Career Development – A Tale of Two Corporate Cultures

Career Development is important to today’s employees.

Culture is an important part of providing career development opportunities. Two of my clients highlight this distinction perfectly.
One of my former clients, a consumer credit company, has a large strategic planning group that targets consultants from top-tier firms. Their pay is on the high end for top MBAs, but lower than most competitive offers for 2-4 year management consultants. They promise career development, and have a high success rate of  hiring candidates from top firms.
It seems that they know how to talk a consultant into bed, but have no intention of marrying her. Every candidate we placed there came back to us within three years indicating that there was no way to grow within the strategic planning group unless someone more senior left the company, and no way to move from the strategy group into a line management role as they were promised.
We opted to stop working with that client.
In contrast, another long term client, a west coast CPG company, has a strategic planning group of 27 people that promotes 8-10 of it’s members to operating roles each year. Average tenure in their strategy group is 18-24 months, and due to their policy that the strategy group cannot refuse a transfer request from an operating group, they once promoted a candidate on his first day in the company.
I advise candidates to look at a prospective employer’s track record of promoting predecessors in the role for which they are applying. What percentage are promoted? What is the average time to promotion? What are some of the roles to which they are promoted?
That’s not always possible. Sometimes a role is new, or the group has been not been around long enough for a round of promotions.
In that case, it’s important to listen to the context in which the company talks about promotion. 
In my experience, companies that don’t put a real emphasis on career development, will frame the role in terms of tactical responsibilities, and mention separately that the goal for successful candidates is career development.
Companies with a real focus on career development will not only talk about the tactical responsibilities of the role, but also the strategic value of developing talent. They’ll view the role as having an important contribution on the first day, but also acting as a minor league system for tomorrow’s executives.

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