Kick-starting career management

Jun 03 2003 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Organisations are failing to adapt their career management practices to the twenty-first century, according to an investigation by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). UK organisations are still following a traditional, inflexible, male-orientated model and only a third of senior management are committed to career management activities.

The CIPD's first investigation into the current and future state of career management practices shows that workers should focus on gaining as wide experience as possible if they want to fast-track their careers.

The survey of 732 HR practitioners shows that a substantial majority believe that experience and performance, particularly if this is gained in different countries, different business units and at different organisations, will become even more important than qualifications over time.

Six out of ten HR professionals say that employees will increasingly have to change organisations to move up the career ladder and that moving to work in a different country or business unit will become a key way for individuals to progress their careers.

Six out of ten organisations say that moving to work in a different country or business unit will become a key way to progress your career. Seven out of ten also say that getting ahead requires experience and performance rather than paper qualifications.

The survey also reveals a particular gap between worker expectations and what HR practitioners believe will help or hinder career progression. HR practitioners identify working flexible hours or reduced hours as one of the factors most likely to impede career progression. And a third of HR practitioners felt that working long hours is positive for your career, three times as many as those who thought it was negative.

Yet nine out of ten respondents say that work-life balance is a high priority for their workforces. This may explain why a similarly large majority of HR practitioners report that the career expectations of young people now entering the workforce offer a huge challenge for organisations going forward.

Jessica Rolph, CIPD Adviser on Learning and Development says, "Organisations need to adapt their career management practices to the twenty-first century and reflect the changing and diverse needs of their workforces.

"Carers, part-time workers and those who take career breaks are penalised under the current structure," she continued. "Given that women dominate these groups of workers, it is easy to see why over two-thirds of respondents agree that 'the glass ceiling for women is still very evident in the majority of organisations."

But while the vast majority of respondents agreed that special attention needs to be paid to the career management of certain groups of workers to ensure non-discriminatory treatment, it is clear that current practice is not aligned with this. Less than a third of organisations offer additional support or assistance to ‘atypical’ employee groups. The career progression model still appears to follow a traditional, inflexible, male-orientated model.

Rolph adds, "As with all good practice, senior management needs to set an example and allow good practice to filter down. Lack of resources and time are undoubtedly barriers for many, but these need to be overcome since any half-hearted attempt at career management is likely to fail.

"With a vast majority of organisations relying on career management to produce a high proportion of their future leaders and only a third of senior management being committed to career management activities, the UK will be faced with a dearth of competent leaders if senior management does not take this more seriously."

Looking at the success or otherwise of career management within organisations, the survey found that when it is driven from the very top, nearly six out of ten respondents think that line managers take it ‘seriously’ or ‘very seriously’. But when the individual has to take responsibility for themselves without formal initiatives, only one-third of line managers took career management ‘seriously’ or ‘very seriously’.

Unsurprisingly, then, the chances of career management programmes succeeding are greater if supported by senior management. More than eight out of ten organisations report that their activities are effective when it receives the commitment of senior management compared with a success rate of less than two out of ten among those organisations who report that senior management is uncommitted.

Nearly nine out of ten organisations rely on career management strategies to produce a major proportion of their future leaders, with the main objective of career management structures being to develop future senior managers. Yet, the survey indicates that few senior managers are committed and few line managers are trained to support career conversations. As a result, four out of ten do not feel their activities are effective.