When Employees Own Their Careers, Everyone Wins

Transparent workplaces can lead to job mobility.

Talent Management Special Report;

Transparency is one of the latest buzzwords in corporate America. While employers may support the idea of being open with employees, understanding what that means and putting it into practice is something else. Transparency requires employers to have candid and meaningful conversations with employees. That means sharing information about the company’s growth plans for the future, informing employees about new roles they might fill at the company, and the skills needed for those new roles.

In today’s labor market, transparency is more important than ever for several reasons. First, the U.S. is facing a talent shortage. There are millions of job openings, but companies cannot find workers with the right skills, training and credentials to fill them. In 2015, almost 4 out of 10 employers reported difficulty filling open positions with skilled workers, according to ManpowerGroup’s Talent Shortage Survey. An improved economy and lower unemployment rates have only intensified this talent crisis. Companies need to communicate the skills and competencies needed to fill these in-demand roles.

Second, employees expect transparency. In five years, millennials will make up 50 percent of the workforce, according to the PricewaterhouseCoopers’ “Millennials at Work: Reshaping the Workplace.” Many companies are already there. Career progression is a top priority for millennials, and they insist on transparent relationships with their employers. Therefore, employers need to have clear conversations with employees about the jobs they have, the jobs they want, and the jobs available in the future.

Third, for many organizations, the old ways of filling the talent pipeline are no longer working. Employers need to look closer at their incumbent workforce. Many employees want the opportunity to fill those jobs, whether these are lateral or promotional moves, or a chance to gain new skills and do something different.

Finally, turnover is expensive. According to a 2014 LinkedIn survey, 25 percent of employees are actively looking for new jobs. And according to a February Zane Benefits blog citing studies from organizations like SHRM, it costs an average 6 to 9 months’ salary to replace an employee who leaves: “For a manager making $40,000 a year, that’s $20,000 to $30,000 in recruiting and training expenses.” Clearly that money is better spent investing in efforts to retain current employees. Not only does a company save money by hiring from within, but also current employees have been vetted and understand the company culture. Likewise, the company knows the employee. Promoting from within is the most affirmative sign to employees that a firm takes job mobility seriously.

So what can companies do, and where do they begin? It starts with the organization understanding the growth areas in its industry and what that means for them. Then it must translate that growth into the specific workforce skills needed to move the business into the future. That information must be distilled and shared widely and clearly with all employees so they can understand realistic options and take positive career action.

When a company is committed to internal transparency, it forms an active partnership with the employee. As the company shares its vision for future growth with employees — including sharing the skills the company needs now and into the future — employees understand what the company values. This empowers employees to invest their time and energy in improving their skills in ways that make sense for them, and for their employer. Employees can then build a clear path for job mobility and self-development. This leads to a more engaged and productive workforce that can drive the business outcomes companies desire.

Being Open Doesn’t Have to Mean Telling It All

Transparency is not a one-size-fits-all practice, so companies will need to define what being open with employees means for them. Becoming more transparent does not necessarily mean all the books are open. It could mean a company’s leaders have committed to clearly communicating the skills needed for future growth. Examples of greater openness from the C-suite to employees can include information on corporate organizational structure, which opportunities are sun-setting and which areas will see more growth, and preferred education requirements and salary ranges for these new positions.

Greater corporate transparency also means two-way communication between employees and employer. When employees feel the business values their skills, trust and loyalty increase. Employees often want to stay at their company, but they don’t want to do the same job forever, nor do they want to have to wait for their manager to retire to advance their careers.

Many employees find the only time they know that jobs are coming up is when the position is posted, leaving them little time to understand the position’s requirements and apply. Others may not know about opportunities outside of their department, or their manager doesn’t have the time or proper training to have a career-directed conversation.

To be successful, companies should consistently share meaningful information with employees about careers and opportunities — both present and future. This commitment to openness goes hand-in-hand with a company understanding its growth strategy going forward and deciding on a communication plan for all employees. Over time, becoming transparent becomes part of the company’s brand, both internally and externally.

Kimo Kippen, chief learning officer for Hilton Worldwide, said the company’s more than 160,000 global team members represent the “Heart of Hilton.” As such, the company is committed to creating unique opportunities for them that support their personal and professional dreams.

“To that end, our team members, regardless of their position, are encouraged to take advantage of numerous development programs including our GED assistance program, Hilton Worldwide University and our leadership development curriculum,” he said. “The opportunities we offer at Hilton Worldwide align with our competencies, mission and vision, which is to fill the earth with the light and warmth of hospitality. Making sure our people are happy, engaged and confident just makes sense.”

Tools to Meet Multiple Needs

It can be difficult for companies to focus on their growth strategy as well as develop their employees’ careers. They need solutions that provide employees with the information they need to take charge of their careers. Interactive career maps and external advising can take the pressure off supervisors and managers who are not trained, prepared or even interested in having career conversations with employees. And for job seekers, knowing that a company invests in its employees and provides them access to career maps and advising can be a huge benefit to lure, engage and retain talent.

Interactive career maps help to fine-tune a company’s talent strategy by encouraging employees to take charge of their own career development. These solutions help employees uncover career paths within the organization, identify appropriate positions, and then connect them with the skills and education the company is looking for. Special features like crosswalk and job matching tools show employees how their skills and interest transfer from one part of the company to another. When done well, career maps even allow employees to create an online action plan that outlines the learning and experiences needed to reach their goals.

Career and development advising gives employees a confidential place to candidly discuss their short- and long-term career goals. Advisers work with employees to ensure their learning and development choices are made with complete knowledge of the options available and the company’s business needs. Advising also helps increase the effectiveness of a company’s tuition assistance benefit by helping employees take the most efficient and cost effective path to get the education and credentials they need for career mobility.

When career maps are paired with effective advising, employees are empowered with tools and support to own their careers and actualize their future with the company making it a win-win for both employee and company. The result is employees who are in charge of, and enthusiastic about, their careers.

When a company is committed to transparency, it forms a partnership between the employer and the employee. As the company shares its vision for the future with employees, workers will understand what the company values, and they can invest their time and energy in improving the skills they know they need to successfully advance within the organization.

Investing in current employees and being transparent builds a stronger, more engaged workforce where employees enjoy job mobility, self-development and a better quality of life. It also creates a more productive and powerful workforce that keeps companies competitive, driving the business outcomes that organizations need to succeed and prosper.

Lynn Schroeder is vice president of client relations for Council for Adult and Experiential Learning. Comment below, or email editor@CLOmedia.com.