Career development is an ongoing process where employees move forward through a series of career stages. This involves learning and refining knowledge and skills, including various levels of job mastery and professional development, combined with career planning activities. Job mastery is having the skills required to effectively perform a job. Professional development skills go above and beyond the job description and, although usually indirect, these skills may have a positive impact on job performance. Career development is a dynamic, long-haul process. It’s important for HR to remember these employees may often need encouragement. They may also turn to HR for assistance when it’s time to review and reassess career development goals and their related activities.
Career development programs
HR professionals, can guide and implement strong career development programs with strategies that are aligned with both the organization’s business objectives and the personal interest, goals, and aspirations of the individual employee. HR can provide valuable feedback, learning activities, and resources. HR professionals play a vital role in career development and part of that role requires you to be familiar with a number of career development programs because many of these programs stay with and are managed by the HR Department.
You need to be careful when you suggest and design career paths and enrichment experiences that can enable employees to achieve their goals, and when you coach and assist managers in supporting their employees through the process. In addition to the more familiar career development and training programs, employees’ self-assessment tools and formal coaching and mentoring can also be effective. In addition, continuing professional education including college coursework can help develop employee capabilities and allow them to contribute at a higher level. Career mobility including promotions, demotions, relocations, and transfers can also help organizations keep good employees by finding new internal roles.
Career development approaches
There are two career development approaches:
- dual career ladders
- fast-track programs
The dual career ladders approach recognizes that some employees want to continue to grow with the company but don’t want to become part of management. The non-management ladder allows employees to move through a number of jobs that increase in complexity, so the organization’s needs are met. At the same time, the individual’s personal development goals and priorities are also front and center. The concept of a ladder can be slightly misleading because career progression isn’t necessarily up. Often lateral moves across the organization provide the challenges and opportunities necessary to advance an employee’s career.
Fast-track programs are used to help promote high performers and leaders by placing them in increasingly challenging positions. HR professionals should play a significant role in the development and implementation of these programs for several reasons. One key role for HR is ensuring that there is no actual or perceived discrimination against employees who are not considered for the program.
Career development model
The typical career development model includes at least four stages:
- occupation and preparation and organizational entry – Occupation and preparation is where the individual develops an occupational self-image, looks at alternate careers, develops an occupational preference, and pursues the necessary education. During organizational entry, the individual receives job offers and chooses what they believe is the right offer.
- early career development and achievement – This is the stage where the individual learns the job, discovers the organization’s rules and norms, gets comfortable in the company and occupation, and becomes more competent. They then begin to pursue career goals.
- mid-career – During this stage, the individual is taking a second look at early career choices, making changes to career goals, making choices appropriate to their stage in life, and remaining productive.
- late career – In this stage, the individual continues to remain productive and has good self-esteem. The employee may be preparing for retirement, may be interested in helping others in career development activities, or may be preparing for a completely new occupation.
Individuals seldom follow this model in perfect order. For example, an individual may get through the first two or three stages and realize that they’re on the wrong career path.
Career planning and career management
Career development consists of two processes:
- career planning – This process is employee-focused and encompasses the activities the individual pursues to provide direction to their career. Career planning activities include identifying personal strengths and interests, developing personal career goals, evaluating career path options, both inside and outside an organization, and finding and participating in learning and development programs.
- career management – This process, by contrast, is the process of preparing, implementing, and monitoring an employee’s clear path with the primary focus on the goals and needs of the organization. This includes identifying the company’s future staffing needs, evaluating career strategies and development programs with those needs in mind, creating career opportunities, such as career paths and ladders, matching the organization’s future needs with individuals that have the necessary abilities and interests, and providing company-sponsor development, coaching, and career training opportunities.