The Role of Career Planning and Development

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10th Jan 2018 Management Reference this

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This report deals with the importance of career planning and development, and why it has attracted so much attention in the contemporary workplace. Also it will address the advantages of career planning and development and look at how an effective career planning and development strategy can be brought about and what factors should be included in such an action plan.Contents

INTRODUCTION

‘The times, they are changing’

Bob Dylan

The Changing face of the world and Business

From time to time human civilization faced major life-style changes due to either disasters or developments. Starting from the period of ‘Renaissance’ (from 14th to 17th century) till now, human society boasts of continuous social and technological development that had resulted in tremendous alterations of life-style, and perceptions.

The pace of change that started during the renaissance had continued till now causing the mammoth boom which we now call the 21st century – or the days of the computer. In this new world, the concept of the ‘Business Organization’ holds the most prominent place. All life can be said – revolves around it.

The concept of the Corporation has today arisen to the prominent social institution equaling its impact upon the people just as the religious institution. The belief system of society is constantly being amended to suit the interests of the organization. How ethical it is to bestow such power to the business organizations over people remains a hot topic of debate.

The current global atmosphere has ironically made life easier as well as difficult. Although new products have reduced the level of physical labor, it has besides amplified the levels of emotional labor – hence, the current rampant complain of stress and depression throughout the world.

In a society where the corporation is prominent it is inescapable to avoid it. Today man might be able to avoid the religious institution, but not the corporation. The enterprise is seen as a hot spot of talent based action which offers opportunities to employees to walk along the career ladder and get into the top of it and achieve career goals and plans. Thus, the trend now is to focus all energies to achieve career goals. This ultimately results in people spending more time in the organization rather than at home. A good portion of the waking hours of mankind is now spent in the organization.

Enter Career Planning

With such a complex world picture hanging in the background it is crucial to understand the importance of Career Planning and Development. As mentioned earlier, the demand for work has gone beyond the nine-to-five framework. If employees are to survive and protect their jobs, constant career planning and development is vital. Today high-performance may not guarantee job security and employees especially in large organizations face enormous challenges. ‘Now, life long careers are a thing of the past. Some naïve employees still feel that they are immune to ongoing reductions because they’re doing good work and adding value to the organization’ (Stone, 2008). This nature of shifting jobs across companies, functions and industries is called ‘Boundary-less Careers’. The vulnerability to career stagnation is what makes career planning so much important for today’s employees. It is necessary for promotions, but most importantly – for survival. Hence, it cannot be ignored by any right-thinking employee.

The future seems no longer guaranteed for even high-performing employees according to management guru Charles Handy (cited in Stone, 2008, p. 390). This is due to today’s ever-changing work environment. Organizations, as large and monolithic as they may seem also tends to be more flexible and fast paced. In such a scenario, adoptability will come in handy. Therefore the need for intelligent career planning and development cannot be overstated. This will in turn help the employee as well as the organization itself.

The employee of the modern era

The frontiers of management thinking have placed the modern day employee as both the master as well as the slave. There seems to be a thin line between the choices of survival and death in the workplace. This fine line comprises of bundles of knowledge, skills, and attitudes. But these competencies only will not suffice for survival unless they are methodically planned and carried out by both the employee and employer. This methodical plan or ‘survival-kit’ is what career planning is.

The employee of the modern era will have to be multi-skilled, but should NOT take it for grant. He or she should be ready to switch industries, companies, or functions. As Dual Careers become widespread the family circle tends to become smaller and smaller. The current employee is demanded for more and more working time and he or she has to inevitably put work above family resulting in work-family conflict. According to Coyle (cited in Stone, 2008, p. 405), ‘families are a problem for companies’.

These are just some of the challenges the modern day employee will have to face in a rapidly changing business-socio-political environment. Therefore, a sound understanding of the need to plan their career ahead and stick to it (being flexible when necessary and adopting accordingly) is so vital. The thoroughness of planning the career will only promise future security in today’s organizations. In the middle of downsizing and mergers & acquisitions, the modern employee will be squeezed in to protect his or her job.

This report will focus on the importance of career planning and development and analyze the reasons on why it has received so much attention in the contemporary workplace as well as the advantage of developing effective career plans for both employees and organizations.

PART 1

Career Planning & Development

Definitions; importance; causes; advantages; the role of Human resource Management

Career Planning & Development – An overrated idea?

From time to time as mentioned in the introduction, when human society faces massive changes in life-style, inevitably new “social discourses” tend to surface. Social discourses such as, ‘Global Warming’ ‘Globalization’ and ‘Nuclear experiments’ are a few recently sprung up ones to name.

