Career Enrichment as a Lever to Lift Employee Engagement

Never before has it been so critical for organisations to take an individualised approach to career enrichment. The reason is because demand for people has well and truly outstripped the supply of the right people at the right time needed to produce the right results.

On the supply side, many organisations are struggling with the human resource pressures placed by an ageing population, skills shortages, cost-cutting, the casualisation of the workplace, as well as offshore outsourcing. Furthermore, thanks to the advent of technology and globalization, our supply of labour is shriveling, with the best of our talent being attracted to better opportunities and more dollars overseas.

The nature of supply is also changing, with our employees becoming more sophisticated, aware and educated. But contrary to popular opinion, it is not just Generation Y which is leading the reform agenda. All generations are seeking and demanding work that is more meaningful, stimulating and challenging and that allows for purpose and fun.

The wave of redundancies over the last 20 years has some perhaps unforeseen repercussions of which we are only now experiencing the tsunami effect. People who may have experienced more than two redundancies in the last few years are now more confident in changing roles; particularly those working in the IT, telecommunications, banking and finance industries. What they have learnt in the process is to downgrade the value and importance of their loyalty and commitment to an employer. This diminishing of employee engagement does not stop here because the same thing has happened for their loved ones and anyone else who may have been negatively impacted by their redundancy.

Climate change, acts of terrorism, increased divorce rates, increased incidences of mental illness, along with other factors, have also impacted the human psyche. People are increasingly asking questions, such as, “Why am I putting myself through this?” and “Where can I find meaningful work?” The reason why more and more people are asking these questions in workshops and coaching sessions is because their current organisations are no longer fulfilling some of their fundamental motivational needs. The motivational dissonance being created is causing them to look for opportunities elsewhere.

On the labour demand side, we are being asked to produce more with less. We see this reflected in percentage increases in Key Performance Indicators that sometimes are so unrealistic that they outstrip the growth of the market. Such targets create stress and anxiety in our employees, and they also bring out the worst in our managers who feel as if they are between a rock and a hard place.

The unfortunate situation is that with the downturn in the US economy and a lasting recession, pressures for cost-cutting and efficiency are going to increase, not reduce.

But where is the scope for efficiency going to come from when our society is shaping a new breed of employees that want more than less?

The common catch-cry from senior managers is, “I want you to work smarter, not harder”. So let’s get smart about a realistic strategy and tactic for people management.

The answer in retaining, rejuvenating and engaging employees lies in an individualised approach to career enrichment. An approach of enriching someone’s career treats each individual as capable of making a difference and is about harnessing their potential and leveraging their contribution in the workplace.

Career enrichment acknowledges that in a world of flatter organisational structures, growth and development does not necessarily mean changing jobs. Career enrichment can mean staying in the same job, but redesigning it slightly. It could also mean increasing discretion and autonomy through allowing special projects. Special projects give more scope for creativity, challenge and innovation within a person’s role.

Now the smart thing for managers to do to retain and engage people is to provide employees with resources that enable them to make some smart choices about their career. What career enrichment resources have you made available to your employees in your organisation? Or are you waiting for your employees to find them with your competitors?