Creating Winning Careers
In 2012, the Consumer Healthcare division of global pharmaceuticals and healthcare giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) established a programme called 'My Winning Career'. It was part of an HR strategy designed to give employees greater knowledge and insight into the range of career options open to them in a matrix organisation spanning multiple job and geographic markets.
The division had already established a sophisticated website detailing roles and required competencies, complete with links to a suite of e-learning and self-reflection tools. But Oral Health, one of four main global consumer product categories in the Consumer Healthcare division, found that people just weren't taking advantage of it. And its employee engagement surveys showed that scores in the areas relating specifically to careers and development were not improving.
"We felt we needed to do a better job in helping people consider how to develop their careers and in providing support for them to do that," says James Hallatt, Global Head, Oral Health Category. "We had all sorts of tools and techniques and models and initiatives; what we needed was someone or something to bring those alive for people."
James turned to Helen Hambleton, a consultant and coach in leadership and organisational development, and head of consultancy People Untapped. She created a similar programme for two separate cohorts of people - 70 in total - within Oral Health, including the category leadership team and their direct reports, the R&D leadership team, the supply chain leadership team and the global design team.
To prepare for the programme, delegates identified where they'd got to in their careers, and what worked and didn't work in their current job. They did a values-based self- reflection exercise, a 'career anchors' exercise (based on Edgar Schein's model) and they completed the Margerison-McCann Team Management Profile Questionnaire. The purpose, explains Helen, was to give them information and insights about who they were, what was important to them, what they loved and hated doing, and the implications of all this for their future career choices.
"Each piece of work taught them something slightly different, but this pre-work was an opportunity to bring lots of different insights together in one place," she says.
The remainder of the programme consisted of four half-day workshops covering, in sequence: developing self-awareness (based on their pre- work); consolidating feedback (from, for example, their line manager, in order to understand their strengths, development needs, reputation and perceptions of potential); future career mapping (based on research into career options); and development planning. The workshops took place at monthly intervals, giving delegates time to consolidate what they had learnt, and to think about, research and discuss their options and opportunities with colleagues, bosses, their family and others. Participants also received a one-to-one coaching session.
"The first workshop, which focused on helping people develop awareness of how their preferences play out at work, was really important," says Helen. "We spent at least half the session on the Team Management Profile, going through people's Profiles with them and getting them to look at the amount of time they spent doing the things they liked compared to the time they spent doing things they didn't like. Once we'd assessed their current role and mapped it onto their 'work preference distribution' we used peer-to-peer coaching - guided conversations of about 20 minutes each way - to explore the implications. For example, if their actual role was very different from their preference, they might suddenly understand why they shied away from certain aspects and spent a disproportionate amount of time on others."
Based on such insights, Helen got delegates in both the first and second workshops to identify 'career choice factors' - that is, criteria their careers had to meet for them to feel successful in the future.
"For example, if they had 'Explorer-Promoter' as their major role they might conclude roles which allow them to interact with many people and influence decision-making would be important to them," she explains. "Many of the delegates were global marketing professionals, and there is sometimes an expectation that such people can easily switch between roles in local markets (which are mainly about execution) and global roles (which are largely concerned with innovation and creativity and handing over ideas to the markets to implement). This exercise gave them an opportunity to see which of the two roles they were best suited to by exploring the differences between them and relating that to their own career development."
The overall point of the programme was to get people to think differently about their careers. As Helen puts it: "My goal was to move them away from the 'I need to do this job next' mentality to 'who am I, what makes me tick, what do I enjoy and am good at, and what's important for my future career?'"
As she points out, in most organisations there are well-trodden career paths and unwritten expectations that people will want to follow them. By contrast, the GSK programme "gave delegates - most of whom were between 30 and 40 years old - permission to think about what they wanted from life generally, and the kind of career which would allow them to achieve that." And, crucially, it was also designed to engage the organisation in supporting them to achieve this. Not only did the leadership team participate in the programme, but Helen has also established a dedicated managers' programme to improve the quality of career-related conversations between individuals and their line managers.
People now have career maps that present a range of different options rather than a rigid vertical structure, and they are all underpinned by their personal career choice factors. As such, says Helen, "everyone's map looks very different."
The programme has triggered some job moves - mostly within GSK. And the evidence suggests that even those who are still in the same roles are much more engaged with the organisation than they were before.
Helen did a personal career diagnostic with all delegates at the beginning of the programme and then again three months after it ended. The results were very positive. In terms of career direction, favourability rose from 61% to 81%, personal and career development rose from 52% to 74%, support for careers and development rose from 42% to 61%. Other engagement factors also rose - from 69% to 73%.
"I always say to people: 'Your career is your career and it's up to you how you make it happen - but we will support you'," says James Hallatt. "It is in GSK's interests to have people who are fully engaged with their career development. I believe the net benefit of the programme Helen delivered for us is that it is helping people to take responsibility for thinking through and acting on how best they should manage their careers and make the most of the opportunities available to them. That's good for them and it's good for the company."