Employees want to explore more career options that exist within the company and hone themselves for such opportunities
The baby boomers represented far greater loyalty to organizations and focused on mastering a single vertical. However, with Gen Y and Gen Z soon to dominate the workforce, the concept of becoming jack of all trades, before emerging as the master of one is becoming increasingly popular. The younger generation that has recently joined the workforce is constantly seeking wider up-skilling opportunities and diverse experiences. Therefore, organizations today are formulating innovative strategies to provide great career mobility options for employees, which not only exposes them to the overall workings of the organization, but also provides cross-functional and diverse experiences. These movements contribute greatly to engaging and retaining key employees in the organization.
The Career Week and its driver
Acknowledging this emerging trend, American Express India held a week-long Career Week which commenced on the 10th of August 2015. “As we onboard our younger employees, a constant ask from them is - show me the big picture; how can I grow professionally? What are the skills I need to navigate my career within the organization?,” said Vishpala Reddy, Vice President and Head – HR, American Express. The Career Week was therefore born out of employees’ desire to know about career options that exist within the company, and to hone themselves as individuals and professionals so that they are ready when a career opportunity comes their way within the organization.
Under the theme ‘My career begins with me’, the Career Week witnessed a high-level of engagement where employees were provided with the opportunity to understand and explore career movement within the organization. There were various business exhibition booths that were set up where different verticals of the organization showcased the work module to employees from other business functions within the company. The Career Week also included many development workshops and engaging walk-in sessions, which gave employees an opportunity to directly communicate with the leadership team and ask career related questions. Further, leaders from industry giants addressed Amex employees’ questions on pertinent topics like ‘the power of networking’, ‘Build the brand YOU’, ‘Ace an Interview’ etc. Many leaders from the industry were invited to speak and engage with employees at Amex. Indian theatre and television actress Shilpa Shukla was also present at the Career Week and enacted a monologue on the sessions ‘Healthy Living for Career Success’.
Formulating the right strategy
Moving towards the goal of establishing a culture of enabling environment, ensuring employee engagement and promoting an enterprise mindset with cross line of business awareness, the Career Week was put together by Amex. The core goal, as unveiled by Vishpala Reddy, VP, Head - HR, was to empower each employee with a set of tools and techniques which could set them up for success. The leadership team at Amex sought to formulate a strategy that involved its large millennial workforce in a fun and engaging way, while informing them of career and self-development options. “Career Week seemed apt since it provided an element of fun and learning while being able to drive a large scale reach among employees,” said Vishpala. Therefore, HR at Amex partnered with business teams and came up with a format for the event that best suited its employee needs.
The strategy followed a long thought-out process which began by the leadership gathering feedback from different stakeholders including employees, on topics that would resonate with them. “Primary consideration was to provide a bouquet of bite size learning offerings to all the employees, both individual contributors as well as people leaders across locations, career stages and roles,” added Vishpala.
Objective and vision
The leadership at Amex revealed that the fundamental objective of putting an extravagant show at such a grand level was to align the dynamic employee goals with the company’s business strategy. “Driving awareness on career opportunities available allows employees to diversify skill sets and keeps their learning curve high throughout their career thereby helping us have a motivated and engaged workforce. One of the key people metrics all business heads track is how many people are getting the right exposure and opportunities across different businesses and this helps us score higher on employee engagement, cross line of business movements and also in building bench strength,” said Saru Kaushal, Country Business Head, Global Corporate Payments, American Express.
The Career Week at Amex received a very positive response from its employees. The company saw participation from 7200 employees, including multiple sessions attended by each employee, towards various events and exhibitions. As per the feedback collected from the employees during classroom sessions and exhibition booths, the event had at 97 per cent top box rating. One of the employees who was visiting the cross-functional skill learning career booth stated that, “The program has given us easy access to senior leaders from across all business verticals. Considering we usually engage with only our own team members, this event has made it possible for us to also understand other teams and their roles in the company. All of this has created awareness regarding the resources available for us with the company.” Another employee at a mid-senior level said, “Amex is very positive when it comes to encouraging cross-functional roles that Gen Y and Gen Z are keen on pursuing; it is part of Amex’s leadership commitment. For me personally, the Career Week has been a great source of learning soft skills.”
Today all multinational corporations have a massive number of niche business verticals within the organization, ranging from finance and risk to customer service, to name a few. As a result, there lies an array of opportunities when it comes to career mobility and horizontal growth; in other words, opportunities that allow employees to emerge as jack of many trades. With an effort to align personal goals of employees to business goals, leadership in many organizations are investing a great amount of effort in ensuring development of the right talent by investing in such events and programs.