Article written by Beth DeCarbo for The Wall Street Journal.
With help from a growing suite of tech tools, employees can both discover their dream job and map a path toward getting it.
Many companies are deploying internal “talent marketplaces” to give their employees the power to take their careers to the next level. These career-mapping portals include job postings, of course, but they also connect employees with educational, training and mentoring resources to facilitate their advancement. Especially attractive are opportunities to work on short-term projects outside of their current role or physical location, thus broadening their work experience.
Providing employees with such tech tools “democratizes career development,” says Tim McGonigle, vice president at nonprofit Human Resources Research Organization, or HumRRO. The built-in transparency gives everyone a shot at job opportunities, even those that their mentor or manager may not suggest. Companies benefit as well, McGonigle adds, since “providing information about how employees can flourish is key to growth and retention.”
There’s no doubt that employees are hungry for such assistance. In 2022, over 72 million employees left their jobs, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics survey. And of those, 70% quit voluntarily. In a separate survey last year by the Society for Human Resource Management, 61% of HR professionals cited the lack of career development and advancement as one of the main drivers of employee turnover.
Nestlé USA deployed an online talent marketplace in 2020, and it now has nearly 5,000 registered users, according to a spokeswoman. From the platform, employees can apply for companywide job postings, and managers can discover potential job candidates in unexpected places, she says. That functionality is key considering the number and variety of Nestlé brands, which include DiGiorno pizza, S.Pellegrino water and Purina pet food. So far, Nestlé employees have used the platform to form nearly 300 networking relationships with colleagues across different teams and businesses, the spokeswoman says.
The system Nestlé uses was created by Gloat, a New York-based software company. Noelle Bloomfield, Gloat’s director of product marketing, explains how its career mapping works. Employees register and create a profile that details their current skills, as well as their long-term goals. Using artificial intelligence, the Gloat platform generates different “maps” for employees to consider. One is a “popular path” based on how co-workers with similar job experience and skills have advanced, such as an entry-level software engineer to a senior-level developer.
The tool also creates career paths for employees interested in jobs outside of their current field, as well as paths that lead to people-management positions. Each step on these paths details the skills and work experience required to move to the next level. Available learning and mentoring resources—including opportunities to work on short-term projects—also are highlighted.
Ideally, career planning starts long before the career does, says Kurt Kraiger, chair of the management department at the University of Memphis’s college of business. Key to that plan is choosing a college major that is aligned with the student’s interests.
“When I’m in a job that fits my interests, that predicts both longevity and performance” in that field, says Kraiger, an organizational psychologist. But challenges arise when college students with scant work experience must choose a major—a decision that might affect their career trajectory for decades to come.
To that end, Kraiger co-founded PathwayU, [all UVA students have a free account!] a career-planning platform with assessment tests that probe users’ interests and values, which are the qualities that make work meaningful to them. Using predictive analytics, the tool then identifies viable college majors that are aligned with the student’s profile. Each option includes an economic outlook outlining workforce demand and earnings potential for that specific field. Currently, 165 postsecondary schools are using the platform, a PathwayU spokesman says, including Florida International University in Miami.
“We use it for career discovery and career searches,” says John P. Nykolaiszyn, director of the Office of Business Career Management at FIU. The platform is integrated into a 15-week career class required of undergraduate students in the College of Business, which has about 9,000 students.
Students use PathwayU’s assessment tools to learn about career options that best match their interests and values, he says. They also can see, and apply for, current job postings that would be a good fit for them.
The platform doesn’t replace one-on-one career planning, Nykolaiszyn says, but it does help the business school’s 10 career counselors have strategic conversations with students about things like résumé preparation, job interviews and, most important, their job search. “No tool is ever going to replace counseling or coaching sessions,” he says.
To be sure, it is possible to create an individual career map without a fancy tech platform. Jobs website Indeed, for example, offers a downloadable template that boils career-mapping down to its basics: a starting point and a final goal, with connection points related to the education, skills and work experience required to get from Point A to Point B. But McGonigle, who is also an industrial-organizational psychologist, says tech tools can make the process easier.
He points to a suite of free career-mapping tools developed by the Labor Department. One is O*Net, a database with information on over 1,000 occupations, each with descriptions of the knowledge and skill requirements and its economic outlook. A second site, called CareerOneStop, offers users a variety of self-assessment tests to identify which occupations would be suitable for them. Resource links include searchable databases of topics including available scholarships, apprenticeship opportunities and certification programs.
Tech tools like these make career-mapping easier in two ways, McGonigle says. First, a platform “offers resources on how to proceed down a path that you choose.” Second and perhaps more important, “it can help identify paths you might not be thinking of,” he says. “Given the volume of data that these systems rely on, they could provide a broader perspective.”