The Role of Competencies in Career Empowerment

Posted November 01 2013

Human Capital Institute (HCI), in partnership with RiseSmart, recently published a research article titled Career Empowerment: Building an Empowered Workforce (also available via webcast).  The article looks closely at the concept of Career Empowerment and the role it plays in supporting employee engagement.  The author defines Career Empowerment as an employees’ ability to manage their own career development, and pursue their own interests within their organization.  Using results from a survey of 300 organizations, subject matter expert/practitioner interviews and secondary research, HCI and RiseSmart found:

  • There are many types of career management interventions, only some provide empowerment. Most common is the intervention of organizations encouraging employees to define their career goals and creating plans to achieve those goals. This method benefits both the employee and the organization most directly through the impact empowerment has on engagement, and also by their link to retaining key performers.
  • A positive relationship exists between empowerment and organizational turnover. The loss of key high performing employees is associated with organizations not providing suitable empowerment strategies. Organizations and leaders need to reassess their career development and empowerment approaches to ensure they are set up to attract, develop and retain an engaged workforce across all job levels.
  • A central theme of the challenges facing Career Empowerment is communication, or a lack thereof. Employees are not receiving adequate information regarding career advancement opportunities, hindering levels of empowerment and autonomy.
  • A lack of leadership support from the executive team and a lack of resources for implementation are the biggest challenges facing the implementation of Career Empowerment. Despite the limited resources some organizations may have, it is worth noting that not all Career Empowerment strategies are resource-intensive. Low-cost empowerment strategies can be implemented as long as there is appropriate buy-in and support from the executive team.
  • Greater empowerment is tied to higher levels of employee engagement.
  • There are links between Career Empowerment and the regrettable loss of high performers, where the absence of suitable Career Empowerment strategies increases the likelihood of a high performer to exit an organization.

Additional themes mentioned on the webcast include:

  • The concept of career ladder is all but out the window.  Organizations should instead use a career lattice, rather than talking about career advancement, discuss how development and expansion of skills is equally beneficial to advancement
  • Employees, managers and the organization are all responsible for career empowerment
  • Organizations responded with the following Career Empowerment methods used - 46% manager training, 41% career development, 29% mentoring, 22% lateral career moves and 12% other
  • It is often easier for an employee to leave one organization for another than find opportunities with their own organization.  One approach to enable more transparency is to provide a means to post opportunities/short-term projects visible to all employees so that they can volunteer to use/build additional skills in their discretionary time.
  • Like social media, Career Empowerment is here and organizations need to embrace it, not deny it
  • The drivers of Employee Empowerment include personally challenging work, constant learning, passion for work, flexibility and work-life balance, ability to create impact, aligning personal and company goals and ability to use skills

CTK believes that many of the drivers listed in the last bullet above can be greatly impacted through the use of a competency-based approach.  By employing effective competency modeling, companies can define challenging tasks/activities for each job function/role.  Competency-based development plans can instill passion for work through alignment of personal and company goals (ultimately resulting in impactful work) and clear definition of not only skills, but also knowledge, abilities, behaviors, etc.  Through linkage of appropriate development resources to key competencies, companies can deliver impactful, constant learning opportunities.

CTK also views competencies as the foundation of a career lattice.  Organizations who leverage competency models containing competency rating scales can provide employee visibility into not only the competencies required for their position (including development areas), but also other positions throughout the company.  This can aid in determining other opportunities to build skills, whether it's job rotations, lateral moves and/or additional work during one's discretionary time.

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