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ATD Blog

Tips for Becoming a Career-Friendly Organization


Wed Mar 13 2013


Organizations, be they small start-ups, mid-market companies or large, global enterprises, use different strategies for career development. The degree of effectiveness varies, depending upon how each strategy supports the human capital needs of the business, both short and longer-term, and how it supports employees’ desire for career development and growth.  

A career-friendly organization™ has two components— what organizations need—an agile, skilled, engaged workforce--and what employees want—career development and growth. In a career-friendly organization these two components are in balance. The organization achieves what it needs, and the employees get what they need and want. Management of an employee’s career is both self-directed and supported by the organization, and it is integrated into every step in the talent management process across the employee lifecycle—“hire to retire.” 


A career-friendly organization ensures that career development strategies support both organizational needs and employee needs. Here’s how: 

1. Make career development an integral part of the talent management process throughout the employee lifecycle

Too often in companies large and small, career development is an after-thought or deemed to be a question to be asked as a follow up to a performance review session or as part of formal career path discussions or formal succession planning processes, often focused predominantly on high potentials. Do managers in your organization avoid having career development conversations because these conversations are driven by formalized career paths and there is not much need for a conversation? Is your organization is too small to have career paths so managers are reluctant to open the topic of conversation? Often employees simply want to brainstorm about possibilities and to have a dialogue about future possibilities. Managers can gain insight into their employees’ future career aspirations simply by caring enough to have meaningful conversations. 

Self-directed career development is exceedingly popular within organizations today as a way of putting employees in charge of their own careers. Many organizations support self-directed career development with technology—online job descriptions, organizational charts, training programs and career guidance, but it is up to each employee to chart his or her career path and utilize the tools. The degree to which employees view this as putting themselves in the career driver’s seat vs. the company abdicating responsibility for helping them with their career direction correlates highly with how available and user-friendly the tools are and whether they are supported by live interaction from managers or HR staff. 

**2. Encourage career conversations



While talent management programs often include career development conversations, the notion of conversation, especially emphasizing dialogue about career aspirations and career possibilities is gaining renewed interest. BlessingWhite, in an article on career coaching conversations, reports that “Career coaching is the perfect opportunity to align your \[the organization’s\] interests with their \[employees’\] passion and aspirations….The challenge for managers is that…the definition of personal success and satisfaction is different for every employee. There isn’t one career coaching conversation that you can apply with every team member.” BlessingWhite goes on to suggest various questions that managers can have with employees to explore career interests and aspirations.  

Similarly, Beverly Kaye and Julie Winkle Giulioni, in their book, Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go (Barrett-Koehler, 2012) also provide managers with many suggested questions and processes for career conversations that engage managers and employees. 

3. Consider building peer career communities  

Our work with Career Collaborators® provides organizations with mechanisms for establishing peer career communities, which enable employees to establish internal networks and to engage in career development conversations with colleagues within the organization. Building upon the concept of social networks and the desire for connections, peer career communities can be practice fields for employees to think through personal career scenarios, gather information about career possibilities within the organization and match their current skill sets to future possibilities. The career community can provide connection, conversation and collaboration, resulting in better employee preparation for career conversations with one’s manager as part of a broader talent management process. 


This article is excerpted from “The Career-Friendly Organization™”. For more information, you can request the complimentary white paper.

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