How to climb the flexible career ladder

Flexible working is fast becoming recognised as the modern and effective way
to operate a business, and succession planning is the key to the long-term
success of the practice.

Graduates enter a business wanting to know what their career path to the top
looks like, and what flexible work options are available to them.

A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers report found that for 2,510 students across
11 countries, "balancing work and personal life" was the most
important goal. So flexibility and career progression are the two things that
companies need to get right to compete in the war for talent.

But it’s not just the managers of the future who want work-life balance. A
recent poll of 1,200 managers showed that they are reclaiming their weekends
and cutting down their working week.

So how should companies respond when they have traditionally benchmarked
people’s dedication to their careers through the hours they work and their
capacity to put work first? It requires an appreciation that it is in the best
interests of the business to have a healthy, well-balanced workforce and an
open mind when it comes to succession planning.

Existing career succession-planning systems can discriminate against
individuals because they contain a requirement to work at the
"coalface", or to fulfil a stint overseas. In some cases it is
assumed that certain individuals aren’t keen to progress because they are
unable to tick these things off. We should be looking at changing the model and
rewarding experienced gained, rather than stints done.

Imaginative thinking is needed to take succession planning forward. A plan
for flexible succession planning should include reviewing explicit/ implicit
requirements that conflict with flexible options. How does your career planning
process happen? Are there any recognised key stepping stones that have to be
achieved and is there a more flexible way to do so?

Review the history of career succession in the organisation. Is there a
route that has been taken by previous senior managers that has become the
recognised way?

Look at those benchmarked milestone jobs – do they preclude anyone taking
them up on the basis of gender, race, age or circumstance?

Publicise success stories – highlight unusual role models through the
company literature/publication. Make career planning more open and visible.

Also, don’t underestimate the influence of line managers. Crack this group
if you want to succeed.

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