GNcareers, from Gulf News

Making sure the talented remain for the long run

Regional organisations need a radical re-look at talent management programmesImage Credit: Supplied

For companies in the Middle East who want to standout as attractive employers, running a career management programme is a no-brainer.

Our research consistently throws up ‘career opportunities’ as a top driver of engagement, across all age groups and nationalities in the region.

Our studies reveal an intense desire for career progression: up to two-thirds (66 per cent) of employees in the GCC report that they see their current role as a stepping stone to their next job, and only 12 per cent feel that they are being promoted fast enough.

Both young nationals as well as expats vote for career progression as a top criterion when selecting a job, and the expectations of both groups put heavy demands on the organisation’s talent management approach.

Despite this, only a small proportion of organisations in the Middle East are successfully running structured career programmes. Those that do, however, reap the benefits. These include the ability to develop and place talent where they really need it; the removal of stumbling blocks which can impede the development of both the individual and organisation; and the creation of a robust pipeline of future talent.

I’d like to share with you three common talent issues faced by companies in the Middle East, and how proactive career management can address these:

1. Strategic moves that end up decimating your talent base

Strategic moves such as mergers, outsourcing, focus on new markets and so on risk alienating high-performing employees who may incorrectly perceive that the changes narrow their career options within the company.

Savvy employers don’t expect employees to put their careers on hold while the organisation rights itself out. And they don’t scramble to make offers (involving inflated pay packages and impressive job titles) when they receive a notice of resignation from their most valued people.

As they go through strategic decision-making, they identify the likely impact for their employees’ career objectives, identify the key talent they want to retain and draw up retention plans and packages that would go beyond monetary incentives to include substantial new roles or projects that would attract and energise their ambitious employees.

They take the first step in communicating a career vision to their valued employees and support them in making key career decisions and transitions.

They also affirm the value of the employee by providing mentorship, rewards, development opportunities, exposure to senior management and other initiatives designed to maintain engagement even through difficult times.

2. Managers who ‘hoard’ their high-performers

High-performing employees are typically hungry for challenges. However, companies that do not actively manage career development typically leave it up to managers to cultivate talent in their business units.

These managers understandably make decisions aimed first at benefiting their business unit. As a result these high performers are often offered narrow development opportunities that frequently do not comprise the broad-based skills the organisation needs for its future development.

Employers who want to avoid this pitfall typically institute a culture of sharing talent by assigning responsibility for high performers’ development to very senior managers or an influential human resources specialist. They assess employees for development potential (not just at the point of recruitment) and use it to support deployment decisions for their valued employees.

3. Employees who feel blocked in their career

The expectations for progression up the organisation ladder are an established feature of workplaces in the Middle East, but demands for rapid promotions are often billed as unrealistic. While employers may be correct in their assessment of an employee’s readiness (or lack thereof) for the next step up, they may be missing the opportunity to wisely guide, and in the process retain, their best employees.

Employers who employ a systematic career management approach help employees develop realistic expectations of career progression and provide support to develop the necessary skills and experiences.

This includes career pathways that define skill and experience requirements, training, mentorship, job rotations and challenging assignments.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to career management: the specific policies, development activities and career paths differ. But the basis of good organizational career management lies in a structured approach, owned by the firm’s senior management and based on strong insights into the workforce’s performance and career objectives.

On the other hand, employees need to take on the responsibility for driving their progression. Ambitious employees need fire in their bellies as well as patience, persistence and insight to understand their position in the organisation and their strengths and weaknesses.

They need to be open to wise guidance to make judicious career choices that help them fulfil their dreams.

Source: Dr. Markus Wiesner, Special to Gulf News

The writer is CEO, Aon Hewitt Middle East.