Working remotely, or partially remotely, raises new questions about careers: That coworker you met at a company happy hour who became a long-time mentor…what would have happened had there not been that happy hour? What about that possible promotion opportunity overheard around the water cooler? And when that colleague who seemed to be such an up-and-comer got a new job and quit; could the company have known that was coming, and prevented it?
Well, when it comes to careers, the water cooler and the grapevine are a little overrated. The truth is, without people working in an office full time, employees may actually have a better time managing their career growth. And organizations may have more tools at their disposal to help their employees’ careers.
THE PROBLEM WITH THE GRAPEVINE
The informal, who-knows-who way of talent management that has survived so long is actually ineffective, and even biased. People working remotely, or people out of the wrong social circles, are put at a disadvantage. Every employee should be on equal footing when it comes to learning opportunities, internal mobility, promotion opportunities, and the ability to find a mentor.
Succession planning, for example, often excludes people who have the right potential and capability to move up. Sometimes the employee who could get promoted wasn’t aware of the opportunity or the company didn’t consider that the possible successor’s potential was just what the company needs.
This haphazard approach to career management hasn’t been good for companies either. It has resulted in many employees that are unable to find an internal career path leaving for a new and better job. The very people companies want to keep—those with the most potential—are the very ones turning over.
YOU’RE IN CHARGE. NOW WHAT?
For years, corporations have said that employees are the ones in charge of their own careers and learning. But what does that mean? What are employees supposed to do? What do they learn? What can companies do to create a “career self-service” environment?
There’s now an answer. Companies are setting up what are called “career hubs.” These are portals where employees can find mentors, coursework, new jobs, and contingent work, all based on their interests and potential. The platforms automatically fill in the skills that employees have, based on their current and past roles. For example, the technology might “know” that an experienced designer is likely to be proficient in a particular design software. Then, employees can add skills—anything the technology “missed.”
From there, a number of things happen: Employees can indicate the position they’d love to have next. The career hub lists the skills that are required in that role, along with courses applicants can take to build their portfolio. It also identifies mentors. These are people who’ve agreed to serve as mentors, and whose expertise matches the employees’ goals.
Additionally, the hub shows employees projects they can take on internally, allowing them to hone their skills while increasing their value to the organization. That way the company can utilize people it’s already employing rather than hiring through a temp agency or scouring for freelancers online.
A TWO-WAY STREET
Employers benefit from career hubs as much as their employees. They get visibility into what each employee can do. They can reduce turnover by having people look for jobs internally rather than externally. And they improve succession planning; instead ofasking, “Who’s next in line?” they can identify who has the potential and interest in moving in to the position.
The big investments in learning-management systems by employers pay off as the systems finally help employees grow and learn as they need to and wish to. There are recruiting benefits, too. As companies build a culture and brand of career opportunity, this improves their reputation among high-potential workers who want paths to growth.
NOW’S THE TIME
As companies continue to work remotely and plan for a hybrid future, this is the perfect time for companies to set up career hubs—the experience over the past year calls for it. Companies have looked for a way to handle onboarding in a remote and hybrid environment, build mentor-mentee relationships, and provide employees with the learning they want and need.
Career hubs provide the answers. They give employees the connections to mentors, projects, learning, promotions, and other opportunities that they wouldn’t have ever known about. The career hub isn’t a replacement for a water cooler. It’s an advanced and equitable system for career management.
Kamal Ahluwalia is the president of Eightfold AI.