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Transforming Career Frameworks for the 21st Century

The landscape of careers is changing dramatically, evolving from predictable paths to career consumerism. However, the methods we use to manage careers are still based on outdated systems and assumptions. In this blog, I’ll explore the problems of current career management practices and the hidden costs for both individuals and businesses.  If you are still using career paths, then this will help you transform your career frameworks for the 21st century.

Challenges of Current Career Management 

Existing approaches are falling short for several reasons. They were not designed to cope with the rapid evolution of job skills and roles.  The WEF Future of Jobs 2023 report found employers anticipate a structural labour market churn of 23% of jobs in the next five years.  Jobs will continue to change and new roles will be created meaning a lot of career paths will need constant updating.

There’s still a heavy reliance on managers, who often lack the skills to hold career conversations and hoard talent to prevent losing people from their teams.  Let alone know how to help employees navigate their careers in an organisation with politics, hierarchies and culture to understand.

Finally, the focus of internal mobility tends to be on matching employees with existing vacancies, rather than collaboratively creating future career possibilities through genuine collaboration with employees. In this era of the Career Consumer, this won’t be tolerated.  Millennials prefer career exploration to climbing the traditional ladder, and Gen Z wants flexibility to decide their schedule and earn money across multiple jobs.

The Hidden Costs and Impact 

The consequences of traditional career management don’t just impact negatively on the individual, it harm businesses too. A static and complicated career framework often leads people to deprioritise it, resulting in hidden costs like increased turnover rates, less relevant skills, and lower job satisfaction. Poor career management contributes to the growing issue of high turnover, as we saw in the recent ‘great resignation’ triggered by the pandemic. Career uncertainty makes the problem worse, leading to higher levels of employee anxiety and reducing overall performance.


The Future of Career Frameworks

There is a real need for a different approach to career management. Shifting from traditional career paths to a more dynamic career engagement model is important. Here are my suggestions for creating a career framework fit for the 21st century:

  • Dynamic and Collaborative Careers:
    • Break away from rigid career structures and adopt two-way discussions between managers and individuals to actively shape careers.  Conversations that discover the individual’s expertise, their aspirations and the organisation’s needs.   Knowing what the employee wants, and what the organisation needs, then finding that spot in the middle and what compromises both parties might make to get a mutually beneficial outcome.
  • Real, Human Coaching:
    • Replace static resource centres on an Intranet with active guidance through human beings like career coaches. Recognise the skill in coaching and leverage the coach’s broad experience across different fields for real-time insights.
  • Nurture Networks and Connections:
    • Stop assigning mentors and start developing your employees’ ability to grow real connections and networks. Help them to foster their network of connections that naturally lead to sponsorships, mentorships, and relationships, creating a more adaptable support system.
  • Human Involvement in Adaptive Systems:
    • Recognise the need for increased human involvement in career management processes. Human specialists act as “super connectors,” enhancing information flow, problem-solving, and fostering a bottom-up approach to innovation.

As we shift away from rigid career paths, it’s important to accept the dynamic and ambiguous nature of today’s work environment. Companies can unlock untapped potential by adopting a collaborative, human-centric approach to career management.

This approach can empower employees to co-create their careers, improving flexibility, diversity, and responsiveness within the organisation. Career Frameworks in the 21st Century need to be adaptable to various organisational contexts and acknowledge the individual’s aspirations as well as the organisation’s needs.  This approach is better placed to create a foundation for a dynamic, responsive, and human-centric workplace.

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