In most workplaces, exploring your career aspirations isn’t something you’d associate with the annual review process.
Wonderbly worked with GroHappy to ‘sprinkle some magic’ on the annual review process – by helping their people to explore their career aspirations, set goals and review progress against their goals.
Jess and the Wonderbly leadership recognised the importance of helping people to think more broadly about their career aspirations. They had seen how it helped managers to better motivate, support and, in some cases, help people find new opportunities in the business. They wanted to foster a culture of continuously moving towards career goals and of taking ownership for individual career development.
However, they wanted to add a little spark to the process and move from the current approach – where Jess would send individuals thought-provoking questions via email – to create more of an experience around exploring career aspirations.
GroHappy gave individuals at Wonderbly a structure for exploring their career aspirations and working towards them with a clear review structure and measures for success.
Each person was encouraged to take time out in order to better understand where they were going in their career, and how this aligned with their broader goals, the work that they enjoyed doing and their previous experience.
The session started with each person mapping out their career story so far. From as early as they wanted, to the present day. They then thought about the key moments in their career where they did their best work, when they felt most fulfilled and when they saw the most progress. Looking at those moments, they considered the common themes between them.
Next, people were asked to imagine what the end of the year would look like for them in an ideal world. They were encouraged to consider their work life as well as their social and family life, plus health and fitness goals.
When asked what they’d like to be able to say to people at the end of the year here were some of the responses: “I did the London Marathon” and “I’ve become the go-to for social media advice!”.
These aspirational statements were then turned into tangible (and measurable) actions that individuals could work on over the next three months. They were encouraged to view each goal as a mountain, and run through the steps they’d need to do in order to climb to the summit.
To help people with this, GroHappy offered some practical tips to stay on track with career aspirations throughout a busy work week:
Wonderbly recognise the importance of effective career conversations as part of helping people explore their career aspirations. In understanding their ideal working life better, both team leaders and their team members could work together to identify ways to shape their work and development path to their aspirations.
Reframing the mindset and questions around career development was also an important outcome. Instead of a team member asking their manager what they need to do to get a promotion, GroHappy’s approach encouraged people to consider the wider impact they could have on their career and Wonderbly’s success. The end-question becoming, for example: “How might I grow so that I have greater impact?”
Feedback from the project found that team members at Wonderbly felt better prepared for career conversations and annual appraisal. Many are now considering their long-term career aspirations and viewing their career with a broader lens. There is more structure and clarity over where people are going with their careers and how Wonderbly can help them.
Managers have seen the benefits of Wonderbly’s approach to enabling honest career conversations. Being more informed about a team members’ ambitions has enabled their managers to assign them projects that will build their experience in the right direction and keep them engaged.
Equally, individuals have a better understanding of the importance of having honest conversations about their career aspirations. By prioritising time to reflect on their aspirations and set goals, they took greater ownership for their personal growth and career.
There is increasing evidence that supporting career development is one of the most important ways that companies can retain great people – GroHappy’s work with another organisation indicated that individuals were more likely to stay with their company when they felt supported to get clear on their broader career goals and aspirations.
“Jim and the [GroHappy] team made the process of self-reflection and goal setting engaging, fun and gave it a new, unique personal angle. I’d really encourage businesses to invite the team onsite to explore their great programme.”
– Jess Hayes, Head of People & Talent at Wonderbly
Other feedback from employees at Wonderbly echoed Jess’ remarks:
“I liked being asked to find themes between work and life. It helped me work out how to bring happiness from home to work.”
“It made me think deeper about what I wish to achieve.”
“Asking the right questions allowed me to uncover what I really enjoy doing.
“Some of the outcomes from doing this project were unexpected and really made me consider my future career aspirations. I loved being able to take time out to think about what I want.”
“Having set goals and accountability will surely help a lot of people with getting more structure on their career aspirations and actually working towards it.”
By helping people think about their career aspirations, companies can help support, motivate and ultimately retain them.