One of the common benefits that most employees look for in organizations is the ability of the organization to provide a long-term career. In the 21st century, however, the notion of career and career paths is undergoing a sea change primarily due to social, economical and technological factors. This is also evident in the recently published Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends Survey which clearly identified “building 21st century career” as third most important trend with almost 50 percent of respondents describing it as very important, however only about 10 percent felt they were very ready to address this particular trend, demonstrating how urgent and important is this challenge.
Fundamentally, the notion that you study for 10-15 years and then reap the benefits by sticking to the career choice you made for next 30-40 years is largely being questioned. The expectation of skills and expertise required for a particular profession are changing dramatically across all domains. For example, even though you may remain a lawyer practicing a particular type of law throughout your career today, the skills and expertise required to perform that task would change and evolve over a period of time. Your ability to adapt to these changing needs, primarily driven by technological innovation and evolution, will determine the monetary and psychological rewards you gain from such a career.
The 4 global macroeconomic trends that seem to be driving the war on talent as described by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic in his book “The Talent Delusion” are:
The disengagement epidemic
The rise of passive job seeker
The growing appeal of self-employment
The rise of entrepreneurship
He effectively argues that hence, the war is not for talent, but is on talent, as organizations need to design effective and efficient processes that attract the right kind of talent instead of repelling them.
The key anomaly in most organizational definition of career paths is that they are linked to organizational hierarchy and hence, the development efforts are also aligned with the same. In reality, career paths are most likely to not follow organizational hierarchy even in organizations where they are defined based on hierarchy. This is coming increasingly under pressure with the expected rise of gig workers in the workplace and changing expectations of a mix of workforce across 3 or 4 different generations.
The building blocks of new age career development
Jobs and their definition
As companies adopt and adapt to digital business models in their industries, the jobs being performed to achieve specific objectives are being re-designed dramatically. McKinsey report predicts that 60 percent of occupations have at least 30 percent of constituent work activities that could be automated. Use of automation and artificial intelligence is likely to become mainstream and it is most likely to create occupations and jobs that do not exist today.
As companies redesign existing jobs and introduce newly designed jobs, they will continue to struggle to define a path for individuals to move from place A to B.
The above gets further complicated with more and more “senior” roles becoming what is called as “hybrid” jobs, where just having a particular domain or technology expertise is not enough, the importance of softer skills is ever more important in these jobs. This presents a critical design challenge for companies when they look at these multiple jobs from the view of defining multiple career paths or options for employees.
As companies evolve their digital business models and redesign the jobs, the next logical fall out of that are the learning gaps these new jobs created with respect to existing employees or future employees. It is one thing to say we want to use artificial intelligence in our business operations and another to be able to find or train relevant employees with necessary domain and industry experience in these skills.
Companies world over are increasingly looking to redesign the way learning is presented and consumed by their employees and the focus seems to be moving on building specific skills via crowd-sourced platforms either internally or externally.
Aligning such wide variety of content to internal jobs and realities is the most critical aspect of this journey to ensure that learning is relevant to the overall career growth of the individual.
In recent past, many companies have moved from the annual performance reviews to a continuous feedback culture and this trend seems to become the default performance management approach in many progressive global organizations. Yet companies seem to struggle to balance the conversation with immediate performance and long-term career orientation. Companies are in a difficult situation here as they need to strike the right balance between ensuring effective performances in the short term while also being able to provide an engaging picture of the future for the performing employees to consider staying put for that future to realize. How companies use the crowdsourced data along with coaching at scale to effectively maneuver these conversations is a key task in an effective career development framework.
Data and analytics
Use of data and analytics particularly in HR decision making has started to gain prominence in recent years and just like the 3 aspects mentioned above, this has fundamentally changed how individuals and companies will look at career path or career growth. Companies are increasingly looking to use data to make people decisions and with the ever-increasing use of technology, there is more and more data that is at the disposal of companies. Companies can look to leverage these insights to design unique career paths or even providing these insights and tools to employees to help them create their own career paths thus improving transparency of decision making, a key component of a successful 21st-century enterprise.
