Coaching & Leadership

6 Tips on How to Provide Career Perspective Without Ladders, Titles or Belts.

Arne Van Damme

COO at intuo

Great, you’re willing to throw out the existing career frameworks for whatever reason (usually it’s to become more agile). But before you do, take into account that without the typical career frameworks your employees will end up having fewer certainty, perspective and even status (imagine losing a title like senior executive vice president EMEA to "start doing projects just like the rest"). Don’t get me wrong though, I’m all for it. We recently did a discussion group with some like-minded HR-people about this topic, and these are the things we came up with to overcome the loss of certainty, perspective and status:

  1. Coach to Create Individualised Career Perspective

    There’s probably nothing in the world as effective as bringing clarity, increasing effectiveness and motivation for an individual as coaching. So in an environment with a lot of change coaching is thé answer to create more clarity. But then, once again, I can literally hear you bumping into the human element: “my managers can’t coach.” Well, I’d say, start by coaching thém. Next, ask them to write down three things every three months for every employee. "What are your focus areas right now? What would you like to get better at? What’s your long term goal?" Keeping track of those elements will create clarity and perspective on a regular basis.

  2. Ask About Career Aspirations Outside of Your Company

    This is probably going to sound weird, but ask your employees what they want to do after they have worked at your company. It’s very rare to encounter a young person that wants to spend their entire professional life at their first employer, so let’s just cut the charade and be honest about it. Ask them what they want to do after their current role, keep track of it, help them grow towards that role by selecting their current responsibilities and the right available projects carefully. Who knows, you just might end up really motivating them and paradoxically keeping them longer in the end.

  3. Offer an Alternative Career Framework

    You don’t always have to look at careers in a junior-senior-manager-director kind of way. Sometimes, as it seems, different people want different things. So why not ask them what they want? One of our customers, Wunderman, has done exactly that. They asked their employees about their intrinsic motivation and came up with an alternative framework to highlight the various career possibilities.

  4. Provide Titles that Imply Expertise or Focus, Not Seniority or Status

    To avoid throwing out the baby with the bathwater because you might want to keep some sort of indication when it comes to responsibilities. Some are probably more people minded, some will lead projects, other people probably need more strategic skills and every time there are some experts involved. Or you could divide them into serving the smaller or larger customers and give them fun titles like fishers and hunters. Creating a distinction in that way is good to appeal to a person’s status, because they get to be good at their niche thing. That’s for example exactly what happens in staffing agencies. They get a chance to create a unique identity and bring in their expertise. And it’s recognised by the mother company and the client. Win-win.

  5. Provide Transparency for Career Wishes & Promises

    Remember our 3 questions that created clarity for the employee in the first tip? Now make sure you have a way of distributing that information to everyone in the company about everyone in the company. And in this process, don’t forget your employees that work remote or that are on project with clients. That way there’s no false promises and everyone can see what others aspire to be.

  6. Give Recognition

    The easiest way (physically, not necessarily mentally) to boost motivation and give status to someone is to pay them a compliment and/or thank them. So start doing it yourself and promote it everywhere. You could even do some very specific workshops that teach people just that.