Career mapping helps IT employees and employers alike

Specially designed development plans help tech workers navigate the choppy waters of IT employment.

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Setting Expectations

At Kimberly-Clark, which has 56,000 employees, every department has a process in place to help people 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.

The platform "gives individuals a different perspective, one they wouldn't have had otherwise. It opens up lines of communication, and it [gives people] more control over their career development," says Bernier, who spearheaded the career mapping effort in the IT department.

Like Kimberly-Clark, Mueller Water Products previously plotted courses for professional growth for employees but has recently adopted a more disciplined and detailed approach to mapping possible opportunities -- and expectations -- for employees, says senior vice president, CTO and CIO Robert Keefe, a past chairman of the Society for Information Management.

"If there's a geographic move required, if there's a move out of IT that's expected, career mapping sets [those] expectations with the individual. We lay out what the possibilities are," Keefe says.

The Atlanta-based water infrastructure company launched its version of career mapping several years ago with UAchieve, a program supported by senior leadership and executed by the HR department. Like many organizations, Keefe says, Mueller Water Products separates this process from annual reviews and merit-pay increases to help keep the focus on long-term visions and not on year-to-year objectives.

The program -- which all IT workers are expected to participate in -- collects information about individual employees and their current positions and skills. Keefe explains that some of the information may have been on employees' resumes, but it didn't get incorporated into a system where it would be accessible and transparent. For example, some staffers could speak foreign languages but not many people knew that they had those skills before UAchieve was deployed.

As part of the process, Keefe says, employees are asked to consider certain scenarios, such as whether they're willing to move to another city or take a position in another business division to gain skills required for future positions.

Based on the collected information, Keefe says the company works with individuals at all levels, including management, to determine what opportunities are available for them down the road and what they can do to be ready for them.

Benefits to the company include improved succession planning and a vibrant workplace of challenged, engaged employees, Keefe says.

But there can be downsides to career mapping for employers, he warns. At Mueller Water, a midlevel IT manager realized after he'd completed the mapping process that the company didn't have the position he aspired to. So the 10-year veteran, whom Keefe says he saw as a future IT leader, took a job at another company where he could gain the skills he needed to do what he wanted, which was to run a manufacturing facility.

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