Show Them The Money: A 4-Step Business Case for Career Management

March 28, 2014 Kim Spurgeon

show them the money

Even though most HR practitioners are familiar with the benefits that career development can provide, many business leaders, managers and especially C-suite executives are not.

Recently I was working with a client in the consumer products industry who was struggling to find a solution for dismal employee engagement results. They were having difficulty retaining their high performers and attracting Gen Ys. She  spent time interviewing employees and leaders. She held several focus groups to ensure the program was aligned to the organization’s employee engagement objectives. She’d taken great care to align these objectives to their talent development strategy.

After six months gathering data, designing the components, and on the verge of launch, we sat down to review the elements and discuss next steps. When I asked her whether she had executive sponsorship, she said, “of course; I was given a budget for this.”

She had assumed that once there was a budget line for the initiative, she was good to go. She thought it was a matter of a quick chat to an executive who had always been supportive of other HR initiatives.

She soon found out she was wrong: when she presented it to the senior team, she learned that her carefully-planned career management initiative was no longer earmarked for funds “due to shifting business priorities.”

So, what went wrong?

The HR practitioner had not defined the return-on-investment or value of career management as a solution to a costly problem or gained executive sponsorship on that basis.

And it seems she’s not alone. The Human Capital Institute recently conducted research on behalf of Knightsbridge that found that only 34% of CEOs sponsor career management initiatives – although it has been quantitatively linked to higher ROI.

CEOs and executives need to have the facts and demonstrated ROI to support career development. It is no longer a “nice thing to do” or the “right thing to do” but an imperative to drive business results. The HCI-Knightsbridge research also demonstrated that organizations that support career development have higher engagement and improved retention, which increases their capability to have employees at their best in the right roles.

These four steps will help you gain buy in from the top of the house to create and sustain high-impact career management initiatives.

1. Identify and prioritize the particular challenges your organization is currently facing. Identify the impacts of NOT having a career management initiative. Link these to the challenges related to talent,  whether they are poor engagement, lack of internal mobility, attrition, attraction, lack of brand awareness. Whatever the pain points are, show how your career management initiative will support or eliminate them.

2. Identify the career management program’s objectives. These should be directly correlated to the talent challenges within your organization. Clearly state what the initiative will do to achieve the objective.

3. Demonstrate the ROI of the career management initiatives. Your leadership team will want to quantify the benefits and ROI to justify the allocation of budget, time and resources. Determine metrics to evaluate the quantitative and qualitative value of the initiative. You can also use measurement data that you currently collect such as turnover rates, internal moves or costs to rehire and train. Metrics that have an impact on share value and productivity related to leadership succession planning and stability are harder to pin down but very meaningful to the executive team. Determine the most critical measurement and leverage the research findings that demonstrate the investment of time and effort will pay off.

For example, the HCI and Knightsbridge research illustrates that 78% of organizations who demonstrated a career-supportive culture reported positive revenue growth and ranked 21% ahead of organizations that did not. That’s compelling data for just about every executive. What CEO will disagree with these findings?

4. Spread the good news! Communicate the initiative’s goals and objectives at all levels within the organization; beginning with the executive team. Once the initiative has been approved, communicate the benefits and how every employee and leader can leverage these opportunities.

If you’ve got examples of how you’ve sought and gained executive buy-in for your career management initiatives – or any lessons learned on the way – please share them in the comments!

About the Author

Kim Spurgeon

Kim Spurgeon is a Vice President of Career Solutions at Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge. Kim has over 20 years of experience in human capital consulting and is a certified coach specializing in career management, career coaching, and career transition.

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