Career Development – Meaning, Definition and Stages

The concept of career development is of growing concern to organizations since it matches the needs of a business with the career goals of employees. Formulating a career development plan can help employees to do their jobs more efficiently. Additionally, these plans can be beneficial for employees who might want to move up in a company or look for other jobs in the future. Today, challenging organizations have developed new concerns for the career development of their employees. They put greater emphasis on ‘career’ with coherent induction, training and development, increased job security by the accrual of experience and qualifications valued in the labor market.

Career Development

Since a high majority of workers change their careers at midlife, it becomes evident that career development programs are needed throughout the life cycle. Other major reasons for this concern are:

  • The growth and productivity of organizations depend on the effectiveness of employee performance.
  • A change in the social values where employees do not consider work as the most important thing in life but rather selecting occupations and careers that fit the individual.

Definition of Career Development

Career development is defined an organized, planned effort comprised of structured activities or processes that result in a mutual career plotting effort between employees and the organization. Career development is an ongoing process by which individuals progress through a series of stages, each of which is characterized by a relatively unique set of issues, themes and tasks. Career development involves two sets of activities: career planning and career management. Career planning is defined as the activities performed by an individual, with the assistance of counselors and other individuals to assess the skills and potential of employees to be able to establish a realistic career plan while career management consists of activities that help an individual to develop and carry out career plans. Career management involves taking the necessary steps to achieve that plan, and generally focuses more on what the organization can do to foster employee career development.

Purpose and Benefits of Career Development

Career development is a very important aspect of a person’s life. Rewards and benefits are obtained only when a person is able to develop the career. Career development helps individuals to develop their capabilities and improve their performance. It is a challenge for organizations to respond to the development initiatives that individuals are engaged in and to make career investments in order to enjoy quicker returns in terms of career growth and progression. Various benefits of career development which are as follows:

  1. Reduces attrition of employees: A career development program helps to increase the level of satisfaction of the employees and therefore reduce the number of people who intend to leave the organization.
  2. Provides equal opportunity employment: There is chance for equal opportunity employment when one considers the career development program since these programs identify each person for the merits. Highly effective people and the results that are shown by the individual are taken as a criterion for their development and not other criteria, which therefore demonstrate equal opportunity.
  3. Improves the use of the employees: Career development enables employees to learn better aspects of their work and improve their capabilities. It also helps them to manage their time efficiently and ensure that the use of employees increases over time.
  4. Improves the quality of the work life of employees: Career Development helps employees learn better methods of working, work ethics and other important aspects of work.
  5. Improves the organization itself: Through a career development program, employees have an increased knowledge of the various activities of the firm. Therefore the sharing of knowledge and work ethics tend to make the organization improve.
  6. Increases the skill of the employees: An employee’s skill is improved if he/she goes through a career development program. These programs aim at increasing various facets of a worker’s life which makes the latter perform better at work.

Stages of Career Development

The career stage approach is one way to look at career development. One way to characterize a person’s life or career is by identifying common experiences, challenges, or tasks most people go through as their life or career progress. As argued by psychologist like Freud and others, the human nature such as personality, intelligence and morality develop in a predictable common sequence closely tied to a person’s age. People grow through specific stages separated by transition periods. At each stage, a new and crucial activity and psychological adjustment may be completed. In this way, career stages can be, and usually are based on chronological age. Careers also develop in stages. Again, unfolding career development with life stages reveals the commonalities of difficulties for all people when they experience difficulties in adjusting their first position, or face mid-career crisis. It also helps in understanding why both individuals and organisations predict likely crises and challenges and therefore plans ways to resolve or minimize them.

As individuals have different career development needs at different stages in their careers, when an organisation recruits an employee in any of the grades of its cadre for a fairly long tenure, the employer must take interest in and take constructive steps for building up employees career from that point of time. Stage views of career development have their limitations. It is applicable to a typical individual. Since all individuals are unique, they may not have the same experiences. Therefore, career development stages differ from individual to individual due to obvious difference in perceived internal career. However, keeping in view of general requirements of people career development may be grouped under the following four categories.

