Thursday, July 18, 2013

3 Career Path Questions to Help Your Employees Answer


3 Career Path Questions

In the comments section of a survey we’re currently conducting, a respondent recently very astutely remarked that “'career development' is like a new buzzword. But career is personal.”

Career is personal, and very specific to each individual – and it’s important to remember this. Very often, people who are interested in using our career development software will ask if we provide career paths. The answer is no, we don’t offer career paths. In fact, we can’t provide them, and neither can anyone else.  The most anyone can do is help you map your own. Career paths are very cultural, and very personal.

To help you do just that, let’s go back to the three questions I brought up as part of a discussion of what career development software should be able to help answer:

  1. Where am I in the organization in my current job?
  2. What’s available to me in my organization?
  3. How do I get where I want to go?
Phillip Roark recently posted about the importance of organizational transparency and how that plays into number two. Today, I’ll be talking about discovering the gap between numbers 1 and 3, and how you can determine how best to close it with the support of career development software.


Careers - and Career Paths - Are Personal

Before you start any journey, you have to know where you’re starting out. It might sound silly, but if you don’t know where exactly you are now, how can you expect to be able to take the next steps toward your destination?

This is where technology comes in. Warning: while HR software can run your career development initiative from an architectural perspective, it typically lacks the necessary content to help individuals plot their chart, so you want to be careful when choosing career development software. Transparency, after all, only lets you see where you want to go – it doesn’t actually get you there.

Here are a few resources you can offer to help your employees discover get to where they want to be:

  • Job requirements. Job requirements can include things such as level of education, years of experience, certifications, etc. A person currently in the job should of course meet all listed requirements, and typically they do – but on occasion, even the person who currently holds the job doesn’t meet all of its requirements. And in those cases, it’s doubly necessary for the employee to understand what exactly they’re lacking before they move forward.
  • Job profiles and competencies. Job profiling and competencies take this understanding to the next level. Beyond the job description, they allow an employee to understand what the typical profile of a person who fits a certain position looks like. Usually there are a few steps to the way this works. First, the organization has to be transparent enough to provide something like the Career Matrix, with every job profiled according to its requirements and the typical competencies required. Employees can then look at the jobs in the company – whether they’re currently open or not – and see the requirements, competencies, and benchmarks. The next step is for employees to take an assessment of their own competencies and compare with the job or role they aspire to. The gap will tell the individual what to focus on. 
For example – someone currently in sales may notice that the position of director of marketing requires a level 4 competency in communication, while they currently have a level 3. In planning a path towards director of marketing, that individual can plan to raise their competency level in communication from 3 to 4 – a very specific, very smart goal. How they do it depends on what kind of communication they need to improve: they may need a class in anything from organizational development to Toastmasters. They might even need a class for something as specific as writing proposals or grants.

  • Personality assessments. Personality assessments offer one more dimension to matching people to the appropriate job, group, and working environment. After all, a job has more factors to it than just requirements and competencies.

The adage goes that people don’t quit their jobs – they quit their bosses or managers. To the list of things that affect the way a person is able to do their job, we can add

  • Organizational values and culture
  • Dynamics of each group, team, or department within the organization
  • Personal preference when it comes to things like work-life balance and type of work involved
What all this comes down to is that it’s actually very personal things that affect employees’ abilities to do their jobs. It’s important to know how you mesh with your team as a whole, your boss and/or manager, and your colleagues – as well as how to work best with them even if you don’t. Personality assessments, especially ones that are self-interpreted, list common job types that certain personalities work best in, and offer ways for employees to compare themselves to others and determine potential areas of conflict, as well as ways to work around that conflict, can be invaluable if used correctly.

This brings us back to the original point: career paths are very cultural, very personal, and very unique to you. Technology can provide the capability to support that journey – and if you select it correctly, your software will do that very well.

Learn more about Insala's career development software.

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