1. Define the need. To “hit the bull’s-eye,” you need to talk with employees to find out what’s missing. Is it lack of perceived opportunity, not enough training, too little communication, diversity issues? Exit interview analysis, employee surveys, and focus groups can help you become clearer about employees’ views on these issues.
2. Identify target groups. Focus on the employees you most want to keep. This helps you to get buy-in from all levels of management, which is important in building enthusiasm and gaining acceptance for the initiative.
3. Tie the initiative to human resources systems and policies. Company policies and practices regarding application procedures for posted jobs, managers’ ability to block internal movement, hiring from within, use of computer job/talent banks, training, tuition reimbursement, use of pay systems that reward flexibility rather than hierarchy, and performance management all impact the career development initiative and should be : synch with it.
4. Tailor the initiative to fit the culture. Start with the pieces that the current culture will accept. If you are trying to change your culture to create more employee initiative, giving workers the tools to take charge is an important way to do it. One company, Komatsu, took an initiative to develop a web of relationships across the company. It included an innovative new career path concept— a ‘return ticket’ policy to encourage the transfer of young employees to subsidiaries and affiliate companies that had previously been viewed as banishment; and the Strategic Employee Exchange Program, which allows employees to work on projects in other parts of the company on a short-term basis.
5. Take a long-term approach with short-term payoffs. To build momentum, develop the program in stages. Begin by conducting a needs evaluation with a manager task force, then design and pilot a program, measure the results, spread the good word, and gradually include more managers and employees. If the gradual approach is solidly designed and well executed, the long-term results in keeping the right people will take care of themselves.
6. Redesign performance management system to make the process easier, if necessary. Some companies require managers to have career discussions with their employees at least twice a year, or to jointly create career development action plans once a year. Others incorporate manager ratings as career coaches on the performance review.
7. Codesign with line management. The career development system, like the performance management system, should be owned by line management, not by human resources, if it is to be successful. Getting line management to help design this system from the outset will go a long way toward making this happen.
8. Separate career management from performance appraisal. Keeping the two apart helps assure employees that the purpose of the program is to help them manage their careers and not to help their superiors manage them. Career discussions between manager and employee should be scheduled between performance appraisal discussions.
9. Ensure top management support. This is the key to success with almost all initiatives. Sometimes successful programs can be created gradually from the bottom up (or from the middle up), but the way to more immediate success starts at the top.
10. Measure results. Collecting manager and employee comments from career management workshops and disseminating them to other managers and employees works quite well. So does documenting the success stories employees who decided to stay within the company or whose performance improved because they attended the workshops and initiated career discussions with their managers
14. Publicize results. Making presentations to managers that include the results and success stories is the key.