Three tools to help navigate your team’s careers.
Plus, Pomofocus - the Pomodoro tracker you need.
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Three tools to help navigate your team’s careers.
You might have noticed that the employment landscape has been changing rapidly. You’ve probably been caught in the midst of such changes yourself and tried to find answers to the question: why are people suddenly giving up on their jobs? You’d be surprised to know that money is not the reason millions of Americans are quitting. Instead, disengagement, burnout, and/or having zero work-life balance have more to do with it.
Attrition rates have constantly been going up since 2010. The Work Institute 2020 retention report shows that "turnover trends demonstrated an 8.3% increase over 2018 and 88% increase since 2010."
In my honest opinion, I think people are just tired of the old ways. Being expected to work forty hours or more a week, to be the most productive version of themselves all the time, and to feel the need to get to a C-level position to make good money feels exhausting and outdated. Success has always looked pretty linear, and sometimes it feels like thriving means reaching a certain title. In reality, our interests are not linear and neither are our careers. I can love designing and automating processes in spreadsheets as much as I love writing. Career fluidity is not something that should be frowned upon or looked over; it should be encouraged. And understanding your team’s desires is crucial during these times.
With over 38M people leaving their companies in 2021, retaining talent is an urgent need. One of the most common things leaders try to do is work on engagement, but that's not specific enough. What does it really mean to work on engagement?
To answer that question, let’s first define the word engagement. Investopedia describes it as “the level of enthusiasm and dedication a worker feels toward their job.” But feeling engaged is not the same for everyone.
I used to be an HR manager earlier in my career, and I worked with people who were motivated for different reasons: money, having friends at work, being challenged, feeling in sync with the company's values and decisions, free breakfast, office facilities, their salary, or unlimited free coffee.
All of those things can keep a person motivated enough to actively decide to go into the office. But they alone are not reasons one chooses one job over another. I noticed that one of the things that truly mattered was being seen by others — managers, directors, mentors, clients.
Shala Nicely, LCP, writes for Psychology Today, “feeling seen by others is a basic human need. Its basis is evolutionary: If your tribe didn’t see you, there was a risk you’d be left behind when the nomadic life of early humans dictated they move, and being alone equated to death.” She concludes, “In the ancient part of our brains, not being seen is equivalent to being sentenced to death.”
Inevitably, letting your employees know that they’re being seen — in a non-Orwellian way — is exciting. Letting them know that you’re acknowledging and rooting for their career aspirations to come true, whatever they might be, makes them feel engaged. As a leader or manager, being in touch with your direct reports' day-to-day and performance is crucial for engagement and is all part of career management.
What is career management?
Career management refers to allocating resources to achieve career goals. “The career management process embraces various concepts: Self-awareness, career development planning/career exploration, life-long learning, and networking,” explains the HR department of UC Merced.
Self-awareness is the first part of the process. It’s where you review your interests, skills, values, and aspirations. For example, saying “I’m an engineer. I know how to code in Python and Java, and I want to work for a company that helps the environment.”
Career development planning or career exploration is when you set goals and start working toward them with the guidance of your manager. For example, applying to companies that align with your qualifications, or telling your manager that you want a role where you can code instead of building processes.
Lifelong learning means keeping up to date with technology and updates in your field, like learning new compatible coding languages, for example.
Lastly, networking involves connecting with people who will help you grow personally and professionally, such as managers, mentors, former organizational leaders, etc.
Your role as a manager or team leader is to walk your people through those four steps. Paying attention to career development planning in an unbiased way will help increase engagement levels.
Career development planning.
As mentioned above, new concepts explaining the fluidity of careers are always arising, and since this is the part when people actively start working toward tangible goals, you should be familiar with those definitions.
Especially in large organizations, career development looks like a vertical road. We’ve all heard the phrase “climbing up the corporate/career ladder” which implies that work progression means attaining a higher role, and reaching the top is getting to a management or C-level position. In today’s labor markets, viewing careers as linear, predictable and vertical is not the most inclusive or realistic approach when it comes to helping your team plan their careers.
“A career ladder is a formal process within an organization that allows employees to advance their careers to higher levels of salary, responsibility, or authority. Once employees meet certain criteria, they are eligible to move into higher-level roles,” defines Michael Roberts from The Balance Careers.
But the concept of career ladders is restrictive. Not everyone wants to get to the top of this figurative ladder. Career rivers, on the other hand, are an alternative novel concept. According to a tweet by Bridget Thoreson, “The ultimate goal of the career ladder is: reach the top. The ultimate goal of the career river is: reach your ocean—a thriving, wide-open ecosystem fed by other rivers to explore.”
The other concept rising in popularity is called squiggly careers. It became particularly popular after career development consultants Helen Tupper and Sarah Ellis wrote the book The Squiggly Career: Ditch the Ladder, Discover Opportunity, Design Your Career. They explain that careers aren’t linear, and if we want to represent realistic career trajectories with a line, that line should be more of a squiggle.
“We might have expected to have linear, predictable, staircase-like careers, but the reality for a lot of people is that their careers are much more fluid; there’s much more change going on in them,” summarizes Ryan Carruthers from Together. They propose that we evaluate people for their skills instead of their roles, and we change the idea of being successful as reaching a C-level position. Leaders need to have this in mind when accompanying their teams while they flow within their careers.