But since recently a new social discourse has begun to spring up concerning the workplace and employees. It is – Career Planning & Development.

This new ‘social talk’ began to emerge as a result of the continuous complexity business is shaping into, making it hard for many employees to cope up with the pace of change. Hence, the subject of career planning and development has received wide attention in both theory and practice of management.

This is not an overrated idea since it is quite visible in front of the eyes that employee turnover is rapidly rising, job switching is increasing, and part-time jobs are becoming more sought after. Employee turnover is much more costly than you might think. In fact, research shows that up to 80% of turnover costs are hidden. Because of these virtually invisible costs, most managers usually do not track turnover or are not alarmed by high turnover rates (Farrell, 2010). An increased turnover rate ultimately suggests that employees do not remain in one organization for a long period. This may be principally because most organizations as well as employees do not engage in methodical career planning.

Employees who would think that this is an overrated idea, and thus fail to plan the career ahead will ultimately suffer from Career Plateaus or become victims of downsizing, acquisitions, and other forms of corporate action. Therefore, it is very important to plan one’s career ahead.

Let us begin with what “career planning & development” is by examining two of its definitions and then its scope.

What Career Planning & Development is – Definition

In HRM theory, it is defined as follows –

‘Giving employees assistance to develop realistic career goals and the opportunities to realize them’

(Stone, 2008)

It will be beneficial if we also look at other definitions of the key terms. The Dictionary of Human Resources and Personnel Management defines these key terms as follows –

Career Planning: ‘the examination of the way in which career opportunities are available, leading to advice on which careers to pursue or how to further an employee’s existing career’

Career Development: ‘planning of an employee’s future career in an organization’

If at all possible, career planning should be viewed as two fold.

Career Planning & Development

The Employee

(Planning)

The Organization

(Development)

As shown in both the above definitions, there are two inherent parts to the phrase ‘Career Planning and Development’.

This twofold definition entails the two parties that involve in the practice of career planning & development. In a nutshell, planning concerns the employee, and development concerns the organization. For the successful completion of a career planning action, therefore, both the parties are responsible.

Career Planning which concerns the ‘Employee’

As mentioned above career planning is of utmost importance to the employee given the current nature of global business. Engaging in career planning gives the person a deep understanding on what his or her life and work goals are and what has to be done in order to achieve them. Today’s corporate employee cannot afford to just float around within the organization doing a mundanely satisfactory job. The well-defined career ladders are a thing of the past.

Why is it necessary to plan one’s career ahead?

Chiefly, the reason is because skills become obsolete. The skill that was required two years ago may not necessarily be of need in the present. Most of the times, technology and new structures replace positions and employees. This results in skills obsolescence. Thus, the necessity for employees to build skills is stressed.

Also, even though one might be a highly effective and high potential employee it doesn’t guarantee one total job security (Dessler, 2005). This leaves the employee in an unstable state of affairs, finally resulting in dissatisfaction and corporate deviance. Even high potential employees need to be trained and given a ‘right direction’ to pursue; a direction that promises future fulfillment and opportunities.

In building skills as a part of career planning, a logical question would be –

‘What skills am I to develop?’

This question will be answered during the process of planning. It is the responsibility of the organization to create opportunities to match employee goals and to clearly point out what skills will be promising in an ever-changing job market.

Some other questions an employee may have to ask oneself as part of career planning:

What is important to me?

How ready am I to work hard?

Do I want to remain in this industry?

How marketable will my skills be in five years time?

Where do I want to go?

What do I need to get there?

From: Managing Human Resources, by Raymond J. Stone

Career Development which concerns the ‘Organization’

Just as it is important to individual employees, career development is of increasing importance to the organization as well.

Chiefly, as mentioned above (Farrell, 2010) there is a great amount of cost that organizations accrue due to employee turnover. Career development concerns the organization in many other ways too. This, which is centered on training employees will increase skills, and thereby make possible their goals are achieved. Along with the training the organization should create opportunities aligning the new skills of the employees.

Fisher, Schoenfeldt, and Shaw (2006) say, ‘Training can help an organization succeed in a number of ways. Ultimately, it is employee knowledge that produces the organizations’ product or service. An organization that can produce more qualified employees in less time will have a competitive advantage’.

