Providing Employee Assessment and Career Planning Workshops. Companies such as Apple Computer and Sun Microsystems hold on-site workshops where employees learn to take charge of their careers, beginning with assessing their abilities, interests, and values. They then engage in a planning process where they explore the organization's needs to determine possible future options and how to prepare for them. Then they are ready for productive career discussions with their managers.
Conducting Career Coaching Workshops for Managers. While employees are learning to take charge of their careers, managers are learning how to support their efforts by becoming familiar with the career assessment and planning process, practicing career coaching techniques, preparing for various types of employee-initiated career discussions, and giving honest feedback.
Establishing Employee Career Centers. Companies such as Advanced Micro Devices, IBM, and Motorola, to name a few, have set up internal career centers where employees can come for self-assessment. Services may include computerized programs that incorporate 360-degree feedback, competency assessment, confidential counseling, career management and resilience training, lunch-and-learn seminars, and information, sometimes through an intranet system, about internal opportunities.
Giving Open Business Briefings. To meet employees halfway in planning their careers inside the organization, companies such as Sun Microsystems, 3Com, Advanced Micro Devices, Intel, and Microsoft openly discuss strategic decisions and plans that may impact jobs or skills that will be required in the future. At 3Com, most departments hold weekly discussion sessions on the status of the business and what it may mean to employees.
IBM has a national website for employees that provides information about the strategic direction of the company. Managers are also expected to provide strategic information to their people. Sun's management has promised workers that it will make employees aware of a strategic decision that will affect staffing, such as plans to outsource a function. "As soon as we've decided something, you'll know," Sun says. Then it follows through on its promise.
Sharing such information would be frowned upon by many companies. But the companies that practice such openness believe they are simply treating their employees as respect-worthy adults rather than perpetuating the outdated parent-child relationship.
Andy Grove, chairman of Intel, is a strong believer in giving employees the information they need to stay resilient, or, as he calls it, "owning your own employability. "Every quarter," he says to his employees, "I give you a two-hour dump of what's happening to us. You have to figure out what that means to you”
Most executives cited the lack of challenges or opportunity for career growth, rather than inadequate compensation, as the main reason they left their last job, according to a recent survey by executive search firm Korn/Ferry International. Twenty percent cited ineffective leadership, while 17 percent said the attractive job market was why they left their last jobs.
Creating an Internal Network of Information Providers. Raychem, for example, has set up a network of more than 400 people throughout the organization who are willing to take the time to talk with employees who want to learn about the nature of their work and job qualifications. Called "I.I.I.N.siders" (for Insiders Information Interview Network), the computerized database houses the names and backgrounds of volunteers.
Chase Manhattan Bank maintains a list of employees who are willing to be shadowed by those interested in moving into their line of work. An employee who wants to be a derivatives trader, for example, can spend the day with an actual trader, learning about the challenges of the job, and come away with a realistic understanding of the work.
Maintaining Internal Job and Talent Banks. Microsoft has created an on-line service where employees can learn about open positions and the skills required for them. Microsoft also places large amounts of career information on what it calls its "electronic campus," including a "resource and referral" section with lists of books, professional associations, conferences, courses, articles, and other information recommended by coworkers.
In its Career Partnership Center, Advanced Micro Devices maintains a data bank of employee skills that can be accessed by managers looking for internal talent. The company also integrates the career development plans of all employees into its long-range workforce planning process.
Many other companies are moving to implement virtual career centers that feature on-line computer platforms that show various career paths and allow employees to benchmark their skill levels against those required for desired jobs so that they can make plans to close the gaps.
Establishing Individual Learning Accounts. As more and more employees seek opportunities for customized and self-directed development, some progressive companies have created individual learning accounts, providing designated amounts of time and money that employees may "spend" on classes, internships, or other learning opportunities of their choice. While giving employees more freedom to select personalized learning experience, this concept also helps companies save money previously spent on large-scale, "one-size-fits-all" training programs.
Starting a Mentoring Program. Formal mentoring programs have grown in popularity in recent years. The list of companies who have launched mentoring programs includes Hewlett-Packard, Texas Instruments, Charles Schwab, Ford Motor Company, Ernst & Young, Quaker Oats Company, IBM, Georgia-Pacific, Ceridian, J. C. Penney, PriceWaterhouse-Coopers, 3M, and General Mills.
In one study, mentoring programs were found to be effective in increasing employee retention by 77 percent within companies that implemented them.11 There are three main goals for most mentoring programs—to increase opportunities for women and minorities, to develop leaders, and, increasingly, to enhance performance and increase the retention of employees at all levels.
Companies with successful mentoring programs report that having the CEO and senior managers actively involved in mentoring and supporting the programs is important. When the practice of mentoring cascades through the organization from the top, it becomes a prestigious thing for managers to take part. Some companies expect all managers to become mentors, to the point that they include mentoring as an item to be reviewed on performance appraisal.
Current mentoring programs have become highly structured. Hewlett-Packard maintains an on-line mentor database that mentees can use to search for mentors with specific areas of expertise. They can even interview potential mentors and submit their choices in order of preference. Hewlett- Packard's program uses written mentoring agreements that establish the ground rules for the partnership, and the company conducts half-day training sessions for mentors and mentees. Other companies have appointed internal human resources staff as "retention managers" or "career management representatives" to act as consultants to all employees, especially the difficult-to-replace talent, such as software engineers.