Traditional perceptions of careers are slowly being replaced by new views. Career management was once viewed as a role for employers. Job security was a reality and careers were associated with jobs. However, these factors are no longer true today; off-shoring, mergers & acquisitions and downsizing are the new buzz words. Employees are well aware that they can lose jobs at any moment. On other hand, companies are dealing with highly competitive human resource markets. It has become increasingly difficult to retain employees. Given these diverse changes in careers, it is imperative to re-examine the role of human resource management in career management. The report will first start with changes in careers. It will then look at possible roles for human resource management and then give suggestions on how the two can work together to improve career management.
How careers have changed
Jobs are no longer permanent as they were some years ago. Corporations are more interested in furthering their profit making interests than safeguarding the needs of their employees (Noe, 1996). In fact, when companies adopt strategies that will restructure their organisation then employees will often be the first casualties (Gallagher et. al., 2009). It is in these circumstances that employees need to manage their careers the most since they are basically on their own.
In fact, career management is now characterised by individual rather than corporate responsibility. External trends are affecting these decisions because opportunities that were unavailable some few decades ago are now very plausible career options. One must therefore decide where one really wants to go as an employee. Given this increasing need for personal / individual responsibility in career management, employees have realised that jobs mean more than sources of income. They are now seen as opportunities to acquire new skills. Employees are willing to forego minor drawbacks present in certain jobs just so that they can acquire necessary skills and hence develop their careers. Employees now play an important role in determining how long they will last in certain jobs or how they can enrich their experiences. Many are looking at things in retrospect and assessing the future of their careers based on prevailing trends. In fact, others are willing to let go of isolated jobs if they are not in line with their career aspirations (Sollivan, 2000). Also, employees are building networks in their industries so that they can always be on the lookout for great new ideas or openings. Most employees know when they will leave their organisations so most of them maybe embracing something new and fresh. Some even have an exit strategy as part of their career planning (Stahl et. al., 2009).
Human resource managers have a very unique challenge in such an environment because employee loyalty is no longer as important as it once was. Nonetheless, if an employee can find the solution to his/ her career goals in a certain organisation then there is no need for that employee to leave (Baruch, 2004). HR managers therefore have the challenge of meeting employees own needs as well as the organisation’s needs. Employee loyalty is likely to result only when there is an alignment between career aspirations of employees and business goals. The challenge here is to match those two critical factors.
The haphazard job alterations that characterise career management present another additional challenge to HR representatives. These frequent employee departures upset organisational culture because Human resources must look for replacements from outside the organisation when leadership gaps result (Bridgstock, 2009). The traditional approach to career development which was characterised by employee loyalty ensured that smooth transitions occurred naturally. Leaders were selected from within the existent employee pool. However, such smooth transitions are no longer occurring naturally. Human resources need to take on this role and ensure that transitions are smooth enough even when employees leave for external career opportunities (Conway et. al., 2002).
Human resource managers have the difficult task of managing expectations. Since employee career aspirations are becoming more ambitious, it is crucial for the HRM function to clarify all possibilities early enough. Some employees may harbour ambitions of hierarchical growth yet these may not be plausible for an enterprise that is more inclined towards mergers and acquisitions or other similar growth strategies. HR must make sure that employees fully understand their career possibilities in the organisation (Sullivan, 2009). This means that the business environment now demands greater transparency from human resources. Employees now require information from HR managers on possible directions that the business will be heading to.
The business environment is also changing in terms of the need for synergy in career management. Traditionally, the HR function was seen as an amorphous entity which possessed different roles that could be handled in different ways. However, now the environment demands a more coordinated and organised approach to career management. Decisions about careers now need to be done after collection of all the sufficient information needed in order to alter an employee’s career path.
Extent to which HRM is a part of career management
For companies, these shifty job offerings should cause them to transfer their attention away from offering their employees permanent employment to creating permanently employable employees. Unless companies can support their employees to plan their careers or guide them in the right direction then they will not cushion themselves against high turnover (Huiwen, 2009). Firms however need to ensure they support employees’ careers when the results of that support will affect the company positively. In other words, HRM should still participate be involved in career management but this should be done with a focus on the employee (Coy, 2011). If human resource managers do not carry this out proactively then they are likely to lose their best employees to aggressive competitors in the same industry. In fact, it has been shown that employees with the greatest skills and talents are the ones who are most likely to leave an organisation for another more promising one when they do not get support from their firm. HRM should not take a back burner; it just needs to be redefined so as to suit employee needs (Baruch & Peiperi, 2000).
