In the 1967 film “Cool Hand Luke,” a prison warden known as Captain has a catchphrase that Lucas Jackson (the ever-cool Paul Newman) adopts toward the end of the film:
That idea of failing to communicate — and hold employees accountable — is behind a study released by EdAssist and the University of Phoenix that shows workers feel they are responsible for their own development and networking, but few actually spend time on career planning.
Of the 533 workers who responded to the survey, 77 percent said they take accountability for identifying job opportunities and career paths. Meanwhile, 85 percent said they have to be in control of expanding their own professional network.
But further responses showed these employees only spend an average of 1.5 hours per year on such self-initiated growth. Let’s put this in perspective with some other figures found by the study: on average, respondents spent 946 hours (more than 39 days) on sports and leisure and 22.5 hours planning vacations.
It’s easy to point fingers at employees, that they’re just being lazy, but how many of us really leave the office at 5 p.m. and go straight to our home laptops to research MOOCs or peruse LinkedIn? OK, I do, but that’s part of my job, and I’m a weird Gen Y who checks her LinkedIn profile more often than Facebook.)
The survey’s authors recommend that companies use career advisory services to help employees map out career goals and adopt a more disciplined approach to following them. That sounds like a good idea, but it’s also potentially expensive and not a little time-absorbing.
What if employers tried a simpler approach by motivating their employees through communication? In this case, failure to communicate means a failure to hold workers accountable for their own growth. In school, teachers enforce the importance of studying material, practicing skills and pursuing research outside of the classroom.
They call it “homework.”
At the end of the day, most employees have had enough of thinking about their work, and the idea of “homework” is pretty juvenile, even if it is for your own career. But that doesn’t mean companies shouldn’t encourage self-directed development. In fact, many of them do through tuition reimbursements and by notifying employees what programs are out there — though the report showed only 5 to 7 percent of employees eligible for higher-education tuition reimbursement actually take it.
That’s not to say that using career advisory services isn’t a good idea. But as Captain says in “Cool Hand Luke,” “Some men you just can’t reach.” Still, that doesn’t mean companies shouldn’t try.