Career management: the long-term experience of the employee

If we start from the principle that an experience is something that we live, it necessarily has an instantaneous character, even if ideally it should leave a memory trace over time. In my conception of employee experience, which is closely linked to a logic of operational efficiency, this is therefore mainly reflected at the level of touch points with which we have very tangible interactions: tools, processes, decision-making circuits, colleagues and managers…

Indeed, these are things that the employee is confronted with all day long and at the very moment of the interaction he is able to tell if he is dealing with a fluidifying element or a friction point that slows him down.

But the employee’s experience also includes a long-term period of time which is the employee’s journey through the company or, in other words, the management of his or her career.

There’s nothing worse than being lost in your journey.

If we return to the analogy with the customer experience which, for many people, serves if not as a basis or in any case as an inspiration for the employee experience, the importance of a clear and readable journey is obvious.

How is my purchasing journey going? What is the next step? What do I still need to do to get to the next step or the end of the journey? Ah, I thought I had reached my goal, but I’m still being asked for an extra formality. I thought I was eligible but while I am well advanced in the course I am told that I am not. I only find out when I pay for my order that the product is not available. As a member of a hotel loyalty program I wonder if I will get my upgrade once I get to the hotel and if the benefits of the program will be delivered…

So many things that frustrate, irritate, make that even if we go to the end we are not satisfied and that we will not necessarily come back to it. So many things that make it possible for us to even give up along the way. So many things that make us share negative feedback around us.

Well it’s exactly the same when it comes to employee experience.

Career: the long-term side of the employee’s experience

The employee follows a multitude of paths within the company. Some of them are short, such as onboarding, following an administrative process, making a decision (although…), following the rules for placing an order with a supplier, taking a training course.

Others, and one in particular, are long: the career within the company. It can last a few months for some, several years in general and several decades for others.

When one approaches the subject I am surprised that for many it is not debated. There are career paths, career management systems, and they are managed, so everything is fine. Yes, but that’s the company’s viewpoint.

On the employee’s side, it is much less clear. Ask anyone where they see themselves in 2 or 3 years. Where he should be and where he would like to be.

Where should he be? Sometimes he doesn’t know. In certain professions, such as consulting for example, it’s quite linear, you know the steps from junior to partner and you know that if you don’t manage to go up as expected, you go out. But in most companies it’s already a bit vague because nothing is mechanical and depends first of all on the places that become available above or elsewhere and then on whether the person has the skills or not to claim them.

Where would he like to be? Everyone has ideas about it, after all one has the right to dream, to be ambitious, to want to take control of one’s career (it is moreover recommended) or even simply to project oneself.

But you can see that, depending on the case, this raises other questions.

Where can I go? Today’s careers are increasingly complex and less linear, the result of the need to adapt to a changing world and to better take into account the changing aspirations of the employee throughout his or her career. Here again, most companies have understood this and offer a wide variety of career paths, or even tailor-made paths to all employees for whom this may be relevant. But here again, these systems are obscure for the employee. Let’s just say that the routes exist but nobody has ever given them the map!

But above all and finally, how and under what conditions can I go there? Do I have to obtain a certain level of results? Do I have to follow a certain number of training courses, certifying or not? Validate a certain number of skills (which ones and in what ways)? Obtain a certain number of certifications? Or simply be well regarded by my manager?

Well, I can tell you that the “rules of the game” are most often defined in a rather vague way and in any case not as systematically as one might think. And as for their application, it is, depending on the company or even the departments within a company, very variable. Here again we have the following situation:

  • Companies have defined rules in varying degrees of detail, sometimes as an indication and sometimes as an absolute rule.
  • These rules, regardless of their level of formality and their mandatory nature, are often little or poorly known to employees.
  • Employees have the impression that the application of the rules in question, particularly when they leave a certain amount of room for discretion, either depends on people they have never met and who do not know them, or is an arbitrary decision made by their manager.

A question of formalism, readabilty and trust

So here we have a threefold subject: the formalism of the device, its readability by the employee, and confidence in the way it works and is applied.

Let’s talk about formalism first. Formalism does not mean rigidity or excessive complication. On the contrary, it can be very flexible. It means “writing down what we do”, which is the best way, then, to do what we say. What is not or badly formalized cannot be communicated or will be communicated badly and will therefore be difficult to read.

The readability then. It’s good to know that a system exists, but we still need to know how it works and how we can benefit from it, according to what modalities and under what conditions.

Finally, trust: the more objective the conditions are, the less room will be left arbitrary decisions or for people considered distant, the greater the trust in the system. Conversely…

The alternative to opaque career management? Disengagement or resignation!

As with any topic that requires some change, it is important to assess the cost/benefit ratio. Why formalize and deepen such a device, which can be very heavy to implement in a large company (although proportionate to its means it is also a real subject in smaller structures).

Because the logical consequence for an employee who does not know where he or she is, where he or she is going or can go and when/how he or she will get there is to disengage or go elsewhere. There is no point in giving long term readability and visibility, it is simply a matter of making the immediate short term possibilities clear.

Go see elsewhere because the road to get there is clear. Get out of the way because when you are driving on a road in deep fog, the most natural reflex is to slow down or even stop on the roadside while waiting for conditions to change.

Do you think this is a radical solution? Not knowing where you are or what you have in front of you is a source of anxiety. Try it in your car and you’ll see! But the facts are irrefutable: when a person dreams of a job and the way to get there seems clearer and simpler by changing employers than by choosing the internal route, there is a problem.

Part of the employee’s experience is played out over a long period of time, so long that the immediate impact is not perceived. But when, from the company’s point of view, the employee is in a long-term, slow logic, and there is therefore no sense of urgency, for the employee, his immediate perception is the only thing that counts. If at a given moment he has doubts, his entire career is nothing but an immense doubt.

Photo : career management by Sergey Nivens via Shutterstock

Head of Employee and Client Experience @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of Employee and Client Experience @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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