expanding the scope of their existing one, or a new project(s) within their current one. At NetApp, where Larry McAlister and his team defined their philosophy around the growth and development of the whole person, which then meant providing a suite of benefits and programs like personal coaching through BetterUp, an internal talent & mobility platform in Fuel50 to help employees spot their strengths, and find more opportunities to use them, and other health and wellness benefits so employees could develop better well-being.
At Ammentum, a global technical and engineering service provider, their talent acquisition and talent management teams collaborated together to develop a shared philosophy around career mobility to ensure not only the right mechanisms but the right strategy was being adapted.
While this may sound like simple advice, it is not easy. Many companies never define this, either because they don’t take the time, or because the thought of drawing a line in the sand means a tough reality that people may not end up liking it and will want to leave. But the argument for doing this is that the alternative is worse from an outcomes perspective, mostly in the form of attrition and lost productivity.
Talking about internal mobility, implementing programs to train managers about career conversations, and encouraging employees to look for new roles is important. But if you don’t have the scaffolding and support in the organization to actually make this happen, you’re going to have all these actions that lead nowhere.
When I think about retention and career development within organizations, I think about the phrase “don’t write a check that your mouth can’t cash.” if you want to retain employees and develop and grow them, don’t just tell them that and offer words, actually put the scaffolding in place to enable it to happen.
👀 What I’m Following👀
Thriving with Human Skills (LinkedIn) - A hill I will die on is the importance of human skills. Check out my interview with LinkedIn Managing Editor Andrew Seaman on the importance of soft skills for employees who want to level up in the workplace or find a new opportunity
Beware a Culture of Busyness (HBR) - It took me until leaving corporate to realize how much slowing down and doing nothing can actually help you do more and be more productive. If you’re looking for a reason and case for why you should take time to stop and think instead of always being busy, make sure to read this article
Burned Out, More Americans Are Turning to Part-Time Jobs (WSJ) - This article was an interesting read and take on why there has been a rise in part-time employment (by choice) over the past few months. While in many of my circles, full-time employment is seen as the “gold standard” I think this could be a potential opportunity in the future of work to make work actually work for more people.
The Best Way to Boost Workers’ Mental Health is To Give Them Good Managers (Scientific American) - Music to my ears! Want to help your employees improve their mental health? Make sure they have a good manager.
The Linkedin Workplace Learning Report - This must have been shared 100 times in my LinkedIn newsfeed, but despite the overuse I still think its worth reading for any talent and learning professionals out there.
You Can Lead From Anywhere - This is a new POV I am developing on why you can (and why leaders of organizations need) employees to lead from anywhere, regardless of where they sit in the organization.
Thanks For Reading, and before you go - If you’re company is looking for help in developing and retaining talent, or a speaker for your conference, I’d love to work with you: Here is how I might be able to assist:
Team Trainings & Professional Development
Support Your Offsites & Meetings
Leadership & Learning Programs
Future of Work and Talent Speaking Opportunities
Feel free to contact me directly for more details!
That’s all for this week. Have a great week!
Love the analogy of scaffolding for this article's content, thanks Al.