Attracting, Retaining and Engaging Your Employees: What Savvy BC Employers are Doing


Joanne Loberg

Savvy BC Employers are adopting a key tactic that multinational organizations use to build and retain highly productive, engaged employees:  Career Development Programs.  Within BC, progressive organizations including TELUS, Envision Financial and Flight Centre have implemented career development practices as a means of engaging, developing and retaining their talent.

Why leading organizations invest in Career Development:
Career Development Programs address employee engagement, retention and talent development issues:

  • Fortune Magazine, 2009:  Career discussions are a critical retention strategy and succession planning activity. 
  • Kelly Services Survey, 2010:  When asked to name the one thing that would make an employee more committed to their job, 43 per cent cite ‘more interesting or challenging work’, followed by ‘higher salary or benefits’ (18 per cent).
    • 2007 UK study found that:  Employees who perceive good development opportunities will go the extra mile.  40 per cent of such employees were highly engaged and only two per cent were disengaged.
  • JL Careers Survey, 2010:  Organizational effectiveness surveys (OES) and exiting interviews support that employees want to know they have career development options within the organization, and their manager supports their career aspirations. 

JL Careers conducted research into leading BC organizations and identified innovative career development practices and strong business cases for the sustainability of the Career Development Programs.

Canada’s Top 100 Employers, 2010

Employees want it!  Marguerite Behringer, Learning Consultant reported that based on their 2009 annual engagement survey, team members identified career development as the engagement driver most important to them. 

Given these findings, their Learning and Development team developed an online Career Development Portal which is divided into 3 pillars: 

  • Career Paths – Roles and job levels along with Career Path stories
  • Learning Paths – learning opportunities designed to help team members build their career and develop their skills
  • Career Guidance – Information to support team members through the career planning process. 

Managers also support career development by conducting career planning conversations as part of the employee’s annual performance review.

Behringer also highlighted that one of the key reasons new employees join TELUS is the opportunity for career development.  Based on our research, talent-driven organizations are marketing their career development programs within their recruiting campaigns.  Microsoft is a leader in utilizing career development to enhance their recruiting strategy, including posting a highly innovative career development video on their recruitment site.

Canada’s 50 Best Employers, since 2002 

Jeanette Genge, AVP–Corporate HR commented that Envision’s HR team is focused on two key mandates:  to create an employee culture that is the “best place you have ever worked”, and address the challenges of retaining and developing their talent pool. 

To address these issues, the HR Team implemented the role of Career Development Consultant.  Lori Jackson and Kathleine Emerson led this initiative to provide career planning appointments for all employees.  They also created an intranet career portal featuring career paths, learning paths, and career resources to help employees develop and advance their careers within Envision.  To further ensure success, career development was also embedded within the employee’s Personal Development Plan which is annually reviewed with their manager.

The results: within the first year of implementing these resources there was a reduction in employee turnover from 13 per cent to 11 per cent. Career planning has also directly contributed to increasing numbers of employee securing promotions, and transitioning to new opportunities with Envision.  In 2008 and 2009, of those employees who participated in career planning appointments, on average 22 per cent were promoted or transitioned laterally to positions aligned with their career goals.

Canada’s 50 Best Employers, since 2002
Peopleworks Team Leader, Lisa Baker manages the Western Canada division of Flight Centre’s CareerWise – a career coaching service for all employees.  Annually she conducts career planning conversations with all employees.  She focuses on creating greater job enrichment, devising career paths aligned with the employee’s aspirations, and strategizing development opportunities to assist employees close the gap between their current job and their next career move.  

The CareerWise team launched the program in 2006 focused on creating “Quick Wins” within a division experiencing a high churn rate.  Were they successful?  Definitely!  Since introducing the program, career coaching is regarded as a significant contributor to ongoing increases in employee retention and engagement.  Specifically, from 2007 – 2009, 51 per cent of employees who engaged in career coaching went onto realize their career goals, including promotions and attaining KPIs within their current jobs. 

Getting Started:  Quick Wins and Creating Sustainability
Career Development programs should be an essential ingredient in your HR strategy as you focus on recruiting, engaging, retaining and developing your employees. 

Genge and Baker both recommend you target “Quick Wins”.  Start with a business issue or need. Identify an area of the organization wherein employee churn is high and costly, or employee engagement is significantly low. Then, identify employees’ needs whether through your employee survey, exiting interviews, or employee pilot groups.  Develop a business plan outlining the organization’s challenges and how career development can address these issues. Ensure you include metrics to evaluate the program’s success.  Lastly, solicit Executive buy-in which is critical to the success and sustainably of your career development initiatives. 

About the Author:
Joanne Loberg, BA, CMP, CEC, is the Principal of JL Careers, a career consulting, outplacement and executive coaching firm that develops and facilitates career management programs which support leadership development, succession management, and employee retention objectives. She is a Certified Executive Coach, Internationally Certified Career Management Professional, and skilled Facilitator with over 20 years experience in leadership and career coaching, outplacement services, and human resource consulting. Joanne has coached over 1,000 executive, management and professional clients and facilitated over 450 career development workshops. Her qualifications include a Bachelor of Arts-Psychology, Certified Executive Coach (Royal Roads University), International Career Management Professional Certification, and she is MBTI Qualified.

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