Most organizations recognize the need to support employees in how they think about and plan their careers. Organizational support for career self-management empowers individuals, promotes engagement and retention and leads to better use of employees.
In the past, organizations would have delivered this support exclusively through workshops. As workshops have become more expensive and difficult to schedule, the growing popularity of e-learning has provided an alternative solution — provide employees with a comprehensive online career management environment through an intranet portal.
To make such a career management site successful, consider the following:
Provide powerful self-assessment tools: Assessment is the foundation of career management and should be the cornerstone of the site. There should be a range of intellectually rigorous assessments allowing the user to explore his strengths, achievements, interests, values, motivators and psychological preferences, along with the kind of work settings in which he is most likely to thrive. Reports should be rich and provide practical tips and recommendations for development.
Keep it real and make it rich: Career management involves more than just identifying personal aspirations and developmental needs. Given the complexities of everyone’s busy life, people also want guidance on such questions as: How can I better balance my life? What is most important to me now — career advancement or time with family? How do I navigate the complexities of the workplace? What are the best career management strategies? How do I network? What should I do after a career setback? How do I deal with a difficult supervisor?
The content should also reflect the often heart-wrenching conflicts people have to deal with in their lives. Will this candour make people want to jump ship? Quite the contrary. The most common result of people going through this kind of experience is they realize they like their job much more than they realized. They also give kudos to their employer for being honest about the tough realities at work.
Don’t prescribe what people need to complete: Although there are some general principles about the importance of self-knowledge, don’t second guess which assessments or advice people will find most valuable. Everyone’s needs are different — their age, gender, personality and personal work-life dilemmas will determine what they want to take out of the site.
Provide general guidance with a diagnostic quiz and a suggested road map. Most people will get started following the map but their learning needs will likely change as they reflect on themselves and their career.
Protect privacy and confidentiality: The self-assessment reports should only be available to the individual — it is up to them whether they opt to share them. Allow individuals to create their own user accounts, choosing their user names and passwords.
Keep the site brand-free: You may be tempted to customize the site with the corporate logo, colours and internal language. But heavy-handed branding runs the risk of employees perceiving the site as a form of back door performance appraisal. An independent third party can help design a neutral site that will best meet employees’ career development goals.
Make it user-friendly: Avoid tired clichés and corporate training jargon. People don’t need to be introduced to each module with tedious descriptions of what they will learn, key objectives and results. Employees are used to social media and easy-to-navigate websites, and they want immediacy.
Provide users with a simple, engaging and clear description of what they will get out of each module and who might benefit — such as people early on in their career or people wanting to make a shift — so they can determine if it’s relevant to them. Think journalism rather than traditional-style training programs. And don’t forget to make the site visually attractive to users of all ages.
Enable home access: Most people access these sites during their personal time. To maximize site usage, let employees access it directly through the Internet, as well as through the company’s intranet
Provide a mechanism for sharing results: Build in a vehicle for users to email their self-assessment reports to themselves as well as others, such as their manager or coach, so they can be used as part of career discussions.
Mine the data: In large employee populations, a career management site can generate valuable aggregate data on employee attitudes, job satisfaction drivers and desires. This information can be used to supplement or replace employee surveys.
Think carefully in advance about how you want to sort the data — such as by gender, age, level and location.
But don’t get too specific, such as “men between the ages of 25 and 29 who are in their first job, working in town B in name function A.” If the group size is too small, the data will not be meaningful.
Supplement with training: Employees appreciate workshops and see the time spent in a classroom as a gift.
Consider delivering workshops to important stakeholders, such as managers and HR professionals, to better enable them to support and coach staff. You may also want to provide workshops for other employee groups such as high-potential workers or designated diversity groups.
Don’t customize for level: People are people are people. Employees, regardless of their level, have the same career interests and needs and don’t need different kinds of assessments.
However, a special module for managers with information and tips on carrying out their roles of coaching staffers and conducting meaningful career discussions is appropriate.
Promote and communicate: Make your portal a go-to destination with interesting career advice, video interviews about the program with senior HR managers and Q&A web chats with internal professionals. This kind of content will promote career consciousness and site awareness.
Encourage managers to share their own career experiences with employees and talk about how the site will help employees achieve their own career goals.
Other promotional initiatives can range from hosting special events, such as speeches and workshops targeted to special groups such as senior women or young workers, and reminders at different times of the year tied into the performance management cycle.
Barbara Moses is the president of BBM Human Resources Consultants and designer and publisher of Career Advisor, an online career management tool. She is also the author of What Next? Find the Work That’s Right for You and Dish: Midlife Women Tell the Truth about Work, Relationships, and the Rest of Life. She can be reached at www.bmoses.com.