torstai 16. tammikuuta 2014

effective career discussions, vol 1

After having read a very interesting research report "Straight talking: Effective Career Discussions at Work" from year 2001, I decided to make some notions about this report here in my work life guidance blog. This is 'notions vol 1', so there will be more to say about this report later on. Since the original report is written in English, I found it a lot easier to blog in English as well - maybe just this one time, though :-) The research  behind this report took place in Great Britain and eight large organisations were involved. Research was about career discussions at work - the participants were employees, managers and employers. The aim of the research was to find people who had had effective career discussions and to interview them about the circumstances, participants, specifics and effects about the discussions.

From my work and (doctoral thesis) research point of view, I first found two messages from this report worth of mentioning. 
The first one makes it clear, that today at labour market individuals working in organisations have a pressing need to manage their own careers effectively. Like the conventional meaning of 'career', they need to do this to progress within their current employing organisation towards the more interesting, more responsible and more highly rewarded work. But they also need to manage their own careers to make sideways moves across internal organisational boundaries into areas they may prefer. They also need to be updating and extending their skills all the time to remain employable inside or outside their current organisation. Individuals always need to be ready to adjust their career plans to respond to re-organisation or job loss.  
Career development is about a person's future and future working life. Some individuals want little help from others in managing their own careers, others may want a lot. The majority of employees need at least some help from others. Career support is more central to employees than organsations choose to recognise. It is a key issue for employees and they are amazed and frustrated that organisations do not engage in it properly. This report gives detailed tips and checklists for both givers of career support and employees in need of support about how to start such practical action.  
The second point is about lifelong career management skills. This report notes, that all working people need to  learn how to get effective career discussions. Employees need to know how to get a good discussion as much as managers need to know how to give one. The skills and attitudes for effective career discussion need to be part of the mainstream corporate culture and incorporated into training. The research shows that primary responsibility seems to rest with the individual. Many organisations have downplayed the idea of 'career' in recent years in the wake of downsizing and the seeming difficulty of offering career progression; businesses ignore career development at their own peril. Individuals need to be encouraged to have range of informal, confidential discussions with people they trust and who have the right knowledge, skills and information to help them - line manager, other managers, formal or informal mentors, HR personnel, friends, work colleagues, special advisers... Conversations with different people and in different settings have different, but overlapping, impacts. An individual is likely to benefit from a variety of career discussions.  
I strongly agree with these research findings. I have similar experiences when working and talking with working people. Careers are important to people. Career management skills should be an essential part of vocational training and higher education in Finland: today at labour market it is simply not enough to handle the substance of one's occupation, but also to handle the transitions and changes of working life and person's own life. This is precisely the direction we are heading in adult education. Yet, there is a lot to do in organisations to improve the situation, to show employees that they are taken seriously.

Next I will be writing about the relationship between effective career discussions and formal appraisals / development reviews (kehityskeskustelut). What have career discussions to do with them, if anything? Stay tuned!

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