IT career mapping done right

Career maps help tech workers navigate the choppy waters of IT employment.

your IT career at a crossroads

"What's my next move?"

At some point in their careers, most IT professionals will ask this question of their managers -- and, unfortunately, many managers will be ill equipped to answer in depth. Either they won't have a good grasp of the employee's talents, interests and goals, or they will lack details on potential career paths within their companies -- or both.

Linda Tedlie is one IT leader who doesn't have that problem. When an employee recently asked her the "what's next" question, Tedlie, a senior manager in career development at Kimberly-Clark's Information Technology Services (ITS) organization, pulled up a career map for that worker.

She was able to discuss the employee's existing role and capabilities and determine what future positions within the Dallas-based paper products maker matched her skills and aspirations, and then she could plan the steps the employee should take to reach that target position -- a more senior IT job within Kimberly-Clark's mergers and acquisitions department.

Career mapping, or pathing as it's sometimes known, started in HR and has subsequently branched out. It's of particular interest to larger organizations that are seeking to institutionalize their career-management programs, enhance their workforce-development and succession-planning strategies, and cut down on costly employee defections, according to Ginny Clarke, president and CEO of Talent Optimization Partners in Chicago and author of Career Mapping: Charting Your Course in the New World of Work.

Smaller companies, Clarke observes, are less likely to have formal career-mapping programs simply because they have fewer internal opportunities to track.

A career map pulls together different sets of information to give employees and their managers a view of where they are, where they can go and how to get to the jobs they want.

Clarke says that companies generally have compiled some of those pieces -- usually lists of organizational positions and the competencies required for each one, plus resumes for individual workers. But up until now, few organizations have put together all of the pieces -- the lists of jobs and resumes plus other information, such as employees' newly acquired skills or up-to-date career aspirations -- to create a view of potential career progression based on skills, competencies and goals.

A career map can include some or all of these elements: Historical plotting (which matches job titles to competencies), a list of aspirations, a skills-gap analysis, a plan to add competencies, a target list of companies and positions to research and follow, and specific networking goals. (For details, see 6 key components of a career map.)

It's a trend Clarke hopes will catch on. "I'd love to see more IT managers take more ownership of these activities because they are so critical to the performance" of the IT team, she says. "You need to find a CIO -- and a CEO -- who value [mapping], then it will trickle down."

Setting expectations with, and for, employees

At Kimberly-Clark, with a total workforce of 56,000, every department had a process in place to help employees advance their careers, but ITS decided three years ago to further enhance the system for its 900 workers.

Using a new tool called Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIAplus), ITS created a platform that allows IT employees to build detailed individual development plans, explains Gene Bernier, director of the Program Management Office, an 80-employee team within ITS.

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