Once you’ve chosen which of the four job types is for you, at some point in your career you will begin to specialize. If you’ve reached the point in your career where you’re wondering what’s next and preparing to transition to a new role, think about the dimensions below. Sometimes deciding what you will not do next can simplify the search for what you will do.
As you advance professionally, your choices for successive roles will enable you to specialize by:
Function: by choosing a functional area (e.g., operations, finance, sales, etc.) of expertise, you can bring best practices across industries.
Industry: deep knowledge of a single industry (e.g., B2B software, upstream petroleum, auto insurance) is an asset that allows you to move between companies or functional roles.
Growth stage: the problems that confound businesses trying to break above $10m in revenue are very different from those at the $1b revenue threshold. There are many stages of growth (e.g., expanding to a second country or continent, going public or private, etc.).
Building a track record of success in one of these dimensions will lead to flexibility in the other two dimensions as organizations that require your expertise will seek you out as a valuable asset.
I’d be thrilled if my daughters grew up to be welders, plumbers, or electricians. If they don’t I hope they at least read my blog as they navigate their professional careers.
Among the many first world problems readers of this blog will face is the challenge of finding a rewarding career. With apologies to Maslow, I’ve created a hierarchy of needs for careers. You may find this helpful when comparing options to change jobs within a company or between organizations. Remember that just like in other areas of consumer behavior, career decisions are about making trade-offs. Is a shorter commute “worth” doing more PowerPoint slides? Would you give up your dynamic and cohesive team for the chance to make a more tangible positive difference to society? Keep in mind that the items at the top of the pyramid tend to take a longer time to become evident.
My last caveat before explaining the career hierarchy of needs is what you won’t see on the list. Compensation and title/status are not part of this hierarchy for two reasons: first, adequate compensation and title are pre-requisites for any job that an established professional would consider. Second, as authors like Daniel Pink and Andy LaCivita have illustrated, throwing more money at a person in a marginally tolerable role is only a temporary fix.
Hierarchy of Needs for Careers
(top) Purpose – what difference are we making in the world?
Learning – what skills, knowledge, and experience will you gain?
People – how enjoyable is the company of the team?
Tasks – how fulfilling is the work itself?
(bottom) Work environment – how is the commute, the workplace, the lighting, the snacks?
Try using this set of attributes to plan your next career move, or to start a discussion among your team about how to improve the current environment. If you have feedback about what I’ve omitted, or what doesn’t belong, leave a comment.
Often the day-to-day demands of work prevent us from stepping back and seeing how the big pieces fit together. While you might not have the same ecstatic reaction of this guy discovering a rainbow in his backyard, hopefully this post will help you have an even better answer to “what does this mean” (if you can make it to 1:17 in the clip).
Capability (competency) model, performance management, knowledge management: many of these terms get interchanged, however, in my experience I have seen distinct and specific applications for the processes as businesses work to maximize their return on investment in human capital. Below the diagram is a quick definition of the terms with links for more information.
Organizational Design: just as form follows function in art and nature (but not chickens), an organization’s structure should follow its strategy. Jaques takes a scientific yet pragmatic approach in Requisite Organization.
Capability Model: while purists will prefer to use the term “competency” to emphasize demonstrated abilities (rather than future potential), in either case a model, such as SHRM’s, provides a framework for a hierarchy of skills that can be developed and applied at various levels of the organization.
Role Definitions: each role (remember, each position can have multiple roles, just like a father can be a cook, landscaper and coach) needs a definition of its responsibilities and scope
Role-based Capability Model: Combine 3 with 4, and you get an inventory of the capabilities (competencies) required to be successful in each role. This is an essential input to the processes below. Do not pass go, do not collect $89 (after taxes).
Four related processes to improve an organization’s return on human capital
Talent Intake: defining the requirements for each role will empower your recruiting organization to provide a better slate of candidates for vacancies, and help new hires get up to speed and contributing within the first phase of the talent cycle.
Knowledge Management: a central repository for standards, policies, procedures, and other specific “tribal knowledge” accumulated with experience in any organization. A top-notch knowledge management system combines the “push” of compliance with the “pull” of recognition for contributors and highly accessible content (like wikipedia and TED).
Performance Management: while a recent duel of data fit models has caught a lot of buzz, an effective performance management process gives employees meaningful, actionable feedback on their performance vs expectations in role, and allows the organization’s leadership to identify high-performing, high-capability players and put plans in place to address staff who are under-performing. Performance review surveys are typically more complicated than they need to be, and the best ones I’ve seen capture 360-feedback quarterly.
