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What I learned about the Future of Career Path Planning from Riding with Uber

By Anna Jakovleva, Global Director Organisation & People Development, Adjust

Anna Jakovleva, Global Director Organisation & People Development, Adjust

If you’re familiar with Uber, or any of the many other ride-hailing available on the market, you may have had the opportunity to enjoy a journey that didn't just take you from A to B.

I’ve had several memorable experiences. Once, I used the app to book a ride in San Francisco, fully expecting to enter the car and get on my way. Instead, when I entered the car, I was greeted with a friendly “welcome to the candy shop.” The driver then pulled out a handful of sweets. Another time, getting into a car in Paris, I was treated to an impromptu and unforgettable tour of the city’s attractions. And, finally, in Berlin, a driver shared a few tips about local real estate to help me secure my dream apartment.

But what do all these examples have in common, and how do they relate to career path planning? All these drivers went the extra mile and engaged with me as an individual. It’s qualities like these that also matter when we’re choosing a company or a career path.

"To meet employee demand for training that’s tailored to their needs and personal goals, companies must offer a customized career development plan"

It’s a dynamic I’ve seen first-hand in my own role. At Adjust, a nimble startup that has since grown to be a leading company with 350 employees, we have quickly learned that one-size-fits-all, linear career paths are a thing of the past.

Nowadays, if we screen job ads we recognize creativity as a fundamental requirement for most positions. After all, there would be no progress without creativity. The war for talent and niche positions open completely new opportunities that we never have thought about. With that our scope of possibilities extends. This is great - if it wasn’t so difficult to decide on a direction when career pathing.

To meet employee demand for training that’s tailored to their needs and personal goals, companies must offer a customized career development plan. It’s the remit and responsibility of HR departments to work closely with company management to help design them -- and if they fail to collaborate, they risk losing talent to companies that do.

Customizing career development programs to treat talent as individuals, not cogs in a machine, requires lateral thinking and stellar coaching from HR teams. It starts with getting a firm grasp of what the individual wants to do, and the skills to distill long-term plans into short-term milestones. Just as there is an algorithm that allows drivers and passengers to find the best match and mark their favorites, we need to use (and develop) the most effective tools to help us guide talent on the career path best for them -- and the company.

So, what questions should we ask ourselves to help employees reach their career destination within our companies?

1. Where is my passenger heading?

Before deciding on a route, you need to agree on the destination. Coaching skills are here an absolute necessity. Training People and HR managers can be a worthy investment. If that’s not an option, various coaching platforms offer direct access to personal or online certified and approved coaches around the globe.

By offering the right training opportunities, companies can become both training sites and career navigators.

2. How do I help them reach their destination?

Breaking a bigger career goal down into smaller steps will allow you and your employees to gain a sense of achievement much faster.

More importantly, this helps you both regularly review whether or not this is still the right path. Similar to an Uber ride, a route can change over time - affected by timing, road-blocks or demands from constantly evolving industries and skill sets.  

3. How do I help them reach their destination faster?

As with street navigation, it always helps to know an alternative path. In fact, this can often become a competitive advantage.

This is where data-driven guidance becomes indispensable. This relies on gaining a firm understanding of your own company data, for example recruiting or salary metrics, and its performance against your competitors’.

But there are also many tools that can help with predictive analytics. They can help understand where the density of talent you’re interested in is high, and predict employees’ and applicants’ demands. Matching the future needs of your company with the personal needs of your employees will pay dividends down the line - saving on time and resources, and speeding up the recruitment or training process for these talents.

In my Uber examples, it was the personal treatment and attention to detail that left a lasting impression. We as companies need to upgrade ourselves to become more similar to Uber drivers, and make sure our approach helps to attract and engage employees. We should also accept that employees are like passengers that come and go, and sometimes we re-meet. But as long as they are sitting in our seats, we are responsible for navigating them through their career.

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