I read an interesting study this week describing how career management programs and processes must change to reflect the changing generational values, attitudes, and expectations.
As recently as 20 years ago, organizations offered life-long contracts to their workers, who often expected to be able to work for one employer throughout their careers. Members of the baby boom generation, for instance, might have spent 35 years at one company that may have reimbursed workers’ tuition to earn graduate degrees, given regular raises and promotions, offered interesting work, and provided pensions when workers retired.
Nowadays, such organizations are few and far between. Challenges in the business world have made it more difficult to provide that type of security to workers while still maintaining market position. Industries are changing rapidly and competing more globally, requiring worker skills to be revamped every 10 years or so and making it harder for companies to guarantee jobs or career paths to their workers.
Workers’ attitudes and expectations have changed too. Rather than making a lifetime commitment to one type of work and one organization, many workers now expect their companies to offer more variety, faster development paths, and a broader range of opportunities. While more than 40 percent of America’s baby boomers (people born between 1946 and 1964) stayed with one employer for more than 20 years, the average worker tenure today is only 4.2 years, and workers can expect to have an average of about 11 jobs over the course of their working lives.
Yet despite these immense external and internal pressures, most organizations’ career management approaches are still artifacts of a previous age. In other words, while the needs and wants of both businesses and workers have evolved—and relationships between employers and workers are now based on very different criteria— organizations have been slow to overhaul their career management programs.
Career management must be redefined in light of these changes. This redefinition encompasses everything from the vocabulary used to describe career management, to shifting mindsets and directions, to even improvements in organizational structures. These changes are broadening the definition of career management beyond simply providing defined career paths for workers.