The technology solutions landscape
The technology solution landscape for this critical business and HR imperative is evolving and we continue to see emergence of solutions which are helping companies tackle one of the challenges, while some HR technology companies are attempting to target all the building blocks, however increasingly the problem of designing efficient career paths is going to be multi-disciplinary and hence would require multiple technological solutions to interact with each other to provide the real solution to this business problem. We now look at some of the specific HR technology solutions that help companies solve this problem.
The point solutions:
Fuel50, TalentGuard, Praditus, MentorCloud, Unibly, PathSavvy, and SmashPath are some of the examples of HR Technology solutions that are available today which help address either the entire career development process or certain parts of it. In most performance management point solutions like BetterWorks, Synergita, Zugata, Relfektive, Impraise and QiloTech among others offer some sort of developmental needs identification, however many performance management software solutions do not offer any career guidance or career path related elements.
The other critical aspect that determines the attractiveness of a career is a series of exciting jobs that are possibly available in the company. Currently, we do not see any point or otherwise solution being offered in this space. The potential solution in this area can help companies map potential paths based on historic employee data of promotions or movements across geographies and roles. It could also help companies design better jobs based on their context and help them compare with peers in similar industries. Tools like Textio are attempting to help companies write better job descriptions but that is just 1 tiny aspect of a good job design and typically comes pretty late in the job design process.
Most of the above-described point solutions will need to be integrated with other HR systems like core HR, performance management, and learning management, thus creating a challenge for the HR technology buyer as they would have to worry about integration points and effective use of data generated in all point solutions across the career path process.
One category within the career path process that seems to have exploded in the recent past and we believe it will continue to grow in learning. We now have a marketplace of next-generation learning management systems, learning experience platforms, micro-learning platforms, MOOC and Program management systems and a new set of virtual reality enabled assessment tools, all coming together in this space. Companies like Degreed, Udacity, EdCast, UpGrad, Fuse, Grovo and Pluralsight are some of the examples of companies in the above-mentioned categories within learning management. Thus presenting subcategories within a subcategory of career path solutions.
The Data Analytics is a fast emerging category within HR tech space and HR Technology buyers struggle today to choose between embedded analytics from point solution providers and using a specialized analytics solution. In case of career path design and deployment, currently, it looks like a hybrid model where HR leaders will have to leverage data from the existing point and other solutions and design an integrated data-driven career development approach using a specialized tool like Visier.
The talent management suites
Typically most large enterprise HCM applications have talent management solutions as part of their suite and most players like Oracle, SAP, Workday, Ceridian, PageUP will offer these as part of their solution sets. However, depending on the HCM solution provider what they offer under talent management will vary greatly, while most tend to offer Performance management and learning management solutions which may or may not support a career development or career path oriented approach.
The Indian scenario
We haven’t come across any Indian company offering a point solution in career development space. However, players like Ramco and Adrenalin seem to offer most of the building blocks for a career development model while some other HCM solution providers like Darwinbox and PeopleWorks offer only parts of the career path solutions as part of their HCM suite. We see great potential for these and other players to re-think their solution sets from a career development stand-point and be able to create an attractive value proposition for buyers in India and outside.
Successful organizations are able to provide tailored solutions that empower individuals to reinvent themselves within the company. This is critical for success in the 21st century for both employees and employers to be able to navigate the complex and hybrid nature of work we seem to encounter.
Companies like Shell operate with a belief that investment in individual development not only contributes to their personal growth, but also to the growth of the business and has created a unique model of employee development tailored to their context.
When effective programs like these are designed to engage and enable employees to find, pursue and excel in the kind of experiences they wish to pursue for their growth; it creates a virtuous cycle of benefits for both employees and organizations. Such programs can help individuals and organizations meet the current and future demands of work. The technology landscape will need to evolve and help organizations create their unique solutions in this pursuit.