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Charlie Duff

Sift Media


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Career management for retention and engagement


It might seem a bit out of place for an employer to get involved in career managing its employees – after all, isn’t a career a personal thing?

However that’s no longer the case. Despite economic pessimism, there is still demand for talent and the skills gap means there will always be demand for those who can fill those difficult areas.

And when it comes to leadership everyone knows it’s best to grow your own talent, but that involves retaining and engaging them and this is where planning the careers of your employees and actively managing your talent pipeline comes into its own.

NFU Mutual has launched a new career management strategy with an eye on improving retention and engagement and lowering recruitment costs.

It began with the recent internal launch of a bespoke career management platform built by Fairplace, a professional career management consultancy, who integrated NFU Mutual’s talent processes and materials with  interactive tools, advice and learning.

The platform provides the foundational resource for the development of a career management culture within the organisation. Other activities are planned including workshops, action groups and informed career conversations.

Why do it?
The talent team at NFU Mutual set itself a target of decreasing a reliance on external recruitment and increasing internal moves by around 20% over the next few years.

“We know that hiring internally makes sense for the individual and for the organisation,” said John Wilson, Talent Development Specialist at NFU Mutual. “We already have a preference for appointing from our own talent pipeline whenever possible rather than relying heavily on external recruitment and we want to significantly increase the success we already have in this area.

“In addition, we also want to prepare ourselves for potential retention problems that could arise post credit crunch. In a developing economy, retaining key talent is likely to become an issue for all organisations and we want our people to choose to stay as the market opens up.

“We also want to improve our employee engagement. In our latest engagement survey, we comfortably held our own compared to other financial institutions in the UK but we want to move out ahead of our peers next time around.

“Development, retention and engagement of talent are, of course, the key drivers for this campaign. However, we estimate that economically this target should annually save us around £500K on recruitment costs alone.”

Making it part of the culture
Sandra Evans (Fairplace’s Director of Career Management) describes a career management campaign as being about creating a supportive organisational culture where individuals recognise and take a proactive part in their own career development.

“Many people believe that personal development and career management are what your employer does for you rather than it being something you are ultimately responsible for,” she explained. “Though the organisation provides structures, pathways and support though which employees can move, it is individuals themselves who need to be aware that career development is not an automatic right but something they must actively pursue and even perhaps compete for.”

The NFU Mutual career management platform and campaign helps individuals determine their own career path. As Fairplace’s Regional Client Director, Jayne Harrison, points out: “Most organisations are not explicit enough about this and it can leave employees confused and disengaged with the organisation and their career. Career management support is the modern way forward. Most employees expect their manager or company to manage their careers for them. Also, most organisations take control making career advancement only available for a limited few. The career management campaign at NFU Mutual aims to bring a new level of collaborative career development between employee and organisation and we at Fairplace are proud to be part of it.”

Platform design
The bespoke platform uniquely combines the expertise, tools and advice of career management professionals at Fairplace with an internal focus on opportunities and career options in NFU Mutual.

“We designed the career management platform around three fundamental career questions: where am I? Where can I go? And, how do I get there?” explained site author and designer Clive Graham, an associate coach at Fairplace.

“Most people think ‘where’ and ‘how’ when it comes to their career development and totally miss out the ‘why’. Because of this, the platform starts people exploring where they are now. Through online tests and activities they self discover their career skills, values and motivations for the future.

“The individual builds on their self learning in the ‘where can I go’ section being encouraged to set career goals and explore linking in to the existing advice and support within the organisation.

“In the final, ‘how do I get there’ section,” explained Clive, “we focus on developing self promotion skills; from reputation management and personal branding to written self marketing including impactful CV building and online profiling with the likes of Facebook, Linkedin and so on.”

Web based and fancy free
John Wilson explained why a web enabled solution was the ideal way forward. “Through our intranet and web-linked platforms, we are able to provide the widest possible accessibility to all of our 3,200 staff. This is why developing a web solution made sense logistically as well as financially.

“The feedback to our trials so far has been overwhelmingly positive,” John continued. “The site brings a range of relevant resources, materials and activities that help individuals understand their career goals, align their aspirations with appropriate opportunities in the business and offer practical support in preparing for application and interview.”

Moving forward

As the platform goes live, John Wilson describes it as the backbone to a wider organisational dialogue; the springboard for NFU Mutual to explore and exploit innovative future activity and success around its career management strategy.

“I’m really excited to have watched the site get off the ground and am looking forward to what it opens up for us and we already have a number of potential further initiatives planned. For example, we are looking at the possibility of career development workshops, ‘managing your career’ online communities, career management action learning groups, NFUM internal social networking media and NFUM career paths resources.

“Most significantly, in terms of internal progression and recruitment we expect to have better prepared candidates because of the platform and the campaign. The subsequent career conversations will be better informed and, over time, we expect to see a greater success rate in terms of internal promotion as well as the ability to fill key vacancies in a more time and cost-efficient manner.

“We believe that a 20% improvement target on internal moves is obtainable,” concluded John. “We’re also looking forward to the career management platform, and the associated activities around the initiative, delivering many other benefits in our employee engagement and retention programmes and, of course, in our recruitment costs.”

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Charlie Duff


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