Knowing an employee’s career anchor can be one your best retention tools. Do you know what’s it that you can’t do away with? A ‘career anchor’ has been defined as one’s occupational self-concept comprising self-perceived talents and abilities based on actual successes in a variety of work settings; self-perceived motives and needs based on opportunities for self-tests and self-diagnosis in real situations and on feedback from others; and self-perceived attitudes and values based on actual encounters between self and the norms and values of the employing organization and work setting.
This anchor could vary from managerial aspirations where people like to administer, to technical/ functional aspirations where people are more attentive towards the details of their craft, stability, autonomy/independence, and entrepreneurial/ creativity; among others. The most important thing to note here is that the anchor is a ‘stabilizing force’- the values motives and needs that an individual will not give up, if forced to make a choice.
However, there’s usually a mismatch between an individual’s career anchor and the kind of career path that an organization provides. And in the knowledge industry, where the employee is the greatest asset, no organization can achieve success without its employees achieving success. Therefore, the relationship between organizations and professional also needs to be looked at from an increasingly symbiotic perspective.
Interestingly, while entry level professionals mostly pursue careers that are in vogue, those in the 2-3 year experience category, more or less know what their career anchor is. Right from the early days, I wanted to create. And today, in the capacity of a software developer, I am learning, applying new skills and implementing new thoughts in action, everyday.
Building that psychological connect is never easy:
A good understanding of career anchors can strengthen the psychological contract between the employee and employer. But this is never an easy task. After all, how do you deal with entry-level professionals, who would join an industry not out of any specific career inclination, but because of other reasons like peer pressure, what’s in vogue etc. Again, many a time, career options that are in line with the employee’s career anchor might be limited. So once the career anchor has been identified and the employee assigned responsibilities in line with the same, after a period, the growth of the employee may become limited by the opportunities available in that area.
Take you time:
An organization may give people time to ‘settle down’. “instead of charting out a career path right at the entry level. We must wait for two years and then let them choose their careers. One of the main purposes of performance appraisals is to identify the strong areas of an employee. It has six growth paths, which are thrown open to employees once they have completed a certain period of time with the company.
After a fair bit of counseling, we must help employees choose the career they would like to be in. employees even have the liberty to opt out of a career path after spending a considerable amount of time, in case they feel they want to do more. But yes, their decision to opt out should be backed by genuine reasons.
Right from the first contact:
The process of identifying an employee’s career interests begins right at the stage of the first level of interview wherein the potential employees’ motivations or joining the company, other than remuneration or role and responsibility, are uncovered. There are mechanisms like setting up of measurable objectives (in line with the company Goals) along with the reporting manager which will be assessed at the time of appraisals. During this process, managers get a chance to uncover other factors (career anchors) which keep the employee with the company. The manager then incorporates these along with the objectives which will be measured at the time of appraisals. This has a twofold impact – better employee retention and brand building of the company.
Reaching the inner person:
Understanding a person’s career anchor could be a way to bridge the gap between what is planned for him/her and what the ‘inner person’ will accept. There are basically three approaches to identifying career anchors. First is the use of questionnaires, the second is to have structured discussions with the individual and understand what motivates him/her and the third is self-evaluation to help make the correct career choice. This helps identifying areas where one can deliver fully over a period of time, and also understand the work setting in which one thrives best.
This may go a long way in helping people identify if there is a rift between them and the job they are doing. People are constantly looking for something meaningful. Many people switch jobs in the hope of finding ‘meaning’ without understanding where their passion lies and end up being miserable in a new place. Stability will come when people are clear which career will work for them in the long run.
Be Happy – Know What You Are Whether You are An Employer or An Employee. If You Are able to ascertain your capabilities, you can design your strategy accordingly.