Concept. Professional Development Programs, Succession Planning and Careers. Introduction. The Fluid Workforce. Professional Development Dilemmas

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1 Concept Professional Development Programs, Succession Planning and Careers Introduction Organisations often struggle with implementing professional development programs. They fail to gain the benefits they desire from their investment and they fear it will merely mean skilled- up employees will seek better jobs elsewhere. Succession planning can be divisive or even a taboo subject in some organisations. How can these be rationalised to serve the needs of individuals and the organisation? How can talking about careers help? The Fluid Workforce More than ever before workforces are fluid. An average of two years in a particular job seems a reasonable duration now but was viewed with high suspicion twenty years ago. Many more people have part time work, casual work, or work in multiple jobs. Multiple different careers during a working life is becoming expected rather than unusual. Rather than fearing losing good people, organisations have to get more used to the fact that they should expect to lose good people at some point. This is not to say that they want to lose good people, it just means that the business paradigm created by fear will not survive well in the world of the more fluid workforce. Professional Development Dilemmas Professional development is a broad term for a process undertaken to attain skills and knowledge for both personal development and career advancement. It can be undertaken by individuals seeking self- improvement or as a program developed by an organisation for its personnel. For organisations, professional development offers: a way to build organisational capability by building the capability of existing personnel; and a value add to offer personnel to increase employee commitment and retention. However, various issues exist in implementing professional development programs in organisations, these may include: a lack of understanding of additional benefits of professional development, for example, how professional development can help drive employee s engagement and productivity; providing professional development to employees may be seen as a threat why provide training to employees so they can leave for a better job elsewhere? This is particularly seen as an issue for small businesses where opportunities for advancement within the organisation are limited; Prominence Pty Ltd ABN PO Box 66 Taigum QLD 4018 T (07) Commercial- in- Confidence 2013 Prominence Pty Ltd All rights reserved

2 the employee is doing a great job in their current role and it is perceived that there is no point training them further or they won t want to keep doing what they are doing; a lack of knowledge on how to design, administer or organise professional development and link it to organisational objectives and activities such as performance management; a fear in managers that developing their personnel will threaten their own jobs; the capacity doesn t exist for employees to have time away from work; and a lack of perceived benefits in general based on a lack of experience knowledge in how professional development can work for an organisation, or they haven t seen the return on investment from existing or past programs. Professional development programs need to be much more than arbitrary policy decisions. They need to be planned and implemented with specific benefits in mind. The organisation must have the management and other capabilities to leverage these benefits. Like Quality Systems successful implementation and benefits realisation is about full integration into operations and links to objectives and other business management activities. Well led and managed organisations are attractive places to work and professional development programs are a manifestation of the confidence and foresight of these organisations. The fluid nature of the modern workforce means that the threat of talented employees leaving is always present, however, desirable places to work will always attract talent and those who leave are very likely to return if the right opportunity presents itself. Succession Planning Challenges Succession planning is a process for identifying and developing personnel with the potential to fill leadership positions in the organisation. Taking this further, organisations that operationalise succession planning strive to continually get the best talent into a wide range of key positions a pipeline of talent for the organisation to utilise. For many however, it is a process undertaken only for key executive positions sometimes only when the incumbent is nearing retirement. Challenges for succession planning for organisations include: the fact that for many organisations this is planning for something that is undesirable (either to the incumbent, the rest of the organisation or both) this is particularly true for entrepreneur start- ups/family businesses. In many cases succession planning is not done at all or left too late to be effective. Unfortunately in some cases the best succession planning occurs in preparation for a coup d état; the issue where individuals feel threatened by others being groomed for their job. This is particularly evident in organisations where the performance expectations for individuals is either not clear or poorly designed; limited talent pools available to small organisations. Unfortunately small organisations often hire personnel without the required potential as limited progression opportunities mean they might quickly move on; 2 of 6

3 having the resources to undertake succession planning effectively. Effective succession planning requires sound and focussed talent identification processes and professional development to support capability building. Some organisations successfully identify talent and promote individuals only to find that they have failed to prepare them with adequate management skills; and a lack of clear objectives this is critical to establishing effective succession planning and determining how it will be undertaken. Organisations with operationalised succession planning have: leadership engaged in supporting the development of talent and potential leaders; the management capability to identify talent in personnel that may be developed and applied to various operational activities within the organisation; the ability to identify and provide professional development pathways to those that can move into key roles requiring specialised attributes; the capability to Identify those with the potential to assume greater responsibility and hence progress to management positions; built knowledge of personnel skill/talent profiles to inform better staffing decisions; and sufficient management skill to manage personnel expectations, communicate benefits and leverage improved employee commitment and retention. Any long- term organisation will face succession planning issues at some point in its life cycle. A planned approach to succession provides benefits and, like any business planning process, needs to be aligned to the requirements and capabilities of the organisation. Smaller organisations typically require succession planning targeted to specific key positions. The more sophisticated the organisation and its capabilities the more succession planning concepts can be operationalised to identify talent and direct it to key roles throughout the organisation. Organisation Focussed or Individual Focussed? Many organisations have unsatisfactory outcomes from professional development programs because they are poorly planned and not aligned to other activities undertaken to improve organisational capability. Not only does professional development often not deliver desirable outcomes for the organisation, where factors such as under resourcing and poor policy exist, individuals typically aren t perceiving significant benefit in the programs either. Should professional development programs be focussed only on serving the organisation s requirements or should it serve those of individuals as well? The fears executives have about professional development programs and a lack of clarity around what the organisation is trying to achieve often leads to decision making that allows very limited consideration of benefits to individuals. It can be argued that optimal organisational benefit cannot be derived without delivering substantial benefits to the individuals involved. Job satisfaction, employee retention and building attractive workplaces are all about the perceptions of individuals. Optimal professional development and succession planning activities are designed with a balance of individual and organisational benefits in mind. 3 of 6

