Creating a career super highway

Want to know how to get moving in the job market? Here’s a guide to driving your career forward from Jo Harley, director of Purple Cubed

We recently conducted a poll amongst our Purple:online readers; 70% told us that had they been able to see where they were going in their organisation, understood how they could drive their careers and have supportive conversations with their manager then they would be more likely to stay.

It stands to reason that people who know they can progress within your organisation are more likely to be loyal, engaged, productive and spend their time helping the business succeed rather than look elsewhere for opportunities. However, traditionally ‘succession planning’ is something that is ‘done’ by the organisation to their people; and as stated by visiting professor of organisational behaviour at London Business School, Douglas A. Ready, is only focused on the 3–5% who have been identified as ‘talented’. With 98% of organisations reporting that they take this approach, purposefully identifying ‘high potentials’, it begs the question, what about the remaining 95–97%?

Here’s the good news: more and more leaders acknowledge that it doesn’t have to be like this. They recognise that all employees have potential and therefore it’s their job to identify and help them facilitate this. Not by sending them on endless courses, but by creating a culture whereby people can continually learn, where they can openly and honestly discuss their career goals, use their strengths and grow at the rate they desire, mapping out what they need to learn and do to reach the next step. So instead of concentrating on traditional succession planning models and alienating most of your people, here are our top three tips for creating a culture whereby people are able to drive their own progress.

Encourage people to think about the future

Use meetings to discuss short-, medium- and long-term goals with your people. In her latest book, It’s Never OK to Kiss the Interviewer, Jane Sunley encourages using the following questions:

✥ What do you like doing?

✥ What skills are you using when you are doing the things you enjoy?

✥ What means a lot to you?

✥ What are you good at?

✥ What do others admire about you?

✥ Who, and what sort of people do you admire, and why?

✥ What are you better at than other people?

This will give you a basis for understanding the direction your people are heading, unearthing what roles are best for them to work towards and identifying ways you can work with them to achieve this.

Set expectations early

Explain so your people know from the start that they are in charge of driving their own progression; taking the pressure off you to ‘make it happen.’

Once aware that they have the responsibility for driving their career, they will make it happen if it’s what they want. It also gives them the motivation to continually succeed in their present role as they set and work towards new goals. There is a shift away from traditional hierarchical structures with, especially in the technical world, organisations moving towards flatter, faster-changing model. This leaves less room for promotion ‘up’ the ladder and more room for individuals to be experts in specialist areas; taking initiative for projects that the organisation requires to grow and succeed.

Give people the tools to advance their aspirations

An LMS (learning management system) or achievement-based software, such as Purple Cubed’s Talent Toolbox:Pathway, can serve as a great tool for bottom up succession planning, allowing employees to take part in targeted development that will see them reach their goals. Effective use of these can allow people to browse different career pathways and look at what it would take for them to reach where they’d like to be. From a business perspective, you can track who is doing what, how fast they are doing it and rather than impose succession plans on the ‘talented few’ see at a touch of a button how all of your people are progressing, when they are likely to reach their goals and plan accordingly.

It’s likely that individuals will consider a sideways move that will enhance their personal development and may end up being just as attractive as a traditional upwards move.

Purple Cubed are experts in improving people engagement, company performance and profit. By influencing and transforming business strategy, we enable you to become a great place to work. For more information watch our video at, tweet us @PurpleCubed or buy It’s Never OK to Kiss the Interviewer from




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