CHANGE: An Advantage or Disruption to Early Career Employees?
We’ve all heard the catch phrases: “Change is the New Normal” or “The Only Thing Constant Is Change.” And, certainly in the workplace, they’ve proven to be true. But we hear much less about the impact of that change on employees. Especially those who are newer to the workforce and trying to establish a foundation for a career path.
Companies are focused on the mid-tier group, the new leaders. The pace of change is creating more opportunity than it ever has for those who are close to leadership. Opportunities are coming faster, the landscape is bigger and it’s why leadership development teams have focused on this group. And we’ve partnered with companies to expand the skills of these new leaders.
But most recently, we’ve paid attention to the impact of change on a different group….the early career employees.
The first decade of a career builds the foundational skills that define a career path. Leaders who started careers 20+ years ago didn’t navigate their careers at the same pace. They had more time, more direction and more support. Now that they’ve become the group competing for the opportunities, they have less time and less focus to mentor the newest generation in the workforce.
But the bigger challenge is that the model for establishing a career foundation has changed significantly. Most early career employees don’t have the right guidelines. This employee group is trying to navigate a path that hasn’t been traveled by anyone else.
So, we’ve taken an interest in helping early career employees navigate their career. And we’ve focused on our three “V’s” that best support career advancement in today’s shifting environments: Visibility, Value and Velocity.
The number of managers most employees have in the first decade of their career has continued to climb. On average, most have had seven different managers at the end of ten years, which means having a new boss every 18 months.
Some of that change is their own doing by moving to different companies, but the pattern of a single manager promoting you within a company and creating the next opportunity for you is no longer the model. Very early on, employees need to learn how to build relationships and create visibility for themselves. To gain visibility, you have to build your unique network within a company early so that your success is lined up to multiple people and not a single (often revolving) track.
Access to leaders is easier today than ever before. Leaders want to hear all ideas, but you have to know how to position ideas with them. You need to know how to add value to the conversation. For years, we’ve helped seasoned managers get a seat at the table by building conversations with measurable outcomes. And today, we’re helping a younger employee understand the leader’s perspective.
There are confusing messages about how to work in corporate America. To attract employees, employers have offered many incentives: unlimited vacation, flexible schedules and every sort of amenity from onsite childcare to ping-pong. But for a generation that hasn’t fully developed a work ethic, it can be a little misleading. It could suggest “do things when you want” and “get things to me when you can.”
That’s incongruent with the pace of work. The typical front-line job requires upwards of 50 hours a week and can reach much longer during heavy “sprint” periods. And with an early career employee expected to work nine to ten hours a day amongst unlimited choices, a few poor choices are likely to be made.
Gaining visibility and adding value to a conversation only matters if you’re willing to work hard to deliver on a result. You have to put in the hours to achieve the results. That part of the career journey hasn’t changed.
An early career employee always asks: How long does it take to add value? And the answer is much longer than they think.
This is the generation that is more prepared and capable than other generations have been. But they are restless. They are constantly thinking about the next step and they are easily distracted by moving their skills to a different place that offers a different perk, a unique project or a better culture setting. That impatience can lead to careers that move more sideways than forward.
Velocity is a balance of speed and direction. And moving just to move doesn’t fit the formula. Moves should advance a career. Many early career employees get frustrated and move because they’re bored or restless, and in the end, that impatience and quick change ultimately leads them to continued frustration.
We’re working on a simple formula to help an early employee understand when their skills are considered advanceable and when their experience shows enough repetition that someone would put them in a bigger role or expanded responsibility. We hope it instills a little patience and a reason to stay in a role a little longer.
Change doesn’t have to be disruptive. And, in fact, with a little coaching it can be an asset.
Companies know they’re either headed toward change, they’re in the middle of change or they’re coming out of change, and someone who has been through it has great value to them. The key is to build a career story that reflects that experience rather than one that shows a limited skill set.
We’re excited by this new dimension to our conversations in companies and we are digging deeper for insights and experiences that can teach others how to navigate change. If change has disrupted your career path, we’d like to capture your insights. If you’d like to share your story, please take a few minutes and complete our survey.
And if you see the challenges of change in your employee group, we’d love to host a program for you. We’ve rolled out the concepts above in short seminars and custom workshops. And, we expect that could be a sign of a more general program in the year ahead.
Call us when you need us.