4 Careers the Plausible Individual Focus A career may be envisaged as a pathway of occupations or professions with each milestone preceded by requisite qualifications, skills, experiences and other attributes. More broadly, it could also be seen as the sequence and variety of work roles (paid and unpaid), which a person undertakes throughout a lifetime this also includes life roles, leisure activities, learning and work. One way to envisage professional development in an organisation is on a broader career basis. Defining career pathways adds clarity to professional development requirements. Careers inherently have a focus on the individual and yet their intersection with the organisation provides opportunities for integration with succession planning. Succession planning is about plotting out the part of an individual s career that lies within the organisation. A career that ultimately leads outside of the organisation need not be a negative thing. They may lead to roles in allied organisations (for example suppliers or customers) that provide useful professional contacts or advocates. Careers may also lead people back to the organisation with skills and experiences that could not have been developed internally. Discussions with employees about careers can help develop motivation and engagement with their work and the business. Feeling as though they are part of a career rather than just a job can bring pride and a renewed passion to their work. Career conversations need to be structured, take place on a regular basis (not just at performance review time) and be used as part of a career development strategy. Career conversations provide managers with a better insight into where their team members see themselves heading and how they can best support them. They are undertaken by skilled managers or assisted through programs offered by external consultants. Career development places professional development into a meaningful context that supports better decision making about benefits realisation. Critical Issues Undertaken as isolated issues, professional development and succession planning often yield haphazard results. Without clear objectives, management skills and a shared context with employees, benefits such as employee retention and capability building may not be realised. In these areas, like other business initiatives, careful planning and implementation provide the best opportunity for success. Critical issues are: organisations must accept that workforces are increasingly fluid and that talented people will have shorter tenure or a desire to work under wider working conditions than they have in the past; business paradigms need to be designed with the more fluid workforce in mind; 4 of 6

5 professional development programs can be used to maintain business capability in the face of increased employee turnover. Note that professional development may be internally undertaken as well as through external service providers; professional development programs can be used to increase business capability either as a requirement for new products or services, to develop competitive advantages, or to provide business agility; a well structured and balanced professional development program can contribute to increased employee commitment and tenure; professional development programs are often seen as posing a threat employees skilled up to go to a better job elsewhere, managers feeling their job threatened by better skilled employees, and the lost time and resources required to conduct programs. These threats must be compared to the alternatives other organisations with programs being more attractive workplaces, talented people leaving due to lack of opportunity, loss of business capability, and loss of business agility and therefore reduced competitiveness; professional development programs must balance their focus between organisational benefits and benefits for individuals. This balance should be evident from the objectives for the professional development program; if a professional development program is not delivering benefits it should be re- examined, not abandoned; to be successful both professional development programs and succession planning need to have clear objectives, and be fully planned, resourced and skilfully implemented; wherever possible business activities should be integrated for example, succession planning may include specific professional development for identified talent, and professional development opportunities may be identified (or tied to) performance reviews and management; like professional development, succession planning may be threatening to some people or may be a taboo subject. Once again this must be weighed against the cost of inaction business disruption, ownership/equity crises, and loss of experience, skills and capability; the principles of succession planning need not only be applied to top executive positions talent identification and development processes can occur for a wide range of positions in an organisation; succession planning at the highest levels of the organisation requires leadership, sound communication processes and in some cases, assistance from skilled facilitators from outside the organisation. In the broader organisation talent identification and development requires skilled managers working to well thought out objectives, policies and procedures; for small organisations all of the issues and threats surrounding professional development and succession planning are magnified (except perhaps in the cost of implementation). This makes planning and the ability to creatively adapt what larger organisations achieve to their operating context absolutely critical; and professional development and succession planning can be placed in the context of careers. This is a context in which organisational and individual benefits can be logically balanced. Milestones within careers can be tied to key roles in the organisation and benefits to the organisation for career paths that may lead outside the organisation can be envisioned. 5 of 6

6 Prominence has delivered consultancy services to the public and private sectors since 2003 and has a diverse and highly experienced team of consultants. These consultants can assist in the activities discussed in this Concept including facilitation, planning and programs for Career Conversations. Key consultancy services include developing strategy, governance and business planning, assessing and building corporate capability and managing people, culture and change. Advisory services, coaching and skilled contracting resources can also be provided. The Prominence website (www.prominenceconsulting.com.au) provides more detailed information about Prominence s complete range of consulting services. Prominence s methodology has elements that are carefully designed to provide numerous engagement points with the organisation during a project. This allows for productive participation by the organisation s personnel to build project ownership, allow stakeholders to understand the process and create the optimal state for acceptance of project outcomes. Other Prominence Documents Further information regarding Prominence can be obtained using the contact details below. The following Profiles are available upon request. Prominence consulting services profile. Prominence document production investigation profile. Panel Arrangement Profiles for Federal, State and Local Government and Government Owned Corporations. The following Concepts are also available: Change management Targeted surveys and information gathering Document production environment design The paperless office? Business processes: reengineer or improve? Knowledge management Managing processes Client focus Processes, standards, benchmarks and best practices Organisational measurement Flexible processes Usability Determining the scope of a review Knowledge, performance, innovation and risk Simplicity Challenging times Business process management Considering change Organisational health checks The role of the project sponsor Organisational structure design Building project ownership Building capability through skills transfer Usable business plans The benefits of austerity Communication Leadership, management and culture Employee engagement Middle management challenges The useable organisation Issue and crisis management How to choose a consultant Desirable Corporate Culture Improvement, Contestability and Outsourcing Contact Us p a PO Box 66 Taigum Q 4018 w e 6 of 6

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