Although the above statement emphasizes more on training, training is a part of career development which is designed to align skills with career opportunities. Therefore, as mentioned above, we can discern that career development will ultimately result in skills aligning with jobs, thus, giving the organization a competitive advantage. Snell, Bohlander (2007) states, ‘research shows that an organization’s revenues and overall profitability are positively correlated to the amount of training it gives its employees’. Also, as a byproduct, an increased level of motivation will enable employees to be more productive (effectiveness & efficiency).

The Strategic need for career development

Linking employer’s strategy with the needs of the employee is the key aspect of career planning and development. Strategically an organization should decide on what positions are required to achieve organizational goals. Once the positions are filled, necessary arrangements should be made to offer opportunities for career development. Dessler (2008) says, ’employment planning should flow from the firm’s strategic plans’.

The process of deciding what positions to fill and how to fill them is what development is all about. And when doing so, what new career opportunities are to be offered and the methods of achieving them has to be clearly communicated to every employee (EEO).

Forecasting personnel needs, as a part of career development can be done through trend-analysis and ratio-analysis (Dessler, 2008). The study of the firm’s past employment needs and by using ratios between two variables (such as sales volume and the number of staff to achieve that) can help decide properly the extent to which the firm has to develop careers; to what extent employees may reach their desired goals.

Finally, career development as a concern for the organization must be strategically aligned since employee planning should necessarily be within the parameters of ‘organizational direction’.

Now, let us look at some general advantages that Career Planning and Development offers both the employee and the organization.

Table: Advantages of Career Planning and development

For the Employee

For the Organization

Gives a sense of purpose and hope about the future

Reduces employee turnover and recruitment costs

Gives opportunities to prosper

Employee retention

Increases level of skill

Enable internal promotions

Job security

Increase organizational commitment

Increases employability

Competitive advantage

As the above table identifies, there are many benefits of career planning & development that aims at both the employee and the organization. Although at first the firm may perceive hardships (financially and otherwise) on career development, eventually the efforts will prove to be fruitful.

The Role of Human Resources when it comes to Career Planning

The function of HRM when it comes to career planning and development has the enormous task or burden of activating the process. Clearly it is a function of the HRM department to involve in realizing the career planning and development process.

In doing so, the HR department aligns its own objectives to the process as well as the entire objectives of the organization.

Combining Ulrich’s Model of HRM roles to ‘Career Planning and Development’

The model which was presented by Ulrich suggested four key roles of the HR manager. These four roles can be incorporated with career planning and development. It is as follows:

Strategic Partner: by involving in career planning and development the HR manager fulfills the responsibility of strategic partner by aligning company objectives with employee goals and thereby creating an environment in which employees can develop and rise within the organization. This strategic move will enable the firm to fulfill its requirement of a talented pool of workforce. This will eventually contribute to the long-term objectives of the firm. This will fulfill the role as strategic partner.

Administrative Expert: the long-term efficiency which will be instilled within the organization due to successful career planning and development will eventually play the role of Administrative Expert. As an administrative expert, HR will create “value” by placing right people at the right place. The value HR generates by developing jobs will be indispensible for the entire organization.

Employee Champion: this is the role which requires the HR manager to be the employee’s voice in management decisions. ‘The HR manager must be able to relate to and meet the needs of employees’ (Stone, 2008). What career planning and development does is EXACTLY ‘relating to employees needs’. The HR manager goes a step further and relates to the needs of the organization as well, aligning them both together to effect major change. HR also makes an effort to make champions out of employees, and thereby strengthening organizational commitment.

Change Agent: the catalyst for change is brought about by the HR manager when he or she affects a whole plan of change within the organization – which is career planning and development. Thereby proves, that HRM is a more “AFFECTIVE” function within the organization that can affect positive change benefitting the long-term objectives.

The above description showed how Career Planning & Development can be seen in the light of Ulrich’s model of 4 Roles for HR managers. To put in a nutshell, Career Planning and Development is one of the major activities of the HR department of an organization.

The first part of this essay dealt with the importance of career planning and development, and why it has attracted so much attention in the contemporary workplace. Also the advantages of career planning and development was said to concern both the employee and the organization. Now, we shall look at how an effective career planning and development strategy can be brought about and what factors should be included in such an action plan. Following are my suggestions.

PART II

Building a Successful Career Planning & Development Strategy

In building and implementing a successful Career Planning and Development Strategy, an organization may have to ponder over the importance of such a plan as mentioned earlier. It will benefit the organization in many ways as previously stated (Snell, Bohlander, 2007) correlating with revenue and profitability.

Heading to the future

Company Goals

Employee Needs

This simple diagram distills everything that was described earlier. It shows that in order to implement a successful development plan, the objectives of the two involved parties must be aligned; thereby reach a common goal in the long-run.

