How can organisations give direction to employees’ careers?


It is said that the job belongs to the company, but the career path belongs to the individual. But the career development efforts of organisations can help their employees find a direction to their careers.

A 1997 MIT research describes consistent career planning as the responsibility of individual employees. As a popular saying goes – the job belongs to the company, the career path belongs to the individual.

Having said that, it is also true that organisations can help give direction to their employees’ careers. In fact, they can create a culture that fosters career development efforts. There are several examples to prove this as well.

Booz & Co is called ‘a great place to get broad experience’. Presence of top-notch people, access to the best leaders in industry and encouragement of entrepreneurial skills have made it a preferred place to work.

Similarly, Xerox Canada has a substantive training budget— an additional focussed spending is allocated to self-directed learning. Citibank leads its career development efforts through a combination of services delivered through business partners, line supervisors and corporate specialists.

Encourage versatility

Whenever employees show an inclination to take up untested, unproven roles, it is critical for the organisations to encourage them.

A deserving case would be an executive sabbatical when the employee wants to take a break from work for a year, to learn finance and move from his/her current manufacturing supervisor role.

Traditional managers who have seasoned into their roles over many years, but are now in the way of young aspiring managers, should be encouraged to make mid-career moves that are in sync with their intrinsic capabilities.

Versatility indicates the capability of both personality and academic intellect. These managers form an essential part of tomorrow’s knowledge managers. Nurturing and caring for their well-being and job satisfaction is a role that corporate CEOs should take upon themselves personally.

Think nontraditional

Employees tend to be limited to advancements within a single function or organisational unit, such as purchasing, sales or customer relations.

For instance, a salesman might expect to advance to the position of account supervisor after five years, to sales supervisor after 10, then to district manager after 15, and to regional manager after 25 years of service. The basic problem with traditional career paths is that they are based on the organisations’ past needs for human resources.

However, such needs may not always suit present and future purposes. With needs for human resources always changing due to technological advancements and legal requirements, today’s organisations should also develop more flexible and progressive patterns of career growth and development.

PwC is known for providing educational experience to its employees. If you like variety, PwC is the place to be. You have a great number of opportunities in both.

Careers born again

Give people a fair opportunity to discover themselves. Set appropriate goals. Give them choices. Before realistic goals can be set, individual employees need information about career options and opportunities.

This includes information about possible career directions, possible paths of career advancement and specific job vacancies. This means, information about possible promotions has to be conveyed to the employees. Job vacancies should be announced in company newspapers or by word of mouth, or through a system of job posting. A company should always lend an opportunity for development and be willing to let the employees try newer pastures.

Provide options & choices

In organisations with informal career planning programmes, employees learn about career options and opportunities from their supervisors within the context of development of performance appraisal interviews.

Organisations with more established career planning programmes make greater use of planning books, workshops and even recruiting materials to communicate career options and opportunities.

A career path has been defined as the logical progression between jobs or from one job to a targetted position. Career paths chart the possible directions and paths of advancement in organisations. They can be either traditional or behavioural.

Career profile change

Independent employees form a large part of the contingent workforce. Consultants comprise a large number of the available knowledge expertise in the market and have to be dealt with accordingly.

Clients will seek services that extend beyond conventional employee support and significant work content will emerge from consulting projects, outsourcing, off site work management, advisors, specialists, dependable and IT-enabled services, customer service management, and third-party problem solving and vendor services. These roles require mid-career specialists.

Facilitate typecast variations

Ganesh Shermon

Freelancers tend to form themselves into cohesive work groups (communities) and will handle individual or group projects by networking amongst themselves. The client, in turn, receives a service comparable to large professional service firms at significantly lower costs.

Freelancers comprise employees on a mid-career transition into independent roles and belong to specialist sets of knowledge managers. Organisations are in a position to leave behind a significant portion of low and high value-add jobs to varying types of mid-career choice makers to enable the company to focus on its core business areas and results.

Careers can be transactional
It is important that organisations do not make career planning emotional. They just have to focus on what is there and make it work. Mixing of career planning with promotions should be avoided.

Not all mid-career players are looking for promotions, but a lot are looking for dignity. Generally, companies compromise with mid-career professionals by depriving them of their dignity.

Over time, mid-career professionals and employers figure a long-term relationship without any obligation but involving transacted service parameters and sustained contribution.

For individuals in mid-career roles, this is a knowledge spanning, variety providing, ‘beyond plain vanilla’ career path. It also provides individuals freedom from bonded organisational boundaries, golden handcuffs and constrained career plateaus.

Need for a dialogue

Defining usefulness and relevance of multiple skills and their implications at work is but a fair organisational process requirement. An innocent employee, working nights and learning advanced windows application in a Java environment or learning Spanish when the company is planning to close down its offices in South America, deserves an honest communication on what additional skills would help him/her add value.

It is imperative for organisations to have substantive dialogue with their employees. This helps them understand how the company evaluates their skills and knowledge, and where they fit into the company’s plans.

For example, in Coca-Cola’s career planning system, employees and managers have a separate meeting after the annual performance review to discuss the employees’ career interests, strengths and possible development activities.

To conclude, career is for all, success is for the extraordinary.

(The author is partner & lead for HCM platform solutions with TCS Canada Inc.)



  1. Ganesh,
    Kudos for a well thought out & matter of fact article!! It is so true that not all employees aspire for the corner room or the top roles. They may be content performing a role to which they are adding value and which also takes care of their requirements.

    I have myself chosen this path of becoming a HR consultant and find great joy in advising SMEs on the relevant & reured HR Practces. Helping the owners become more structured at work.

  2. Thought provoking inputs. Having gone through the process of career plan as HR head, can appreciate how important this topic is. Employee to take initiative is a good lead, but my experience shows, if not equal, large amount of responsibility lies with the company too in drawing a policy guideline to go about different steps involved in career planning.

  3. I guess my intent was to bring out a final message. Careers is for ALL, SUCCESSION is for the EXTRAORDINARY. Guess we should also explore MYTHS about Careers. That it is NOT SUCCESSION, NOT PROMOTIONS, NOT appeasement, NOT Rewards etc……

Comment on the Article

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

18 − 3 =

Previous articleRichard Lobo elevated as head HR, Infosys
Next articleAccenture promotes its MD-HR as chairperson, India
Prajjal Saha is the editor and publisher of HRKatha, which he founded in 2015. With nearly 25 years of experience in business journalism, writing, and editing, he is a true industry veteran who possesses a deep understanding of all facets of business, from marketing and distribution to technology and human resources. Along with his work at HRKatha, he is also the author of the Marketing White Book. Thanks to his extensive experience and expertise, he has become a trusted source of insight and analysis for professionals across a wide range of industries.