During the Recession it is typical to think that concern about one’s career development is reserved for the unemployed and under-employed among us. However, it’s important to also focus on the individual career development needs of the 90+% of American workers who are fully employed. Addressing career development in the context of employee inclusion in companies and organizations raises a set of different issues and benchmarks that need to be examined and rated. To look at the intersection of one’s individual career development and the organizations within which most employees work is a skill workers need to apply to see if they are getting the most from their employment.
One harsh bit of reality is that each person is responsible for his or her own career development. So, what exactly is meant by career development, a term I’ve already used five times in this piece? A definition depends on perspective. From an organizational viewpoint career development is seen as the procedures necessary to advance employee value to meet organizational strategic demands. From the view of a worker, career development involves the integration of cognitive, behavioral, emotional, and contextual factors that determine employment decisions, work values, and life role such that a profound satisfaction with what one does is achieved.
There are some basics that you ought to expect from the place you work beside it being a safe place to derive an income. Perhaps the biggest is knowing that there is a built in meritocracy. If you as a dedicated employee have a clear and open opportunity to advance within the organization based on your talent, ability, and drive, then this place of work may have value. Of course, most companies do have some form of internal promotion. The thing to know, though is how much of it is based on true merit vs. political maneuvering or an inadequate performance review system. In the public sector, be especially careful. My primary career was with public school systems where internal promotion is almost non-existent. There, the overriding value is egalitarianism. As culturally important as equality is, it may not be consistent with individual career progression. Therefore, study the core operating value of your employer. Ask yourself if you can work within that system. If the clash of purposes between yourself and the organization is too much, then consider going elsewhere.
Finding that a value match is acceptable, however means you should conduct an examination of how organizational strategy is expressed through the way they treat their employees. Acceptable contact points should be found between the organization’s definition of employee career development and your own definition. For example, does your company institute a performance management structure that encourages managers to effectively promote behaviors and competencies that meet both organizational needs and your professional growth? There are other contact points that should also be appraised, which can give an indication of an employer’s commitment to employee talent strengthening. They include company policies concerning onboarding, succession planning, innovation, being a learning organization, and the level of employee freedom in how production quotas are set. The degree to which management is committed to these practices communicates career development potential to the employee looking to see if they can grow professionally with their current employer.
A place to begin examining closely is your Human Resources department. Have they tried to establish an employee career development program? If they have, then they have found a link between organizational strategy and necessary worker knowledge and skills to express that strategy in the present and beyond. See how your professional improvement plans fit their needs. If they match company perceived shortages, then you may have a good employment fit. These days workers want to know that their employer works for them, not just the other way around.