Assessing Company goals (with regard to the employ development plan):

As a first step, it is extremely necessary for the firm to assess its long-term and short-term employee need. In doing so, the following questions could be asked:

What are the long term objectives of the firm?

How important are employees to the firm?

To which extent does the firm ready to compromise in order to make employees satisfied?

Does the firm believe the advantages in having a work-friendly environment?

Assessing Employee Needs:

Through thorough communication (also with the help of questionnaires) the firm should then asses the needs of the employees with regard to their occupation. Some of the questions that could be asked may include –

What are your long term career goals?

What is your current level of skill?

How ready and willing are you to work hard in order to learn new skills?

Do you feel your skill may be threatened by skills obsolescence?

Do you believe in organizational commitment?

Aligning organizational and employ needs

Depending on the industry the firm is operating in, and also considering the financial implications, the firm has to then design a lucrative job opportunity system within the firm. In this system, bureaucracy must be held at a minimum while EEO and Affirmative Action should be enhanced. A clear path should be shown to every employee regardless of gender, race, etc. Also it must be communicated to the employee on how the overall plan supports the entire system – how every part of the planning and development strategy aligns with company and individual objectives.

Encourage Communication within the Organization

In order to make employees open up and express their needs, the top management has to make sure that all communication barriers are set down. The need for open, honest communication cannot be overstated in making an employee development plan. Employees have to be equally treated (EEO) regardless of ethnicity, gender, etc.

Once open communication reveals what workers expect, the job of the HR department becomes easier. This is a culture that has to be created and maintained. Effective cultures promote effective results. ‘Corporate culture is an effective informal control mechanism’ (Dowling & Welch, 2004).

Training Employees

This is an area that has won wide approval throughout organizations in all parts of the word. Training employees has now become one of the major costs of large organizations; a cost that is worth taking.

The employee training session will last for a period of time and the necessary logistics have to be prepared in advance (location, materials, resource providers etc.)

Some of the factors that need to be considered when training:

Have in mind the main purpose of training

Make sure the employ is trained as ‘an individual’; not a pawn of the company

Give employees plenty of freedom

But have in mind the need to align employee needs with organizational objectives

Build honest, long-term trust with employees

How will you measure effectiveness?

Monitor progress

Make use of psychometric tests (such as the ‘BIG 5 TEST’)

6. Don’t make the career plan to complicated

A career plan that is over detailed and leaves no room or time to respond to changes in external or internal circumstances could become a problem (Career Planning – 5 Critical Mistakes, 2010). Many organizations make the mistake of writing too fancy and vivid career plans which make no sense at all to the employee. Ultimately this results in not benefitting both the employee as well as the firm. An easy to follow plan should be written that will enable both parties to understand and workout with minimum amount of friction.

Conclusion

This report dealt with one of the major social discourses of modern times, which is career planning and development – its importance, scope, and advantages. The subject of career planning has been the talk of current theory and practice of management. The attention it has attracted in current management thought proves the fact that unless employers and employees engage in methodical career planning both parties will not achieve maximum utilization of the human resource of the firm.

Human beings, by nature can be trained and developed unlike other animals on earth. This fact has so been proved throughout history. The current instable state of affairs of the world does not seem to end in the near future. Global warming is rampant; threats of nuclear wars are mildly surfacing; the internet has made communication jump a massive leap within a couple of years.

Modern city life seems like a challenge of overcoming competition, cut-throat business, monolithic corporations, media fabrication and news biases. The governments that promised to be ‘of the people; by the people; for the people’ has turned out to become larger institutions of imperialism (although without colony). Now they have become “the government of the corporation; by the corporation; for the corporation”

As the power of the corporation gains strength over human civilization, where consummation of goods and services are primary elements, the role of the employee has ironically become that of the master, as well as the slave. To avoid the bad repercussions of the current system the world has shaped into, the modern employee will have to be steadfast in accumulating the needed competencies through proper, systematic, and methodical career planning and development.

Even if the citizen changes his or her role for employee to ‘entrepreneur’ the need for career planning and development will spring up. Organizations too, as mentioned earlier in the report, have many benefits from career development. As part-time working is becoming the trend, and dual careers appear, the current turnover rate of employees is in an increasing trend. So, in order to retain talent, increase organizational commitment, promote corporate-citizenship-behavior, it is crucial for an organization to build and develop careers as a ‘strategic move’ to survive.

With the employer-employee collaboration only will the problem of uncertainty be overcome. That employer-employee collaboration is what “Career Planning & Development” addresses at.

End.

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