Career planning is a tough field because there is such a large gap between what employers can offer and what employees want.
Employees would like to have a clear (but flexible) path up the organization; employers running lean organizations in uncertain times cannot promise much.
Career planning matters because a lot of an employee’s sense of self has to do with what they will become, not just what they are now. Much of their motivation comes from doing work that will take them someplace, not just doing work that will keep them from losing their job.
Touting “engagement” instead of “planning”
This is why you see tech companies calling their software “career engagement” rather than “career planning,” the payoff is in engaging the employee today.
Many employers have taken the realistic tact that employees have to take charge of their own career planning; that tact is not very effective if employees don’t have the tools to do so. The solution may lie in career engagement software offered by companies like PlanDo and Fuel50.
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The nice thing about these apps is that it literally puts the career engagement tool in the hands of employees and it’s there on an ongoing basis (contrast that to having a half-hearted conversation about careers once a year during the performance appraisal process).
Software on its own won’t “solve” the career planning needs of employees. However, it promises to be a powerful tool to leverage any culture that is already encouraging employees to be proactive in charting their own course.
What is interesting?
- Career engagement software can be just as relevant for contingent workers as it is for permanent employees. Furthermore, with some software, the employee owns the data and can take it with them from company to company over the course of their career. That’s a big change in mindset for HR; the app really is for the worker and the company is simply benefiting from the fact that the worker is more engaged, not because they are using the career planning software to manage the employee.
What is really important?
- We should not give up on career engagement even if there is little we can promise employees with certainty. Providing opportunities for employees to understand how what they are doing today prepares them for their next career move will have a big payoff. Helping them ask the right questions; and helping managers answer those questions, will have a payoff.
Helping workers see beyond the narrow confines of their current job will inspire them work harder towards the future they want to achieve.