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Mass Career Customization: Aligning The Workplace With Today's Nontraditional Workforce
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So, faced with a shrinking talent pool and the overwhelming economic advantage in keeping excellent people, rather than hiring and training replacements, what is an organization to do? According to Mass Career Customization, is to allow employees to customize their careers the same way they customize computers that are purchased from Dell. Giving employees the option to "dial up" for more intensity, increased learning experiences, more extensive travel when they are younger, or when their kids are older, or when their spouse is on a break and allowing them to "dial down" for a slower career advancement, reduced salary, and restricted opportunities when raising small children or caring for aging parents. By providing this option, in a way that is fair and companywide (which is the problem with well meaning flexible work arrangements - which are usually "one-offs") organizations allow people to customize their career and remain with the company as their life circumstances change.
I have seen the value of this in my own life, as my wife is now on the "intense track" (I think the dial broke off in her hand when she pushed it past 10 :) ), and my job is flexible and allows me to handle the child care (and read lots of business books). I think that this is an outstanding tool for companies to use in recruiting and retention - and, as the authors point out, it has tremendous "option value". That is, most of the employees (90-95%) will choose the "normal" path, but simply knowing that other options exist for them makes the company a very attractive employer.
Obviously, changing the corporate HR system to incorporate this in a "fair" way is where the challenge gets difficult. What I admire most is that the authors are working for a company (Deloitte) that is implementing this program - so the theory has been tested (at least a little) before being written about.
Of course, no book is perfect and I think this book shows an evolution in thought as the writing progressed - becoming a little more refined in thought towards the end. As a specific example, I think the early focus on the difference between a "corporate ladder" (up or out) and a "corporate lattice" (multiple paths) is not as valuable as the core aspects of customization (mid book) or the "option value" which is only touched upon at the end. Also, I would have simplified the model as I believe most of the factors that are measured (Pace, Workload, Location/Schedule, Role) are actually correlated. But those are quibbles - the demographic research is compelling, the conclusion is solid, and the problem addressed is excruciatingly relevant for employees and employers alike.
The authors demonstrate that flexible work arrangements, such as permitting young mothers to "ramp up" after a maternity leave, are an incomplete substitute for a more comprehensive process that meets the interests of employees to modify and adjust workloads, where that work is performed and the opportunity to customize their careers to closely match their long-term objectives. Only a career-long methodology will address the overriding interests of the organization to hire and keep their best talent while providing enough flexibility, not just in dealing with maternity leave, but over a several decade career path.
The book is particularly helpful because it provides the reader with a framework for implementing MCC and case studies showing how well-respected firms have successfully customized MCC to recruit and retain their highly regarded employees while broadening their leadership pool.