Web ExclusiveDespite the high value that employees and employers place on career advancement opportunities, many organizations say their career management program efforts are falling short, according to a new survey from global professional services company Towers Watson (NYSE, NASDAQ: TW). The survey cites several factors for career management programs missing the mark, including poorly designed career paths, ill-equipped managers and ineffective use of technology.

The Towers Watson Talent Management and Rewards Surveyfound that only about a third (37%) of North American (U.S. and Canada) companies say their employees understand how they can influence their careers; just under half (44%) say that employees are actually able to achieve career advancement given the structure and tools currently in place.

These findings are especially noteworthy, as the survey also revealed that employers say career advancement is the second-most cited reason that employees join an organization and lack of career advancement is the most often cited reason they would leave.

Previous Towers Watson research shows that employees also report career advancement as a key reason they join or leave a company.

“With employers becoming increasingly concerned about attracting and retaining top talent, this is an ideal time for them to place a much higher priority on their career management initiatives,” said Laura Sejen, global leader of rewards at Towers Watson. “The fact that so many organizations are falling short in their career management efforts is worrisome given how important development and advancement are to employees and employers, and the high stakes that are tied to effectively managing talent.”

The survey identified several reasons why organizations are missing the mark with their career management programs, including:

  • Career paths are poorly defined.Only one out of three respondents has defined vertical career paths, and fewer (25%) have dual career paths for managers and individual contributors.
  • Companies are not leveraging technology effectively.Even though two-thirds (67%) of organizations are already using technology to provide access to learning and development programs, less than half (44%) make effective use of this technology.
  • Managers are ill-equipped to handle key aspects of career management.Only one in four respondents say managers are effective at providing career management support to employees.
  • Relatively few organizations even know if programs are working.Less than four in 10 (38%) monitor the implementation of career management programs to ensure they are consistent with their objectives and guidelines.

“Career management initiatives should be a key component of any organization’s total rewards programs, and companies can take steps to improve their overall effectiveness,” said Keith Caver, North America leader, talent management and organizational alignment at Towers Watson. “First, organizations should ensure that career maps and paths not only reflect HR and business strategies, but also provide a framework for communicating with employees. Second, managers should be trained to identify and communicate career opportunities tailored to each employee’s skills and experience. Finally, organizations can use technology to improve career management tools and resources.”

About the Survey

The 2013 Towers Watson Talent Management and Rewards Pulse Survey was conducted in August 2013. A total of 160 organizations, including 124 from the U.S. and 36 from Canada, participated in the survey.

About Towers Watson

Towers Watson (NYSE, NASDAQ: TW) is a leading global professional services company that helps organizations improve performance through effective people, risk and financial management. The company offers solutions in the areas of benefits, talent management, rewards, and risk and capital management. Towers Watson has 14,000 associates around the world and is located on the web at towerswatson.com.