Do an Internet search on the words "career framework," and you will find literally thousands of Websites in which all manner of organizations—large and small, public and private—have implemented a framework to guide employees in the development of their careers.
The sites contain many common words and phrases, such as skills, competencies, training and learning, career path, career progression, succession planning, gaps in skills and competencies, capabilities, opportunities, and more. Some frameworks are targeted at ensuring employees have the critical skills needed to satisfy customer demand and/or achieve organizational goals. Other frameworks tackle longer-range career progression challenges such as how employees cannot only serve organizational goals by growing their skills, but also how they can enrich their lives through developing their careers along a particular path or even by changing paths over time. Others view the career framework as an enabler for succession planning. The possibilities seem to be endless—and they are defined differently from organization to organization.
In this chapter, an overview of IBM's new career framework is presented, which when fully implemented, will be the backbone for how employees progress in their careers. It is also a major component of IBM's expertise management system. The framework will be supported by a structured career development process that all employees currently utilize. Subsequent chapters describe IBM's current career development process in depth and show how it provides the appropriate guidance for employees to grow the expertise needed to perform their current and future job roles. In addition, throughout the book, we highlight where applicable, ongoing changes to the current career development process based on a need for continuous improvement.
The definition of a career
Various dictionaries provide numerous definitions for the noun "career," however, "pursuing one's life work" is a common thread. According to Dictionary.com,(12) a career takes on various meanings as a noun:
"an occupation or profession, esp. one requiring special training, followed as one's lifework: He sought a career as a lawyer."
Or "a person's progress or general course of action through life or through a phase of life, as in some profession or undertaking: His career as a soldier ended with the armistice."
Or, how about: "success in a profession, occupation, etc." Merriam-Webster.com (13) offers similar definitions, such as: "a field for or pursuit of a consecutive progressive achievement especially in public, professional, or business life ("Washington's career as a soldier"). Or, "a profession for which one trains and which is undertaken as a permanent calling."
At IBM, these traditional views of a career are changing. As the technology industry continues to expand at a rapid pace and clients' IT environments become increasingly complex, today's employees need to be more multifaceted, with a varied and versatile set of skills developed over time. No longer can a career be looked at as something that is undertaken as a "permanent calling."
In today's business arena, technical aptitude alone may not always be sufficient. There is a requirement for people to widen their portfolios of job roles, skills, and experiences to be applied and recombined in numerous ways to fuel innovative business value.
The career framework at IBM is an integral part of IBM's expertise management system and provides the structure for how employees develop expertise over time; it also provides guidance for employees' career progression. Furthermore, a structured career development process provides the various processes, tools, and career resources employees need to grow within the framework. The process also helps ensure employees are growing the right skills as business strategies and needs change over time.
Capabilities are core skills that can be leveraged across the business. They are based on a multitude of experiences that IBM must deliver to enable client success. Capabilities focus on what's needed to perform effectively, and they rely on a combination of applied knowledge, skills, abilities, and on-the-job experiences. Typically, multiple skills are required to demonstrate a level of proficiency in a particular capability.
The level of achievement individuals attain in a particular capability is a composite of their education, skills, knowledge, and experience. To develop a capability, IBM employees must perform designated activities and achieve successful and consistent results that fulfill specified requirements as outlined in the capability level (17). The development of capabilities provides an avenue for advancement in one's career by helping employees focus on the skills and experiences needed to advance within or move to other job roles in the company.
The career framework and supporting career development process provides guidance to employees on the variety of ways by which they can grow their careers in a linear or non-linear fashion (i.e. developing across many careers, resulting in development of multiple capabilities to varying levels). Generally, employees develop their careers at the job family level with, for example, careers in human resources or finance. As the career framework is deployed, employees also will be able to follow broader careers whereby they leverage previously learned skills and apply them to new, but related job roles.
For instance, a consultant is an expert in consulting methodology, but, because the consultant has to manage a consulting engagement, he also develops some level of project management skills. Over time, the consultant may desire a career change to become a project manager. He continues to grow his skills to eventually qualify for a new position as a project manager. The employee builds not only depth in a particular capability, but also breadth by growing capabilities in other complementary areas that enhance the individual's ability to deliver client value. The process facilitates educated career advancement and encourages employees to progress in broader ways (18).
Developing a varied set of capabilities is critical in IBM's changing definition of "career," where versatility in what one knows is becoming increasingly important to satisfying client demands. The primary objective is to help employees understand the core capabilities that IBM needs to deliver and what specifically employees need to do to make its clients successful. By establishing a common set of global capabilities with career milestones, the capabilities establish a common language that can facilitate career development and movement across the business (19).
12 Career. Dictionary.com.
13 Career. Merriam-webster.com.
17 Career Framework Team. Career Model Guide Playbook Chapter. March 24, 2008. p. 2–4.
18 Career Framework Team. Career Model Guide. December 31, 2007: p. 48.
19 Career Framework Team, March 24, 2008, op. cit. p. 2–4.
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