1. Exploration Stage

This stage starts when a new employees joins an organisation. This career exploration stage is best described as the “information gathering” phase. This is a kind of ‘budding’ stage for a new employee and is considered as the formative phase of his/her career. Therefore, it is essential for an organisation to sustain the behavioral as well as operational deficiencies of new hire to help him to develop in the course of time. The organisation’s responsibility at this stage is to ensure that, the employee’s concerns are taken care of. He/she is helped out to settle down and establish himself/herself. At this stage, induction-training in the form of organisational work familiarization programmes, technical or professional training or on-the-job training at the institutions are imparted to the employees. Unfortunately many organizations experience high level of turnover at this trial and exploration stage. Employees in this stage need opportunities for self-exploration and experiment with a variety of job activities or assignments.

2. Establishment Stage

The next phase is the establishment and developmental stage. It is also known as blooming’ stage or advancement stage. This involves growing and getting established in one’s career. In this stage, the individual is concerned with achievement, performance, and advancement. This stage is marked by high employee productivity and career growth, as the individual is motivated to proceed and succeed in the organization in his or her chosen occupation.

This stage desires the employees to take the opportunities of higher responsibility and more challenging jobs for better use of special competencies. The employees strive hard for creativity and innovation by taking challenging job assignments. Organisations, at this stage, need to provide required degree of autonomy to the employees, so that they can experience feelings of individual achievement and personal success. During this period, employees must be oriented in a manner that will create maximum learning opportunities and favorable attitude towards the organisation. It should also be ensured that the assignments assigned to them are optimally challenging with a genuine test of their abilities and skill.

Suitable training and developmental opportunities could be provided to ensure an adequate and proper transition from technical work to management work particularly for those who posses all the management talent and want to occupy managerial positions. Usually, Management Development programmes are organised at this level to help those kinds of people. Some area-specialization input is also imparted to enable them to update their specialist skills. Therefore, a successful career development process is important at establishment stage, in order to retain more number of employees in the organisation and to develop a sense of loyalty and commitment.

4. Maintenance Stage

This is a mid-career stage for those employees, who strive hard to retain their established name and fame. The mid-career stage is generally typified and characterized by a sort of continuation of established patterns of work behavior. At this stage, the person seeks to maintain his or her established position in the organization. This stage is also viewed as a mid-career plateau in which very little new ground is broken. This is otherwise known as mid career crisis. People at this stage, often make a major reassessment of their progress relative to their original career ambitions and goals. The individuals at this stage is helped out and provided with some technical training to update their skill sets in their respective field.

In order to avoid early stagnation and decline, the employees are encouraged to develop and learn new job skills by renewing and updating their knowledge in the context of the changing environment. Only the stable and matured executives/managers from this point can progress and reach at the higher career stage which is known as ‘full bloom’ stage. At this stage people are in super time scale, holding senior management positions, involving high level policy and programming assignments. The organisation, at this stage, must help people to flourish to the maximum extent possible by providing them with wider range of responsibilities and broader opportunities for better performance and to adjust with their changing role as their career shifts from the specialized to generalized advisory role.

In this top level stage of policy-planning-advisory area, the organisation must see that people’s career interests are catered for and self actualization facilities are provided. That encourages the employees to devote their full time, attention, energy to the organisation. In this part of career developmental strategy is then oriented towards policy making, programme planning and review and problem solving. For which, the focus should be on advanced study and education for enhancement of professionalized efficiency and total preparation for leadership. This career stage is also reflected with a kind of spiritual attitude, dedicated to public service and a stronger inner urge to work for a larger cause than oneself.

4. Stage of Decline

This stage is characterized by lessen career importance and the employees plan for retirement and seek to develop a sense of identity outside the work environment. Employees at this stage get scared for the possible threat of reduced role and responsibilities in the organisation. Therefore, career development at this stage aims at helping the employees to get mentally prepared for retirement and to accept the reduced role and responsibilities, so that they can accommodate themselves in their family and in the society after retirement. Retirement rituals management without destroying the employee’s sense of self worth is the primary concern of the career development process at this stage. The retired employees can also be provided with new part-time roles both within and outside the parent organisation, so that people can use their knowledge, experience and wisdom for the cause of society.