Time to Rethink Careers for the New World of Work?

For those tasked with designing career frameworks and talent management processes, much of the current talk about careers isn’t terribly helpful.

First, the idea that career paths are dead is wide off the mark. It may be true that corporate hierarchies are much flatter today, and only a very small proportion of people will advance to the top of the leadership pyramid. However, for most of the workforce, engaging in meaningful work that allows for growth, progression and fulfilment is more important. Designing work that enables development, and matches talented people to the right work at the right stage in their career is not something that happens by serendipity. It takes careful planning, supported by a well thought-through framework and appropriate resources. Sadly, most organisations don’t do this well. Saying ‘we expect individuals to manage their own careers’ and leaving it at that is a cop-out.

Second, the stereotype that portrays millennials as ‘job hoppers’ who are likely to move on before investment in their development benefits the organisation is not borne out by the evidence. Research finds that millennials are just as likely to stick with their employers as their Gen X counterparts were when they were young adults. Furthermore, surveys of millennials find that opportunities to learn and grow are extremely important in choosing an employer. Companies that want to attract and retain scarce talent are finding that their approach to career management can give them a competitive advantage.

Third, the idea that the gig economy will solve all our talent problems isn’t credible. The dual challenge of jobs becoming more specialist and looming skills shortages, means the case for investing in developing and reskilling the workforce is strengthening. It’s becoming ever harder – and more expensive – to hire in scarce technical skills. Organisations that fail to plan ahead by identifying future capabilities and developing strategic workforce plans are at risk of being caught short.

Finally, we can expect the sudden shift to remote working during the Covid crisis to continue even when we return to the office. However, while remote working may work well for experienced professionals who have built up social capital, we need to be mindful of the long-term consequences for those who are in the early stages of building their careers. How do we sustain an apprenticeship model, where younger professionals learn from sitting alongside and collaborating with more experienced peers, when our only contact is via Zoom? These challenges need to be recognised and planned for in the way we design and manage careers.

The case for investing in careers and development of the broader workforce – and not just top leaders – is becoming stronger. But how do we achieve this in practice? That’s the focus of CRF’s latest research project – Careers, Development and Succession in a Changing Landscape – with a report to be published in November 2020.

If you are a talent and development professional who is grappling with the question of how to design and manage careers in the future world of work, or have a story to share, please join us for an interactive session Rethinking Careers for the New World of Work on 5th August 2021 where we will be exploring the challenges and potential solutions. Please contact gillian@crforum.co.uk for more information.

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