Employees, employers at odds on career management programs

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While many employers believe they're providing workers with career opportunities and challenging assignments, employees think employers are coming up short in these and other areas.

Employers have marginally high optimism about their career management programs, according to Willis Towers Watson’s 2016 Global Talent Management and Rewards Study, which found nearly six in 10 U.S. employers (58%) said their programs were effective at providing traditional career advancement opportunities, including both promotions and lateral moves.

Further, 42% of employers said career advancement opportunities for most employees have improved over the past year, while only 28% of employees believed advancement opportunities have gotten better.

Overall, almost 70% of employers say their career development processes are effective at providing traditional career advancement opportunities to employees, the study notes.

“Career advancement, skill enhancement and personal development opportunities are what employees truly want from an employer, in addition to competitive pay and job security,” says Renée Smith, director, Talent and Rewards, Willis Towers Watson. “Unfortunately, effective career management programs remain elusive, leaving many employers in danger of losing some of their best talent. In fact, our research found an alarming number of employees who say they would have to leave their employer to advance their career.”

Meaningful career management in the new world of work requires a focus on the employee experience and skills development versus jobs and levels.

There are three key areas where employers say they see shortcomings:

· Technology. Only 37% indicate their organization is effective at using technology to provide employees access to career management tools and resources. Less than half (49%) say their organization is effective at using technology to provide workers access to employee learning and development programs.
· Managers. Only 39% of employers say their managers are effective at identifying development opportunities. And a mere 30% report that their managers are effective at conducting career development discussions.
· Nontraditional advancement opportunities. Only half say their organization’s career development processes are effective at positioning career growth and movement opportunities to enhance skills and gain new experiences (e.g., special assignments, across or outside the organization).

A flip of the coin

On the other side, employees regard career advancement among one of the top three drivers of attraction and retention — alongside job security and competitive salaries.

Only 43% of employees think that their organization does a good job of providing advancement opportunities. In fact, more than 40% of employees think they need to leave their organization to advance their careers.

“The competition for career opportunities is getting stronger and will probably intensify as more employers look to alternative pools of employee and nonemployee talent for their workforce,” Smith adds. “Those organizations that are able to deliver effective opportunities for skill enhancement, personal development and ultimately career advancement opportunities will likely be in the best position to attract and retain top talent, and keep their workforce highly engaged.”

Employees see two major roadblocks in their employer’s career management programs: supervisors and technology.

Eleven percent of employees report that they did not have a career development discussion with their immediate supervisor in the past year, the report notes, and only 38% report that their immediate supervisor helps with career planning and decisions.

And similar to woes employers reported, less than half of employees (47%) cite adequate use of technology in development programs.

“While many employers have made improvements in providing some of the traditional aspects of career management, the changing ways for getting work done and what today’s workers want out of a career means employers will need to modernize their career management programs in order to attract and retain talent,” says Suzanne McAndrew, managing director, talent and rewards consulting, at Willis Towers Watson.

Indeed, according to the research, the majority of employers provide the elements of a traditional career management program including vertical career paths (53%), internal job boards (69%) and on-the-job growth experiences such as stretch assignments and special projects (71%). However, employers have a long way to go to provide elements for a modernized career management program. Only 29% of employers currently outline lateral career paths (paths across job functions or business areas); 33% provide beyond-the-job growth experiences such as job shadowing and rotational assignments, and only 42% integrate information on career opportunities within technology.

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