Inspire career confidence …How to

Why is it important?

One in five employees in the UK believes he or she could be laid off in the next 12 months, according to RightCoutts’ Career Confidence Index. These fears have been compounded by a spate of recent job cuts at NTL, Vauxhall and investment bank Swiss Re.

Any employee who has this level of concern about their future is unlikely to perform effectively or be properly focused on their job. Worse still, these job jitters could spread to other members of the workforce and lead to poor morale and a drop-off in performance. All of this could have an adverse impact on your employer brand.

Instilling career confidence is not only a fundamental part of being a good HR manager; it is crucial to any organisation that wants to attract and retain talent in an increasingly competitive recruitment marketplace.

“Organisations must nurture a culture of transparency when it comes to how people join and progress, and ensure individuals feel support is there for them to develop and add value in their job role,” argues Sally Russell, head of engage and align at HR consultancy RightCoutts.

Assess your methods

Examine your internal pro­cesses and procedures in areas such as recruitment, appraisal and development. How transparent are they? Are they perceived as fair? Are the right people involved in the decision-making pro­cess? Ensure you can back up any claims made about how you operate.

“Demonstrate, don’t declare,” says Russell. “If an employer says that a recruitment or development process is fair, it must be prepared to justify that assertion to the workforce and, importantly, be seen to do this willingly.

“Newcomers who slip in through the back door or employees who exit the company under a cloud will only exacerbate the fears of current employees.”

Build confidence

The shift away from the notion that staff have a job for life has meant that the ‘psychological contract’ between employers and their employees has had the stuffing knocked out of it.

Strengthening it will help to build confidence among the workforce. One approach to achieving this is to listen to what employees want and then act on what you hear.

“Too often, employees feel that their opinions are not heard by their employer,” says Russell. “In such cases, individuals can find it difficult to engage with their work to envisage a future with their organisation.”

Encourage your stars

Demonstrating a commitment to continual professional development sends out a key message and will influence how existing and potential employees feel about the company and their prospects for tomorrow.

Make sure employees are aware of any opportunities to enhance their skills and knowledge, and encourage them to put the knowledge and experience they have accumulated into action.

“If employers demonstrate that they can develop workers while offering them enrichment in their current role, this will have a positive impact on the employer brand,” says Russell. “This will encourage existing talent to stay and will attract the stars of the future.”

Be open and honest

If your organisation has to go through a restructuring programme, communicate this in an open and honest way, whether it spells good or bad news for workers. Organisations that only disseminate information on a need-to-know basis risk breeding both rumour and insecurity, and losing the workforce’s trust.

Once you have unveiled any changes, keep the communication channels open and try to respond to any questions within 24 hours. Don’t fudge the issue or try to dodge any questions.

Take a holistic view

It is important that any measures you put in place to instil career confidence take into account the broad spectrum of the workforce that add value to the organisation. These measures should be as relevant for part-time and flexible workers and employees who have chosen to remain at a particular level in the organisation as they are for new recruits and those who want to develop their careers.

If you only do 5 things

  1. Be clear about what you’re looking for
  2. Tighten up your processes and procedures
  3. Strengthen the psychological contract with employees
  4. Provide the necessary support and opportunitiesto develop
  5. Communicate openly and honestly

For more information

Articles: How to create meaning at work

How to manage demotivated employees

Website: Career Confidence Index

Expert’s view… boosting career confidence

Where should organisations begin when looking to instil career confidence?

No employee can succeed or progress when they don’t know or understand what their employer wants. Yet, while many organisations invest in mission, values and vision statements, how many articulate to their workforce the attitudes and behaviours that they are looking for?

If businesses want to develop a talent pipeline, they must ensure they have a clear idea of what they want and ensure internal and external appointments reflect that.

Are certain organisations or sectors better at doing this?

We often find that organisations only put in place measures to instil career confidence once they actually have a problem with retention or recruitment. As a result, it is often companies that have gone through a drastic change that have the best communications links, redeployment packages and brand strengthening measures. However, the war for talent is hotting up and those wishing to come out on top should be proactive, establishing themselves now as employers of choice.

What are the essential rules to follow?

  • Be transparent: the best way of reassuring staff is having examples of employees who are developing and progressing at a pace that suits both their own and the company’s needs.
  • Strengthen the psychological contract: employees need to see their development and progression needs as a key company concern, not just a case of ticking the right box.
  • Be proactive: it is important to establish a feedback loop for existing and departing employees to make sure you are always one step ahead of the workforce.


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