The notion of a ‘job for life’ has waned in the last decade. Now a more progressive school of thought is examining whether the concept of a ‘career for life’ needs a radical rethink. The ambitions we hold as school leavers cannot possibly stay aligned with what motivates and interests us in later life.
It’s an issue well explained in Lynda Gratton’s and Andrew Scott’s award-winning business book: The 100 Year Life. People are becoming more conscious of their lengthening working lives — but frustrated by their working context. With more longevity of life and an ever-increasing retirement age, both individuals and businesses need to consider how they can manage career transitions.
Why there is a 'black hole' in career transition for older workers
However, whereas corporations have been quick to capitalise on the estimated $15 trillion of spending power of people over 60, they have been much slower to react about what this may mean for their own workforces. Many have implemented robust systems, structures and processes for company transition and career development, but there is a black hole for many where ‘career transition’ sits, particularly for older workers.
And this, of course, is the stereotype that needs to be busted. Career transition can, and should, happen at any point during the working life. A change of career can be lifestyle related – supporting a personal driver for flexibility, a need for ‘happiness’ by pursuing a new, more fulfilling role or preparing for retirement with a change in priorities.
The ideal scenario – for both the individual and the organisation – is when career transition can be supported within the business. This is a win/ win for both parties. The cost savings on talent retention are well known. It saves money on recruitment fees and on-boarding when an employee is moving sideways. From an employee perspective, its hugely beneficial to stay with an employer who is happy to invest in reskilling and transitioning you. The loyalty then works both ways.
Embedding a coaching culture will help to achieve required outcomes
Unfortunately, this ideal scenario rarely happens in practice. This is often due to a lack of communication. The employee expects a negative reaction from a line manager, so immediately starts looking elsewhere for an entry-level role in their new field of interest, or they embark on self-financing training. The business then gets caught completely unaware and then has to navigate the onerous process of replacing a valued employee.
This issue can be alleviated by embedding a coaching culture and enabling managers. Leaders with well-developed coaching skills are most likely to achieve required business outcomes and those employees who have themselves benefitted from coaching are more likely to demonstrate the behaviours required for success. Although it can take time to invest in, build and embed this coaching culture, the increase in trust and commercial benefits to the organisation can be dramatic and long-lasting.
Employees need a 'roadmap for transition' to progress their careers
Career transition is going to be huge a theme in 2021. The World Economic Forum has predicted that 50% of people will need reskilling by 2025 to address the changing economies and customer needs.
Switching a career should not mean that you start from scratch – especially when you have invested years in a company, and they know your value and what skills can be transferred. Employees need a roadmap for transition and be given the voice and tools to make it as successful as possible.
It is not solely the company’s responsibility to develop employees’ careers but employers can help by supporting employees to be better equipped to progress their own career – whether internally or externally.
Some practical steps employers can take:
- Encourage them to keep their CV and LinkedIn profiles updated by refreshing them annually with new skills and achievements. This can be done as part of annual reviews and can be very motivational as well as raising mutual awareness of skills gaps
- Provide practical learning about the impact of organisational change and personal transition. Helping people to understand the stages that they may go through so that they can recognise and deal with them can have a positive impact on how they cope
- Coaching is one of the most valuable tools for achieving a wide range of business goals and is particularly effective in helping individuals to achieve successful outcomes during a period of challenge and transition. Ensure that line managers have the coaching skills to have effective conversations during periods of transition to ensure that employees feel that their concerns are heard and that they can gain the support they need. Great coaching skills are the foundation of good leadership so investing in this can pay dividends across the whole business in the longer term
- Ensure that the transition experienced by new starters and returners, perhaps after sickness or maternity leave is supported with a structured plan to help them manage this important transition into the workplace
- Encourage people to focus on their health and well-being. Provide tools and resources that enable positive actions that help people to feel in control
- Increase communication quantity and frequency, communicate known facts frequently and discourage speculation
- Help employees to make informed judgments and choices by providing opportunities to explore these in an independent and confidential environment. Consider workshops and providing coaching or mentoring support which is also focused on enabling a more balanced perspective and identifying coping strategies to help deal with the impact of any uncertainty
A member of the global board of Career Partners International, Lynne Hardman joined Working Transitions as its CEO in 2013. Previously she held executive positions at a number of leading recruitment companies, including Adecco and Hays. She brings a wealth of experience across the human capital services sector, always understanding and prioritising the ‘people’ element that is crucial to optimising employee performance.