"Harnessing the best local knowledge to deliver global career transition solutions"

Organizations frequently use Assessment Centers to support their Talent Review processes and identify potential. These Centers, usually run by an external consultant deploy a range of tools including psychometric tests, interviews, simulation with the consultant then interpreting outcomes and providing insight into who demonstrates potential and those that don’t.  This is all very well and good from an organizational perspective, but what about the employee and their aspirations?

Having run these types of centers for many years, we often find that despite the business having mapped out an employee’s future, many have seldom taken time to reflect on what it is they want from their career. It’s not unusual for these reviews to reveal that individuals earmarked for leadership positions actually have little interest in pursuing managerial or leadership roles. For many, it may be they the first time that they are in the position of being asked about their values and future goals – and they might actually reflect more on Zen Buddhism than the demands of the quarterly economy. On the other hand, there are situations where the participant has not thought about how they will juggle the demands of family, such as having a child or supporting ageing parents, and their career.

Having conducted hundreds of Talent Reviews, we can assure you that this is very common – assessing a person with clear competencies, ambition and talent, but no clear plan for what they want. They find it difficult to describe their career, motivation and goals, having spent little time thinking about what they want to do when they grow up. This isn’t uncommon. In fact, it reflects our changing world. Values are diverse, careers are changing at a rapid pace and the structures of society do not guide individuals in the same way as they once did, making it difficult to recognize one’s own place and career in a changing and complex organization.

In response to this, we at MPS Enterprises developed the MyCareer – coaching approach that uses job crafting as a framework. This methodology challenges the top-down approach commonly adopted by organisations in identifying potential, instead asking the individual to do this through self-reflection and awareness, identifying their strengths, thinking about their goals and what they want to achieve. The benefits of this approach are clear. The individual is more determine, independent, is confident in what they have to offer and more importantly, how to navigate their way in a complex organization. This has its effect on rotation, resource planning and active, individual-based career development. It’s our belief individuals with ambition for leadership or strategic roles should only be put forward for Talent Reviews after this process has taken place.

For managers, the ability to support their people with their career plans and ambitions will become an increasingly essential skill. But, we also need to be realistic. Even the most supportive manager will not always be able to give simple answers to career-related questions due to flatter organizational structures and an ever-changing operational environment – there are no clear paths for success and proceeding. On the other hand, the organization cannot leave their employees to figure out their development and ambitions on their own.

Here are a few simple steps that managers can use when they want to help their employees to reflect on their career or craft their present job if bigger changes are not possible at the moment.

  1. First, the most important: Ask your employee what they think about the future and their career. A simple question, which is often left unasked, even in staff appraisal conversations. 
  2. Mapping motivators: What does the employee like and dislike in their current role? What would they continue doing or leave out if possible? This can lead to a fruitful discussion about how they can build more of the “motivational task” into their roles, or a frank discussion about the realities of the role.
  3. Stakeholder mapping: Who does the employee work with? Who should they work with? How can they build their networks to support their development?
  4. Purpose: Why is the employee doing what he or she is doing? What is their part in the big picture? How do they describe their role? What is most important and meaningful at work?
  5. Empowering: Remember to tell them what skills, competencies, potential and strengths you see in them. An energy giving action that will help them to own their career and development.

Going though these questions may take some time, but the end prize is worth it; a more effective, more engaged and happier employees and a pool of talent who’s ambitions and competencies are aligned with the organizations expectations of them.

Tommi Lehtinen and Päivi Montgomery, MPS