Capability Development: programs combine training and succession planning to close development gaps identified in any of the above processes. Training can be delivered through self-study, online learning, classroom based training, and on the job coaching.
While none of these definitions go deep enough to be applicable on their own, hopefully differentiating between the terms with a few resources for further research will be a good start to helping your team go “all the way across the sky.”
What did I leave out? What other approaches have you seen work also? Leave a comment and let us know.
Continuing the series on the four stages of the talent cycle, once the hard work has been done to bring new talent into your organization, it’s time for them to deliver value before transitioning to a new role. These metrics will help ensure a mutually beneficial and productive working relationship between employees and employers.
For the delivery phase of the talent cycle, the two most important aspects to manage are performance and engagement. Although the latest trend is to reject the bell curve (i.e., normal distribution) for a power function, any organization with a team size larger than 2 has to address performance management in both absolute and relative terms. Ensure that your performance management system–which could range from a piece of paper to an enterprise application–can help you answer the following questions in dialogue between leaders and employees:
Absolute performance: how is each employee performing relative to his/her potential? What is he/she doing well, and should do more? What is he/she struggling to do, and what support can the company provide? What are the employee’s career goals, and how is his/her current position aligned with them?
Relative performance: does the employee “raise the gene pool” of the organization? is the employee negatively impacting the quality and enjoyment of other employee’s work experience? What capabilities can the employee role model for the rest of the team?
Performance reviews (I recommend every 6 months rather than annually, to keep the feedback fresh) naturally lead to transitions. Some employees will be ready for more responsibility and promotion, others no longer fit the organization and need to rotate out. Succession planning and attrition will be the subject of an upcoming post.
Engagement is the most broadly applicable metric, providing insight across all phases of the talent cycle. The most straightforward and pragmatic way to gauge engagement is with a 2 question survey:
How likely are you to recommend working at this company to a friend or colleague? Answer on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being most likely.
What one thing would need to change for you to give a higher rating? Open text response.
Gallup’s method to capturing engagement data is another statistically validated, relatively brief (12 questions) survey.
As the modern economy shifts more towards services and technology, managing the talent cycle is an increasingly important skill for leaders to master in order to maintain a competitive advantage. While it will always be a subjective, personal experience, the intent of setting out these metrics across the talent cycle is to help reduce the complexity of the process by introducing some standardization and objectivity.
Now that your new employees know where to find the coffee machine, the emphasis shifts to building competency in role quickly so that the organization can maximize the contribution each employee makes in role. By my rough math based on surveys from OECD, BusinessInsider, and US Department of Labor, companies should expect about 2 years of contribution from each employee. So getting each person up to speed quickly and delivering in role is essential.
The essential component of the Development stage is competence in role. Reaching full competency in role doesn’t mean never making a mistake, like a fat-finger trade, it just means being able to do a job effectively and independently. Being able to measure competency in role means that your organization:
uses on-the-job training and assessment to close any remaining gaps
actually verifies that the written capability requirements for roles match reality over time
This can seem like a lot of paperwork to manage, but the alternative is an ad hoc system where new employees get thrown in over their heads, ask the people that sit nearby “do you remember how [person who had my job before] used to …,” and then just make it up. So the effort to document tribal knowledge into a current competency database supporting hiring and training can pay off quickly. especially when the cost of low productivity can easily outpace an average cost per hire of $5,100.
Now that we’ve covered a high level introduction to competency in role, here are the essential metrics for the Development stage of your organization’s Talent Engine:
Engagement: go beyond satisfaction to measure engagement, especially if you use Gallup’s method which has been validated to correlate to productivity
Percent at fully competent in role: this snapshot can be summarized by functional group, business segment, level, or geographical location across an organization
Time to reach fully competent in role: show this as a histogram over a certain time period with lines demarcating the current period and previous period averages
Percent attrition: total exits divided by approved headcount during a time period (can be summarized as in percent fully competent above)
Percent regrettable exits: same calculation as above, but in the numerator only include voluntary exits for which the hiring manager would re-hire the individual into the role
Accelerating the development period of your talent cycle is the “tide that lifts all boats” in the organization, because both your above- and below-average employees will benefit from learning their jobs faster. While we all hope to avoid suffering from the Peter Principle, reaching competency faster is something every employee will welcome.