Mercer | Climbing The Career Wall – a New Approach

Mercer | Climbing The Career Wall – a New Approach

Climbing The Carreer Wall – a New Approach

By Khaled Al Turki*

We have been witnessing a tremendous shift towards the employee when it comes to career development over the last five years, and we can only predict that this will continue to be the trend over the next decade.  Careers are no longer a traditional up-hill ascent which was often linked to the well-being and continuous performance, of course, of the person above you.  Careers are now represented as a climbing wall with a colorful variety of holds representing a series of potential roles that can help the employee advance in his/her climb.   

In a recent Mercer study in collaboration with the Human Capital Media Advisory group, we asked almost 1,800 HR professionals worldwide about their talent management challenges. The majority agreed that employee engagement and retention were on the top of that list. In the Middle East, the top 5 business challenges were:

  • Benchmarking rewards and compensation
  • Increasing employee mobility, engagement and retention, and decreasing internal recruitment costs
  • Accelerating talent strategies to execute on business objectives
  • Losing any employees to competitors, and
  • Mitigating risk in talent scarcity by more effectively tapping internal labor markets to build talent from within as opposed to buying it from outside

These challenges did not differ from the global pool except that in the Middle East there was a heightened concern about losing employees to competitors.

Most of the survey participants agreed that the best way to keep talent was to focus more on building talent from within, and a well-defined career framework was the center piece that would enable them to do so.   In the Middle East only 47% of respondents reported that they had a career framework in place - below the 50% global average – and only 12% of all participants reported that they had a complete career framework in place.

The definition of career frameworks may vary across organizations. However all definitions  refer to an underlying architecture – a strategic centerpiece that sits at the core of all HR processes – and touches the organization’s workforce at various points in their employee lifecycle.

When designing your career philosophy, you should bear in mind a number of choices, or key dimensions, that are fundamental in how you want your employees to experience careers:

1)      Transparency

For employees: This means understanding the career opportunities available to them and to recognize their own gaps
For employers: This rotates around aligning expectations with succession reality as well as having a helicopter view of where people sit today.

2)      Velocity

For employees: This is about advancing at the right speed to meet their own career aspirations
For employers: This is about having the right number of people coming through your pipeline to meet your business goals given your growth ambition and attrition rate.

3)      Control

For employees: Being in charge of their own career direction
For employers: Having the best mechanism to get the best talent into your critical roles.

The Middle East results show that companies in the region are most likely to have a great emphasis on transparency with employees on what it takes to progress their careers. The highest results globally at 92% compare to the global average of 82% and to Europe at 75%. However Velocity was just at 50% in the Middle East; slightly below the global average of 55%.  On the other hand, 79% of companies in the Middle East stated that Control was a key dimension considered in their career philosophy, slightly above the global average of 71%.

While companies in the Middle East appear to have a good grasp on the career philosophy dimensions, many of them are not fully leveraging what career frameworks can bring to the organization. The knowledge about roles (Job Descriptions) and career opportunities (job postings) are being most effectively used as a result of a career framework in place at 61% and 57% respectively.  However, there are clearly missed opportunities here, especially around educating employees about career options and linking their talent mobility programs for example, which were only effectively used 24% and 19% respectively by organizations.

For career frameworks to work, companies reported that more attention is to be given to managers in order to help them better understand their role in career frameworks and how they can actively support employees – and especially millennials – to climb through their career paths.   Many managers appear to lack the expertise to hold meaningful career development and rewards discussions with employees.

The organizations that have progressed in this journey are already reporting positive return on investment and are recognizing the impact that senior management involvement has on the success of career frameworks.  Keeping the framework simple in nature and leveraging technology through career applications or intranet was also a key differentiator to make career frameworks come to life.

Designing the climbing wall is only the beginning of the journey and creating a career culture is the mountain where the holds connect.


*Khaled Alturki is a principal in Mercer’s Dubai office and specializes in leadership development and career frameworks projects

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