“My boss sees my potential and is paving the way.”
“What I’m doing is making a real difference.”
For me, when those statements hold true, my working life is good. While not the only defining factors of my employee experience, knowing I have clear career development opportunities and meaning in my work make a real difference. And I’m not the only one. IBM Smarter Workforce Institute research of more than 22,000 workers around the world identified meaningful work and career development as major contributors to a positive work experience.
I shared these thoughts with close to 900 HR professionals during a presentation with our research partner Greg Stevens from Globoforce, at the recent SHRM 2018 conference in Chicago. We talked about employee experience, what influences it, and why it matters. Our research shows that positive employee experiences, driven in part by meaningful work and opportunity for development, are associated with a number of important outcomes: performance, retention, and even return on assets and return on sales.
At SHRM, I reflected with the audience on my own employee experience over the course of my career. I shared positive influencing moments such as having a manager see potential in me that I didn’t necessarily see in myself, and encouraging and supporting me in advancing my career. There have been other times, with other managers, when I’ve felt more on my own in terms of career direction. I suspect other people have had varying experiences as well. And as a manager, I know I have struggled at times to provide people the career guidance they were looking for.
Rather than being at the discretion of one’s manager at any given point in our careers, imagine if all employees were able to get the career guidance and support they needed, when they needed it. While that may sound like an idealistic future state, with today’s digital technology powered by artificial intelligence, the future is here. And this is not to suggest that managers should be removed from the equation, but rather employees and managers alike can be better enabled with intelligent guidance to help us all navigate our careers successfully.
If you’re excited by the possibilities, here are two practical steps to get started:
1. Incorporate career conversations as part of your organization’s culture.
Make career conversations part of the overall employee experience. Encourage managers and employees to focus on skills and career development and showcase examples of successful career moves. At IBM, managers are encouraged and expected to have career conversations with all employees, within a specified timeframe. We’re provided with guidance on how to have those conversations and online tools to help. Our intranet showcases the benefits of career conversations and regular reminders ensure that as many people as possible benefit from an exploration of opportunities open to them.
2. Use technology to complement manager guidance and enable employees to explore an array of opportunities and possibilities.
Manager conversations are important. To supplement those conversations, and to provide all employees with access to robust, intelligent, personalized career guidance, AI-based technology can be a game changer. One of the major challenges to career development is matching an employee’s skills and career interests to opportunities in an organization. In fact, in a recent Smarter Workforce Institute study we found that more than half (51%) of HR managers said their employees lack visibility of potential career or role opportunities. This is especially challenging in larger organizations, as managers and employees alike struggle to have full sight of the opportunities that may exist. The right online tool with artificial intelligence capabilities can make those opportunities visible, match opportunities to employees, and even suggest new career directions.
Facilitating career moves can be a great way to improve employee experience, increase retention and even boost an organization’s financial performance. I’ve been fortunate to have supportive managers at points in my career who have paved the way for me. I’m also excited about emerging technologies now available to help all employees realize their full potential and enjoy a better work experience.