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Motivation by Career Development: Part III

James M. Wilmott

The development of a fully functional career ladder is valueless unless it can assist in improving the competency of employees on both the managerial and technical career ladder. It is important that employees be trained in the skills essential for meeting the challenges that the company faces in achieving its financial objectives. To provide the correct training, it is necessary to develop an inventory of skills and define the current level of mastery of each employee.

To assist the supervisor in this effort, it is helpful to prepare a skills worksheet for each member of the staff. The sheet should include the employee’s career track, ultimate goals, educational background, experience history, the skill level required for the next position the employee is pursuing, and the skill level required for the employee’s ultimate goal.

Skills Workshop

The most important aspect of the career discussion occurs when the employee and the supervisor meet to review and discuss their respective evaluations. It is critical that a consensus is reached; achieving consensus requires that mastery of a skill at a particular level is demonstrated. The difference between expected competence and actual competence needs to be addressed. By including the skills and the progression of skills required for long-term career objectives, a plan to help the employee meet both short- and long-term career aspirations can be developed.

This process is empowering because it produces a career development document that is customized to each employee’s needs and career aspirations. It also prioritizes the specific skills that need to be improved for each employee. Individuals also know the short- and long-term training that will assist them in achieving higher levels in the organization. Further, employees can determine how much time they want to invest to improve competency in certain skills.

It becomes readily obvious that the typical one-size-fits-all development program implemented by a human resources department may not be of the greatest value. These general corporate programs should be relegated to programs the company wishes to implement at a base level corporate-wide, such as safety and diversity programs. In systems described above, human resources would assist by identifying appropriate courses and training programs for each skill.

Value of the Career Development Process

The career development process and the documents that constitute the career development profile can be used for many applications in the company. It allows employees to know what skills they specifically need to develop. It also enables them to understand that they are not going to receive exactly the same training as their colleagues. Rather, what they will get is the same opportunity for training. The amount of formal training an individual can receive in a given year is limited only by the department’s budgetary allocation for training. Ideally, an equitable but not necessarily an equal distribution of funds to each employee in the department is desirable. Further, formal courses can be supplemented with internal training, and mentoring programs can be established between employees who have strength in a particular skill and those who need assistance with that skill.

A worksheet used to document career development can be used to support recommendations for promotions. It enables the supervisor to justify the validity of the promotion requests to management. The process itself is important in optimizing the value of each employee to the corporation. Individuals who are professionally motivated can continue in their fields of expertise and contribute to the company’s success at ever-increasing levels.

Further, the process can be used as a tool to assist the organization in succession planning. Since the key skills for a department are established and the increasing level of manifesting each skill is clearly defined, then individuals demonstrating the capability of assuming the next level of responsibility can be readily identified. The process also helps reduce the subjectivity often associated with succession planning. A manager’s bias, for or against a particular employee, is greatly diminished and conscious or unconscious discrimination is minimized.

Esprit de Corps

Perhaps the most important benefit of the proposed process is that it changes the environment in the department from competition to cooperation. While the managerial ladder, by definition, has an ever-decreasing number of positions available as one makes the ascension, the technical ladder does not. In fact, it is to the organization’s benefit to have as many employees ascend to higher levels of the ladder because their value to the company becomes much greater. There is no practical limit to the number of higher-level professionals. The only restriction is budgetary.

If the skill progressions are done correctly, then these higher-level individuals should be responsible for increasing the success of the organization, which in turn should enhance financial performance and market value. This will make more funds available to reward the efforts of all employees. Since there is no cap on the number of senior professional positions, employees will want to help one another with advancement. A win for one is not a loss for another. A person who is very strong in a particular skill can mentor a colleague who is deficient in that skill and vice versa. This reciprocal mentoring gets everyone involved in the career development of every individual in the department.

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