career management

The concept of a career as a traditional steady upward progression through a sequence of roles with accompanying increases in salary and status has changed. The breakdown of hierarchical structures, fewer management layers, and flexibility in the workforce means that a modern career may be a series of moves sideways – or even backwards – crossing occupational and organisational boundaries. Today’s concept of career management may be seen more as a series of stepping stones rather than a straight road stretching ahead.

Career management aims “to find the optimal rather than the perfect fit” between individual needs and desires and organisational requirements for the right people with the right skills in the right place, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). It identified five core components of career management:

  1. career planning and support activities – e.g.setting objectives and personal development plans and appraisals
  2. career information and advice – e.g.counselling by trained individuals (internal or external), career workshops or courses
  3. developmental assignments – e.g.internal or external secondments, work shadowing and project work
  4. internal markets and job posting systems
  5. initiatives aimed at specific populations – e.g.graduate development schemes, succession planning, career moves managed by the organisation

challenges for SMEs

Career management for SMEs can be even more challenging when, by definition, there are usually insufficient different roles to provide development opportunities, and where employees are encouraged to work as one team rather than within different teams. In terms of managerial roles, small firms are not simply pocket versions of big companies. But no business is static, and there may be new responsibilities or projects researching new markets or products.

SMEs that cannot provide new experiences may consider working with other SMEs to provide secondments, or even – if there are no other options – encourage valued staff to leave to gain necessary experience. The key to the latter approach is to stay in touch with the former employee so when a suitable role does become vacant they can be invited to apply for it.


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