Why Businesses Fear Career Pivots (and Why They Don’t Have To)

 

Career pivots can be incredibly rewarding, but plenty of business leaders simply hear “attrition” when the concept is mentioned — an arguably unfair association. In fact, in certain scenarios, discouraging a career pivot could actually be a quicker segue to an employee’s exit than supporting the shift from the top down.

Still, if an employee seems to be bringing value to the organization in her current role, it may be difficult to envision how her transition could be anything but negative for the business. It’s a fork in the road with only two (seemingly) feasible outcomes: convince her to keep doing what she is doing, or wish her well in pursuit of her next job.

Of course, if she’s made her mind up to take her career in a different direction, any efforts to convince her otherwise will almost certainly be fruitless (not to mention, unjust). That does not, however, mean that you need to shove her off the ship if you can’t immediately envision how her new path might play out.

Unless she wants to jump into a radically different industry — in which case: be graceful, gather feedback, wish her well — there is an abundance of opportunities for supporting an employees’ interest in a career pivot to the benefit of all involved. Spoiler: it doesn’t end in attrition.

How Career Pivots Can Benefit a Company

The reason career pivots strike such fear in managers’ hearts has a lot to do with our societal resistance to horizontal mobility. Hustle culture implies that if you’re not moving up, you may as well be sinking. But as rising burnout rates illustrate, a straight and narrow climb up the corporate ladder isn’t always befitting of an individuals’ interests and priorities — nor is it always the best narrative of “success” to instill from the top-down.

Point blank: the only definition of success that business leaders (or anyone with supervisory or executive power) should be concerned with is that of the individual, which — perhaps unsurprisingly — is fluid, in tandem with self-discovery and growth.

The tenets of a strong organization — innovation, collaboration, and agility — are all products of individual strength and creativity, neither of which thrive in a constrictive, pre-packaged environment.

If we can collectively move toward embracing the fact that a person’s evolving strengths and interests may be applied fruitfully toward more than just their current vertical (and stop taking it personally and/or dismissing their development when employees express new interests), businesses may begin tapping into the deep well of opportunity that follows meaningful career pivots.

Career Pivots, Collaboration, and Employee Retention

Let’s walk through this. An employee comes to his manager to discuss new goals that no longer align with the work for which he is currently responsible. He discovered a new passion, realized a new strength, and/or simply wants to take on a different scope of work that allows him to honor emerging priorities. Put simply: he wants to pivot his career.

The conversation could end in one of two ways: a resignation letter, or an internal transition. More than likely, it is in both parties’ interests to take the latter route. Pivoting into a new vertical or exploring a fresh angle of your industry is a whole lot easier when you can directly leverage the relationships you’ve established at your current company, especially without starting from scratch to earn support and trust from new colleagues, and/or wading through the tedious logistics of familiarizing new admin.

So, let’s say his manager chooses to celebrate this next chapter. Sure, said manager might be a little remorseful of the loss to her team, but she also recognizes the “bigger picture,” being…

      1. Supporting the development and mobility of talent within the company is the most important part of a manager’s job (whether that means mobilizing up, down, or sideways), and 2. Helping land a familiar face to a different leg of the company builds a solid bridge between their two departments.

Some of the most innovative companies in the world earned their notoriety because they cultivated a space where cross-functional collaboration can flourish. And despite popular belief, achieving this sort of culture does not have to look like ambiguous titles (Chief Play Officer, Collaboration Evangelist, etc…) and mass team bonding events.

In fact, one of the easiest ways to begin fostering deeper connections across verticals is to allow employees the space to pivot and explore — carrying the knowledge they have of the company’s strengths, weaknesses, and potential from one angle to the next.

That said, before it becomes easy, business leaders must establish a company culture that encourages both ICs and managers alike to do the critical and creative work required to mobilize cross-functionally.

To this end, The Forem’s leadership training program promotes goal setting from three angles, dependent on each employee’s interests….

      1. Level Up: for anyone looking to land a promotion in their current vertical;
      2. Crush It: for those happy with their role, and committed to maximizing their impact and opportunities, and;
      3. Pivot: for the career-curious, eager to explore a new passion.

We believe that when companies recognize and invest in all three of these pathways (pivots, most notably, included), employee engagement and talent retention increase.

Employees crave the autonomy to pursue their interests in fresh and evolving ways, and we equip them with the know-how to envision and attain those prospective pathways, leveraging the resources they already have at their disposal within their current company.

Talk to us to learn more about bringing the Level Up program to your organization, and fostering more collaborative, curious, and innovative teams.