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HR Executive Forum: Shifting From Careers To Employee Experiences

May 16, 2019-  Twin Cities HR leaders gathered in the Metropolitan ballroom for a sold-out panel discussion hosted by the HR Executive Forum regarding how career pathways are changing with the workforce.  Sarah Waite, Lisa Perez, Anne Sample and I addressed a room of 120+ HR leaders and shared our thoughts around a recently published article by Deloitte that illustrates how tractional career paths are being replaced by an interest in more learning and growing through experiences.  Career growth through experiences vs linear time-bound title growth.


In the article From Careers to Experiences: New Pathways D&T describes, “rather than an orderly, sequential progression from job to job, 21st-century careers can be viewed as a series of developmental experiences, each offering the opportunity to acquire new skills, perspectives, and judgment.”  Most of the audience agreed with this trend but didn’t feel like their companies knew how to truly embrace this new Talent Management trend. This concept may be foreign to X’ers and Boomers, who for years have shown up to work hoping to earn their stripes, but the younger generations who are stronger at self-advocacy are asking for the experiences they want to have within their careers.  This new approach is proving to be a challenge for Learning and development programs. An example can be similar to changes in how we consume music.  We’ve evolved from going to the store to purchase entire albums. People are now using a more customized approach and only streaming the songs they want. As Ann Sample put it that night, “employees are saying, ‘I don’t want your entire album, I just want the song I like.’”  In my option, the best way to tackle this new way of think and by managers consistently speaking to their employee about their specific wishes around their own career growth.  In my former blog, I talk about the importance of helping to shape career pathways for your employees.  If managers can’t answer the question, “What’s next for each of your employees?” then those managers need to ask the question to their employees and after understanding the wishes of their employees, delegate/assign work to help their employees grow through experiences.


This desire for individualizing career experiences is shifting the makeup of today’s workforce as well.  According to A Willis Towers Watson (WTW) study, this “experience approach to career growth” is helping to drive the “Gig Economy.”

More and more professionals are choosing to leave their full-time 9-5 job and choosing instead to engage in consulting projects where they can experience the customized career growth, more autonomy and sometimes a better work-life blend.  According to WTW, currently, 36% of the US workforce are freelancers.  By 2020 they anticipate that percentage growing to 43% and by 2027 to 50%.  The wants and needs of the US workforce are changing so the leaders of the industry must adapt or risk not being an employer of choice.  In 2020 the most sought-after employee skill sets are anticipated to be complex problem solving, critical thinking and creativity.  The days of STEM leading the way is morphing into a need for STEAM, the A=Arts, i.e. Writing research problem solving and working as a team.


The idea of career ladder growth is giving way to career lattice growth, a more customized and experienced-based approach to solving business issues seem to make more sense, but will it cause the death of tenure, traditional organization hierarchy, and w-2 employment?  Time will tell. The one thing to be certain is that leaders must recognize this trend and not hold on to antiquated ideas of growth for your employees.



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