Should we be Promoting Career Path Changes Rather Than Discouraging Them?

Posted in : HR Updates on 2 September 2020
Olga Pollock
firmus energy
Issues covered: Policies and Procedures; Employee Retention; Secondment; Career Development

As I near the end of another summer break I have been both reminiscing about the year so far and anticipating what lies ahead. Barely the year has only started and now it’s already the start of September. A day, a month, a year and a whole decade pass by so quickly and we realise so much life has happened in-between.

Perhaps I have always been a deep thinker; thinking more than articulating my feelings. But one thing 2020 has shown me, following the loss of my mother is that life is what we make it and we need to enjoy it now rather than putting things off for some time in the future. And that includes our chosen careers. I am very fortunate to work in a job that I love, given that we spend too much time at work not to enjoy it. But I have nothing but admiration for anyone that decides to change career completely. I have a couple of friends that left the security of their jobs only to go back into education and start the difficult and uncertain journey of working towards their dream profession. That takes huge courage but despite a couple of years of austerity, they are now much happier and fulfilled both professionally and personally. 

So, should employers be supporting employees who want to change career and broaden their horizons rather than risk losing them to the business? According to research, millennials and older workers are more likely to change career path and seek more meaning. Many employers may not recognise the opportunities that these trends offer the organisation both in terms of retention and attracting talent - given the time and commitment already made to employees in their current roles. But for employers that recognise the advantages of supporting internal career path changes, a good starting point is to develop a policy on such which provides guidance to internal employees thinking about a career switch through HR clinics or career coaches. The policy could include access to courses and educational opportunities to help employees upskill. It is often worth remembering that many employees may not only have transferable skills but they may be able to apply their existing expertise in their new role, for example a product manager who transitions into software programming could be skilled both in technology and business. When we consider our older workforce, they are likely to hold a whole host of skills that lend themselves to a variety of roles throughout the organisation rather than being pigeon-holed into one job. Surely it makes more sense to promote from within where the business knowledge, leadership and industry awareness already resides despite them working in a different role.

It is also sensible to ensure that your recruitment process is friendly to internal candidates and promotes career path changes rather than penalise employees for applying in the first place. Why not consider secondments to other departments to allow opportunity for employees to gain experience in another role before applying to permanent vacancies?

Very often employers can shy away from promoting career path changes which is understandable given the time, money and resources invested into inducting an employee into their current role only for them to then want to change career path entirely. Of course, there is an onus on the employee to ensure that they have given adequate thought and consideration for the change rather than jumping ship on a whim. This is where secondments can offer more assurance. But if employers recognise the longer-term benefits of talent retention and the opportunity to welcome fresh perspectives from other departments, then a culture of promoting career path change can only improve employee retention and help attract new talent open to seeking growth and better opportunities.

Useful Reading

5 Ways to Retain Employees Looking to Change Careers


This article is correct at 04/11/2020

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Olga Pollock
firmus energy

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