There are two things that need to be kept in mind as HRM plans careers; it needs to possess a formal approach to career planning as these actions need to be tied in with overall organisational strategy. Firms now need to appreciate the importance of talent possession because that could be the vital differentiator of the company in its respective field. Future or even prevailing plans cannot be executed when a firm possesses talent shortage so HRM should not compromise on this element. Many organisations have not been taking positive steps towards dealing with or preventing talent shortage yet that is costing them greatly. While strategy may involve the organisation, final decisions and choices should be employee driven. This is the second aspect that needs to be kept in mind. Organisational staff members are the ones who will be exploring various options available to them so they need to be told about all the possibilities available to them. Unless HRM can strike a balance between these two aspects then they will lose out on their vital human resource capital (Baruch, 2004). HRM needs to engage talent while at the same time offer development opportunities to workers who need to be steered in the right career direction without compromising on their ability to self direct their own career paths. HRM also need to ensure that career strategies are associated with day to day operations or else they will be engaging in useless general efforts.
Human resource managers are expected to be aware of the leadership situation in their organisations as well as keep tabs on the various gaps prevalent in their firms. Career management provides great opportunities to deal with these leadership gaps because the organisations can identify capable employees and work with them by designing their career paths together (Lockwood et. al., 2003). There is no reason why a human resource department should keep getting their leaders from the external environment when they have capable leaders within. However, it should be noted that a traditional approach that dwells on business needs alone will not do; emphasis must be on the career ambitions of the employee. If these aspirations clash then HR managers need to identify other employees who have such aspirations.
This radical shift towards personal responsibility in career management does not in any way eliminate the need for HRM. However, it does require a collaborative approach to career management. Objective career success can be attained alongside organisational objectives if the HR function works alongside career self management initiatives by employees (Lockwood, 2003). Most employees do not expect to do this alone. They believe that their employers will help them in one way or another so HRM is still relevant in career management. Complementary approaches towards career management need to be adopted by the employees as well as the Human resource function (Metzenbaum, 2009). Self managing employees actually expect greater support from human resources. If the HRM department fails to step up to this role then it stands to lose very vital employees who may look elsewhere for tangible career opportunities and greater support.
Human resources managers can also engage in career planning in order to contribute towards career management. However as mentioned earlier, individuals and organisational needs need to be merged. HRM will be responsible for career management in an organisation through collection of information which will illustrate the requirements prevalent within the firm (Lockwood, 2003). If this is done well then it will be a crucial guide to determining exactly what a company needs to do in order to develop careers. As HRM carries this out, it needs to keep in mind that all employees have their own unique needs and wants. They also possess different abilities so not everyone will be a one size fits all employee during the career planning process. HRM also needs to remember that workers are likely to be more responsive towards their organisation if they realise that their goals and ambitions have been catered for. With the right guidance and opportunities, employees can keep growing and this would definitely enhance career growth prospects (Armstrong, 2009).
Practical things that HRM can do in career management
Young employees still require guidance so organisations can step up and offer them mentoring opportunities. These individuals may be directed towards steering the mentees in the right direction of their careers. HRM can provide them with a framework against which they can grow their career tremendously. In this process, the company through HRM will need to allocate people who will support employees. The mentors often assist employees in the process of drawing personal development programs. Once mentees start the learning programs then mentors ought to support them as they keep learning (Karralis, 2009). They should also give them guidance concerning the skills they need in order to take on a new position within the organisation. Mentors also assist employees in order to decide on the best administrative or technical approaches to carry out their personal responsibilities. However, in order to cover the needs of the company, then HR personnel need to dwell on mentorship opportunities that illustrate the possibility of growth with that concerned organisation. Here, the company will be offering an employee the possibility and opportunity to grow through collaboration with company coaches or mentors. In fact, the HR representatives need to encourage young employees to work on establishing lasting relationships with their mentors (Collings, 2009). That would give them a reason to remain loyal to the organisation and thus boost loyalty.
