The Rise of Career Frameworks

Those employers had career frameworks that were fairly well developed, even if they were not formally designed or well-communicated to employees. Employees knew if they paid their dues they would continue to progress and be promoted within the company.

The talent wars of the 1990s changed that one-organization career mentality. Jobs were plentiful, and employees could demand higher salaries and better titles. Talent became more fluid and moved toward a free-agent model as people switched jobs frequently, and job security became less important.

Economic downturns have renewed focus on security and a strong employee/employer bond. In this environment, organizations have found that establishing career frameworks not only helps the organization with talent planning, it acts as a valuable attraction and retention tool.

“Where do you see yourself in five years?” Candidates have been asked this question in countless job interviews. The answer can provide insight into career aspirations, but recruiters often forget they are trying to sell the candidate on the organization, too. Savvy candidates will turn the tables after answering this question and ask, “Where do you see me in five years? Given your career framework, how would someone with my skills move through the organization?” A strong answer to this question can close the deal; a less-than-stellar one can drive the candidate away.

Communicating what it takes to move to the next level gives employees what they need to manage their own careers. It also provides a way for an organization to integrate its talent management programs. Moving up typically depends on having the skills and knowledge required for promotion. Taking inventory of skills and knowledge and whether an employee has what it takes ties in with the performance — knowing how an employee is doing at achieving goals; succession — identifying employees who have or can gain required skills; learning and development — providing resources to gain skills; and talent acquisition — identifying skilled internal candidates for job openings. An integrated talent management system incorporates all of these elements with competencies and a career framework as its foundation.

Further, as more organizations expand globally, career frameworks are no longer two-dimensional. Instead, organizations include global mobility as a core component of the framework. Emerging markets may not have local skills to fill needs as an organization expands. Organizations fill gaps through global mobility programs built as part of the career framework. This allows employees to build experience working in assignments that may not otherwise be available while filling tough-to-source talent gaps.

As organizations move away from the free agent culture and toward career framework models, employees will be less likely to leave. They also will be more engaged and more dedicated, which helps preserve culture and values, and contributes to organizational success.

Doug Rippey is global practice leader for workforce planning at Futurestep, a recruiting company. He can be reached at