Work/23: The Big Shift
To be competitive in today’s tough labor markets, companies need to expand career development beyond those employees who are considered “high potential.” Helping all workers build rewarding job paths benefits both individuals and organizations. But broadening the reach of career development is not simple. Traditional development programs don’t easily scale, and most managers aren’t equipped to be good career counselors.
Forward-leaning companies understand the imperative. During Work/23, an MIT Sloan Management Review symposium held in May 2023, MIT Sloan’s George Westerman noted that in a survey of 1,016 employees, two-thirds said they want to advance — but “half of them said they were being held back by lack of good career advice.” A majority of those who changed jobs in 2021 cited a lack of advancement opportunities as the cause.
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Westerman said managers can’t be fully responsible for developing employees’ careers; many leaders don’t want or know how to help, and many don’t have the incentive to. But organizations shouldn’t think that employees can completely own their career paths. “If you believe this story, then when an employee doesn’t advance, you tend to blame the employee and not the system,” he said.
Instead, companies that are successfully broadening who gets career help are making opportunities and pathways visible, providing opportunities to learn and practice new skills, and delivering rich feedback and coaching. Providing autonomous routes to this information is especially important because not all employees have the psychological safety to discuss job options with their managers.
Lani Montoya, the chief human resources officer at Pernod Ricard North America and a presenter on the panel with Westerman, said that at the premium spirits and wine company, a global job-rating process allows all 18,500 employees to see positions at their level as well as above and below it. “They can see how teams are structured, and if they’re interested in a role, they can see how it sits within what team,” she said.
Tony Gigliotti, the senior director of talent management and organizational development at UPMC, who was also on the panel, said that his organization is working toward similar transparency around career paths and job opportunities. The Pittsburgh-based health care provider and insurer has 95,000 employees in its hospitals and outpatient offices.