Companies need to involve employees in work designs especially given the fact that employees are now more proactive about their careers (Mackenzie & Arnold, 1999). In other words, HR managers should allow or even require their employees to change work procedures. This will contribute towards job enrichment and will also boost their confidence in certain career paths.
Human resources need to design career paths with employees. Here, they can work with employees concerning possible career moves that could help them to advance their careers. Even though employees need to be the focal point of career development, HR managers need to remember that employee performance and company values need to be related. If there is some synchronisation between these two aspects then a career path can be curved out. In line with these efforts is the need to offer career counselling to employees (EATMP human resources team, 2000). In these sessions, HR managers need to listen to the career aspirations of their employees and give feedback or input concerning those aspirations. Information found through this method can be used in subsequent times for later career development efforts.
After carrying out career counselling then individuals need to know where their careers will be headed. This involves career planning development. Since employees are now at the centre of their career management then they need to be the point of focus during such processes. Here, employees need to determine the actions that they will need to take in order to achieve their career ambitions (Coy, 2011). The HRM function will step in after employees have already decided which steps they will take. Human resources will need to offer support to their employees concerning the implementation and formulation of their career plans. Once again, this learning framework will be self initiated by employees. HR will only give support in the practical aspects.
HRM can also play a vital role in enhancing learning opportunities for employees. As stated earlier, many employees are now willing to forego minor shortcomings such as low pay in order to learn something new. Companies can enhance careers by offering learning opportunities in the entire organisation or through team based work. By giving employees assignments that will contribute towards better problem solving skills then employees will be at a better position to move up their career paths. Here, firms need to instate development programs that will make employees more employable. Those would challenge workers and thus cause them to develop their careers as well (Coy, 2011).
The HR function can also develop employees through additional educational qualification. In such time, the HR team can identify any prevalent developmental needs in the company. It can inform employees about such possibilities. Employees are likely to respond through pursuance of additional educational qualifications or other related qualifications. Those employees are likely to stay within the concerned firm if they have been shown how they can implement their skills there. HR representatives need to offer those opportunities for career development to people who have attained such qualifications. In other words, HR plays a role of educating employees about career growth opportunities and implementation of those opportunities (Baruch & Peiperi, 2000). Also, if organisations are aware of new tools then they need to expose employees to them such that they can witness these positive outcomes.
In terms of career planning, HRM needs to use all information obtained through performance appraisals, potential assessments or self assessment programs to plan careers. These will probably give a general direction about where the firm needs to be heading. When the results have been viewed then respective firms need to think about how they can assist those respective employees to meet their needs while the organisation gets to fill up its loopholes. One of the methods is by identifying workers who are doing relatively well with some of these tests (Greenhaus et. al., 2010). They can then accelerate promotions for them and thus boost their talents. Therefore career planning tools can assist HRM in identifying and rewarding the most outstanding performers. On other hand, organisations still possess gradual employees whose accomplishments may not be as dramatic as the top performers but they may be progressing slowly. Such employees need to be considered as well. HR personnel ought to sit down with these employees and establish logical career paths for them as well.
