Rule #1: The company is not in charge of your career—you are. Your people can no longer wait for you to come to them with a new assignment or opportunity; they must seek out such opportunities themselves. Your relationship with them is no longer one of parent-to-child, but adult-to-adult. They share the responsibility for initiating career discussions. Even being designated as a “high potential” or a valued employee may not guarantee they will keep their place in the succession plan, as these plans have become less relevant as the pace of change has picked up. You will meet your employees more than halfway by giving them the tools and counsel they need to take charge of their careers.
Rule #2: Instead of ladders and paths, there are now webs and mazes. Your employees must learn, if they haven’t already, to think of a career less as a ladder and more as a web. Webs have a center but no top and a lot of paths that connect. Unlike ladders, webs often dissolve when their purpose is fulfilled. Smart workers will move along the webs, picking up new skills that meet the organization’s needs, looking for problems to solve, and working on team projects. And if a web breaks or dissolves, it can always be rewoven in a similar or different pattern.
Rule #3: Every job is now subject to a “make or buy” decision. Because of the flexibility and cost savings involved in using contract employees, vendors, and temporary employees to do the work previously done by downsized employees, your workers must understand that they may now be competing with these outside resources. This means they have to continually prove their value. Their only security lies in their ability to continually retool themselves to remain valuable to their employer. This is why continuous learning is so important to all workers today. All employees should also consider that their next opportunity may lie in becoming an outside resource themselves.
Rule #4: Hidden needs in the organization’s internal job market are more promising sources of advancement than the formal job postings. There has always been, and will always be, a “hidden job market” in every company. Only now the inside job market contains more hidden jobs than ever. New needs appear so fast that there is little time to wait for the slow wheels of the formal hiring process to start rolling. These days, about a third of all jobs filled are newly created ones. And, of course, with the loss of rungs on career ladders, there are fewer formal job slots in the first place.
All employees—you included—must be on the lookout for unmet needs, then make proposals to the person who “owns the problem” to help meet the need. Getting your employees to accept this proposition is a part of helping them learn to take more initiative in every aspect of their jobs. Many times, by looking to meet the organization’s needs, they will carve out their next career move.
Rule #5. The most “vendor-minded” employees will find or create the most opportunity.The employees who think of themselves as “intrapreneurs” will see the organization as a market for their skills. They will understand the truest, most empowering definition of a job—”a talent that meets a need.” With your help, they will come to see themselves as vendors, and they will perceive more opportunity as a result. Vendor-minded employees realize that the purpose of the organization is to provide goods and services that customer value and that, if the organization’s employees do not do that, eventually they may all be out of a job.