How to provide career perspective without ladders, titles or belts.

Great, you’re willing to throw out the existing career frameworks for whatever reason (usually it’s to become more agile). But before you do, take into account that without the typical career frameworks your employees will end up having fewer certainty, perspective and even status (imagine losing a title like senior executive vice president EMEA to start doing projects just like ‘the rest’). Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for We recently did a discussion group with some like-minded HR-people about this topic, and these are the things we came up with to overcome the loss in certainty, perspective and status:

1. Coach to create individualized career perspective

There’s probably nothing in the world as effective as bringing clarity, increasing effectiveness and motivation for an individual as coaching. So in an environment with a lot of change coaching is thé answer to create more clarity. But then once again, I literally hear you bumping into the human element: “my managers can’t coach.” Well, I’d say, start by coaching thém. Next, ask them to write down three things every three months for every employee. What are your focus areas right now? What would you like to get better at? What’s your long term goal? Keeping track of those elements will create clarity and perspective on a regular basis.

2. Ask about career aspirations outside of your company

This is probably going to sound weird, but ask your employees what they want to do after they have worked at your company. It’s very rare to encounter a young person that wants to spend their entire professional life at their first employer, so let’s just cut the charades and be honest about it. Ask them what they want to do after their current role, keep track of it, help them grow towards that role by selecting their current responsibilities carefully. Who knows, you just might end up really motivating them and paradoxically keeping them longer in the end.

3. Offer an alternative career framework

You don’t always have to look at careers in a junior-senior-manager-director kind of way. Sometimes, as it seems, different people want different things. So why not ask them what they want? One of our customers, Wunderman, has done exactly that. They asked their employees about their intrinsic motivation and came up with an alternative framework to highlight the various career possibilities.

4. Provide titles that imply expertise or focus, not seniority or status

To avoid throwing out the baby with the bathwater, you might want to keep some sort of indication when it comes to responsibilities. Some are probably more people minded, some will lead projects, other people probably need more strategic skills and every time there are some experts involved. Or you could divide them into serving the smaller or larger customers and give them fun titles like fishers and hunters. Creating a distinction in that way is good to appeal to a person’s status, because they get to be good at their niche thing. They get a chance to create a unique identity. And it’s even recognized by the company.

5. Provide transparency for career wishes & promises

Remember our 3 questions that created clarity for the employee in the first tip? Now make sure you have a way of distributing that information to everyone in the company about everyone in the company. That way there’s no false promises and everyone can see what others aspire to be.

6. Give recognition

The easiest way (physically, not necessarily mentally) to boost motivation and give status to someone is to pay them a compliment and/or thank them. So start doing it yourself and start promoting it everywhere. You could even do some very specific workshops that teach people just that.