Is ‘career’ the missing ingredient in resilience and well-being?
The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the disruptive trends we identified in our Careers of Tomorrow research and added new layers of uncertainty. In response, many organisations are addressing employee wellbeing by developing strategies to boost personal resilience. However, feelings of anxiety about work, skills and career are often people’s central concern. Can an increased focus on career resilience help today, and become the driver of a more agile and future focused workforce?
Our provocateur Tracey Skoyles challenged us to consider whether our current resilience-building activities represent a short-term fix, that ignores the ‘elephant in the room’. She encouraged us to develop a more holistic approach to resilience, job satisfaction and wellbeing in the workplace.
Rosemary McLean noted that career resilience has been seen as a key employee capability since the large-scale restructuring and downsizing of the 1980s and 90s. While some employees have been proactive and re-skilled, others have struggled to adapt and keep pace with the impact of change. The challenge for HR leaders is to raise employee awareness and provide the support they need.
Our discussion began with people sharing their resilience-building focus in 2021:
- Encouraging people to think about the future and their careers, not just surviving the next few months
- Drawing attention to the transitions each individual will need to make during a ‘100 year life’ and the re-skilling and personal change this will require
- Enabling employee to employee communication, by sharing personal stories on work platforms and apps, and organising events
- Reminding managers to have regular wellbeing and career conversations
- Continuing to expand the range of on-line resources for employees and managers
- Evolving performance management conversations to place more emphasis on what employees want going forward
‘It’s important people understand what quality conversations look like’
Tracey started her provocation with her mission; to bring ‘being human’ to the forefront in our digital world. She highlighted many people’s current feelings: fragile, vulnerable, and uncertain, particularly when they think about their working future.
She said that organisations’ reactions to the stress people are experiencing had been speedy and understandable. They’ve dealt with a health crisis by providing scalable and remotely accessible resources largely focused on diet, exercise and recovery. But has the money they’ve invested been well spent?
‘Having spent £90,000 on on-line resources, one company discovered that employee take-up was only 9%’
Tracey contended that this response has been insufficient in its focus and delivery. The ’elephant in the room’ is people’s anxiety about their future job-security, and the missing link the connection between wellness and career resilience. Rather than relying on generic and impersonal resources, she argued that resilience-building activities should be targeted at individual needs and supported by human interaction.
Tracey referenced McKinsey research showing how many people have used the past 12 months to think about their future direction, and are now considering a life change or significant career shift. This underlined the need for person to person support from a manager, mentor or coach who is well-equipped to manage a variety of career conversations.
‘Managers don’t need the right answers they need the right questions’
Tracey asked us to reflect on what we’re doing to:
- Ensure career resilience is a central part of our wellbeing strategy
- Get all employees to see career resilience as a key capability they need to build
- Equip all stakeholders to have great career conversations
In response, attendees talked about the impact of encouraging employees to extend their support networks, and of senior leader role-modelling. One company had brought the issue of visualising the future of work to every employee’s desk by producing a film specific to their context.
David North returned to the theme of supporting employees to feel more positive about the future, by highlighting our 7 career management skills and the related CareerPulse diagnostic.
Participants shared practical actions for resilience in their organisations:
- Create and embed a compelling narrative about the importance of career resilience
- Include career resilience as a key skill within capability frameworks
- Gather more data about the impact of career-building activities
- Don’t forget the vital place of human interaction, in the pivot to more digital and virtual resources
- Provide targeted support for graduate entrants and other new recruits
- Build an organisation culture that supports employee career resilience
 ‘The 100 Year Life’, Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2020
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