HRM also needs to do succession planning. In this regard, the HRM function will need to determine the positions that need to be planned for and the key people who can rise to those top positions. Here, it may be necessary for them to think about employees’ stated career ambitions. HR will also need to consider their capabilities as well. In this regard, they can look into the training levels that those key people have attained and the level of experience that they have attained as well as their overall education levels. As much as employee needs are important, organisations cannot compromise on quality of human resources by settling for the wrong people simply because they harbour such ambitions (Greenhaus et. al., 2010). Utmost precedence should be given to the practical components of employees’ abilities because companies have to match their career goals with practical capabilities. When one of these elements is missing then those workers should simply not be considered during succession planning. Succession planning should never be done in seclusion because this is a routine activity. HRM needs to consider findings from previous reviews and situations should be compared. Precedence should be given to those things that have changed because without progress then the organisation could not move forward. At this point, the career management function needs to plan for other possibilities in the future. For instance, HR personnel can identify some of the people who need replacement if they expect them to leave the firm anytime soon (Lockwood et. al., 2003). Alternatively, it maybe that some of the people selected may not be performing as expected so they may require replacement. Succession planning needs to incorporate these possibilities as a lot of dynamics can go on within a firm. However, certain things can happen in the future to alter the effectiveness of the succession plan. This means that HR needs to plan for those eventualities in the succession plan. They need to remember that the plan cannot just be done exclusively; it needs to incorporate all the internal factors in the firm that will make the plan feasible or not. HR representatives need to identify people who can be useful in case those situations arise in the future. Once again, that needs to be done while planning for the needs and aspirations of candidates within the organisation (Conway et. al., 2002) In the succession plan, the concerned HR manager needs to identify how current career expectations fit in with the organisational needs especially for future purposes. People who can fill those gaps need to be identified and consulted on those possibilities. They need to know about all the activities they would be engaging in and the possible methods used to determine who will carry them out. In this respect, workers will support the company in efforts because they will be assured of a transparent and consultative process in organisational transformation. Since assessments will be carried out once those positions are filled then employees should be told about some of the criteria that will be applied in order to know whether they are meeting expectations or not (Bridgstock, 2009).
On top of this task of succession planning, HR also needs to do career assessment. In carrying out this out, they need to keep in mind emerging trends in careers. First of all, they should determine whether candidates have been performing well. Since jobs keep changing from time to time then HR managers ought to know how those issues relate to their organisation. This needs to be done against the background of previous reviews. Also, these assessments need to be compared to the company strategic plan because that is a crucial component of their success. Since external environments keep altering, career assessments need to reflect those factors and some of them may include new technologies or emerging opportunities (Noe, 1996). Employees need to be given this new information so that they can adjust their career goals accordingly. Human resources also have higher chances of success if they let customers in on the goings on in the organisation (Greenhaus et. al., 2010). As stated earlier, the consultative approach is now proving to be more effective than organisational based decisions. Human resource representatives need to let the employees understand the dynamics involved in career assessments as well as career plans so that they can get them on board. Such informed workers will have a better chance of meeting organisational needs compared to those who may not necessarily understand issues in HR administration. In assessments, HR managers need to think of the future as well (Pfeffer, 2009). They need to establish where the company will be going in a number of years from then and then determine some of the ways in which they can fill those positions that will emanate out of promotions, expansions and attrition. Once again, employees need to know about these company strategies so that they can also align their career goals in accordance with them. After assessments have been done, HR need to know what they will do with the results. If the employees are not performing as expected then they need to know beforehand what could happen to them. They should be aware of all the alternative courses of action in place. One way that HRM can deal with underperformance is through support structures. Companies need to first develop the employee before they can write them off as unproductive. HRM should ensure that all the possible alternatives have been looked into (Sullivan, 2009).
After assessments have been done, HRM should then start grooming individuals in the company for greater responsibilities or higher positions. Since companies are always changing then it will be imperative for HR representatives to keep doing this as frequently as possible. Training and education of those concerned needs to be considered in these process as HR managers continually revise strategies to fall in line with current business goals an career aspirations of their employees.
Human resources need to think about how they can utilise technology in order to create synergy in career management. One way of doing this would be to use software that contains all the lifecycle information about an employee’s career. This would include performance assessments, promotions done, compensation and all other related information. Software packages like Cornerstone-on-Demand can be useful in achieving these objectives (Coy, 2011). Such packages would give HR representatives as well as employees an indication of where their career is heading. Even technology solutions for day to day activities can be used so that employees’ current standings can always be assessed. These technologies will therefore assist employees by offering them a proper road map concerning their career paths while organisations can engage their employees more and thus boost their chances of retaining them.
Careers have taken on an individualistic approach so employees need to be more responsible for their career paths. The HRM function still needs to achieve company strategies. This means that a collaborative approach needs to be taken on. In this regard mentorship and counselling should be done in order to guide employees. Career planning needs to include employees as well career assessments and career designs. Overly, HRM should still play a vital role in career management but employees need to be consulted or should drive changes in their careers.
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