Practices May Not Make Perfect, But Good Ones Improve Lives

July 9, 2014Let’s talk about career development and talent management.

Did your eyes just start to glaze over? These are topics that often sound great in theory—who doesn’t want to learn new things and get ahead in her career?—but can become dry and boring depending on how we talk about them.

Leveraging skills development to strengthen the talent pipeline in an increasingly complex globalized business environment?  Sure, I’d love to—if I had any idea what that actually meant.

At heart, career development is about people. For organizations, this means getting the most out of their employees and hanging on to the most promising ones. For employees, it means improving their skills, possibly taking on more responsibility, and feeling proud of their work and valued by their companies (or, at the very least, not dreading every second spent on the job!). For companies that understand this, “impact” doesn’t just mean improving the bottom line. It’s also about making a meaningful difference in the lives of employees and their families.  

Take Catalyst’s 2014 Recognition Practices. The four organizations that received this special recognition—PepsiCo Mexico, IBM Corporation, Nestlé, and National Australia Bank—have implemented programs that help women employees develop in tangible, visible ways at various stages of their careers.

In Mexico, for example, the prevailing cultural norm is that a woman’s role is to marry and care for her children and family. Women’s domestic responsibilities often take precedence over their careers and lead many women in Mexico to leave the workforce. Recognizing this challenge, PepsiCo Mexico began promoting the inclusion of women in all areas of its business. When positions open up and present an opportunity to promote from within, women must fill 50% of candidate slates. In addition, the company has a policy of reviewing all compensation proposals to ensure that women and men are receiving equal compensation.

At IBM, Blue Talent, a global development program for women in mid-level positions, is extremely personalized and empowers participants to manage and take ownership of their career trajectories. Each participant receives an individual development roadmap created in tandem with IBM’s global Workforce Diversity Team. One year after the start of the program, 20% of Blue Talent participants had been promoted.

At Nestlé and many other multinational organizations, international assignments can be vital to career progression. If an employee declines an international assignment because her spouse has no connections, let alone job prospects, in the new location, that employee’s long-term career trajectory may suffer. To help address this, Nestlé founded the International Dual Career Network in 2011. Now a nonprofit association led by a global advisory board, the IDCN links more than 30 major international organizations in the Lake Geneva, Switzerland region and more than 70 worldwide to help facilitate employment for expatriate spouses.

And National Australia Bank (NAB)’s focus on inclusion led to Board Ready, a leadership program designed to educate and prepare women executives and managers to become company directors. Because interest in the program was much stronger than anticipated, over 360 women applied for the first cycle. When Board Ready launched in 2010, women held 14% of seats on NAB’s subsidiary boards—and by September 2013, their representation had increased to 31%.

It’s understandable if phrases like ”organizational practices,” “career development,” and “talent management” send your brain into sleep mode. But a Practice by any other name would be as powerful—or, if badly designed or executed, as pointless and ineffective.

The trick is to identify or pioneer the good ones—those that are well thought-out and tailored to their specific environments—and figure out how to make them work for your organization.

As we’ve learned from the programs above, the results can be truly life-changing.



The views expressed herein are solely those of the guest blogger and do not necessarily reflect those of Catalyst. Catalyst does not endorse any political candidates. The post and the comments are presented only for the purpose of informing the public.