This doesn’t mean everyone will follow the same type of career. Some people might even follow a career ladder early in their careers and then make a shift towards having a squiggly career. As managers of others, you should be fostering those conversations in 1:1s and working on identifying unconscious biases – it’s pretty common to see a leader that wants their top performers to either follow their steps or avoid their mistakes without listening to the person’s aspirations.
When I was working in HR, I saw that the biggest problem regarding career development was that managers struggled to provide career path continuity for their people. These managers didn’t keep a record of their teams’ interests and career conversations anywhere. When they inevitably changed roles or an employee was ready for a new role, they couldn’t pass employees’ career development information on to the new manager. Often, they even forgot they were provided with an opportunity that was suitable for their team.
Three tools to manage careers
As a leader, it is your responsibility to empower your team and provide opportunities that align with their aspirations.
Having frequent career conversations with your team can make them feel seen and helps you understand how to best align their needs, passions, and excitement with your organizational goals. These conversations can help you create more harmony between team members and their individuality as well as the needs of the organization.
One of the reasons career management fails is due to the process lacking structure or being built poorly. The process lacks structure when companies work on each person's plan only when they know someone is leaving the organization, leaving them no time to properly onboard replacements or to keep the expertise, and when the process is written and saved somewhere but rarely reviewed.
Using apps to help you record and update your employees' career progression as needed will allow your HR team to have the most updated information every time you talk about career planning. Apps like these are more reliable than notes in a notebook, spreadsheets or documents. They guarantee fairness and let you record all performance information in the same place.
Here are three helpful apps when it comes to recording your team’s career aspirations.
This app allows managers to build a career framework with expected results for employees to know what’s needed to reach the next level.
Progression has a pool of predefined skill sets for leaders, engineers, content designers, and many other roles that you can use as is or customize to your specific needs.
Everyone can access their progression plan.
It's customizable for your organization. That means you can follow a career river or squiggle mindset.
You can assign wins to your team, and they can see them along with their personal growth on their profiles.
It’s easy to use and highly scalable.
Progression offers a 30-day free trial, and pricing varies according to the number of employees, starting at $49 a year.
If you have a large organization, implementation can take time since you’ll need to add company skills.
Following the predefined templates might lead you to create ladders instead of rivers.
Price goes up as you add new employees.
TalentGuard helps you find the best fit for each role. Users create their profiles and add their qualifications, competencies, preferences, reviews and certifications. It uses AI to create a profile of past, present, and future capabilities. On the other hand, HR adds the role architecture so TalentGuard can give you possible matches between roles and employees.
Amongst features for career and succession planning, this platform allows employees to get 360 feedback.
TalentGuard integrates with other career and payroll management systems like ADP, SAP, Workday, Oracle, and many more.
It’s hosted on the cloud, which makes it more scalable and lightweight.
It provides predesigned customizable dashboards.
It’s not disclosed on their website, but the last updated price on SourceForge is $3 per user per month.
It’s not supported on mobile, which makes it less suitable for all-remote companies.
If your team is not in the right mindset to manage their employees using situational leadership, or isn’t ready to embrace career rivers, the app makes it easy for HR managers to use career ladders for everyone.
This software by HRSG helps you work with employees to plan career paths based on competencies and visually shows them what they need to do to get to their next role.
Competency Core allows you to simplify the job description-making process. It uses the information from your predefined roles and skills to create new openings as requested.
It offers a large library of competencies to simplify the management and creation of roles and career paths.
Mixing and matching competencies to roles is quick and easy.
They have a responsive and attentive support team.
It’s not disclosed on their website, but you might need to pay for each user and invest money in customization.
The interface is not as flexible when you need to customize levels of competencies.
It’s not supported on mobile or on-premise (downloadable into company servers).
Managers are not able to see their direct reports’ assessment unless they share it with them.
To be successful in career planning that will protect your business and will keep your employees engaged, you need to match employees’ skills and desires with the right roles and have that info stored in a platform that allows others to visualize their flow. Navigating your employees' skills and desires around the bends in the road will help guide them to a fulfilling destination. In my opinion, Progression.app can give you the freedom to do that without spending too much time trying to understand the platform.
While some employees might want to climb the ladder, it’s not right to assume everyone wants to take the same path. Using a system that gives you the freedom to manage career ladders, rivers and squiggles in the same place without confusing your processes will help you become a more thoughtful, caring and empowering leader.
Remember, “people leave managers, not companies,” and you play a leading role in employee engagement.
Edited by: Lauren Maslen.
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June is just around the corner, and it’s time to start planning summer vacations. I’d give everything to have my feet on the white sand, getting slightly kissed by the Caribbean sea in Knip beach in Curaçao.
My uncle used to live on this beautiful island, and during my childhood, I spent a lot of time visiting and wandering around its paradisiac beaches. Knip was always my favorite. It’s far away from the city (well, nothing is actually that far in Curaçao), and driving from one end to the other takes around one or two hours. Plus Knip is not one of the more popular places, so it’s never too crowded.
The crystal clear blue water, the burning white sand, and the palm trees surrounding this beach’s small bay takes me back home. If you’re thirsting for a beach vacation, I’d encourage you to give Curaçao a try.
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