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Making PROGRESS at St. John’s University – Establishing a Culture of Internal Career Mobility

career-ladderWhile some people are content to stay in the same job year after year, maybe for their entire career, most people want to advance up the career ladder. If that’s a goal for an employee, but there’s no easy way to do that in his or her current organization, that employee will look for those opportunities elsewhere.

A pulse survey at St. John’s University revealed exactly that — the majority of employees who were leaving the university were doing so largely because of a lack of opportunity for advancement. As a way to remedy that, St. John’s human resources created a program — Professional Growth and Enrichment System (PROGRESS) — designed to identify and cultivate internal talent.

PROGRESS is a modularized program that enables employees to gain new knowledge and skills that can help them advance in the university. In her session “Establish a Culture of Internal Career Mobility in Higher Education” at the CUPA-HR Annual Conference, Joan Vivian of St. John’s human resources provided an overview of PROGRESS and how it has helped increase engagement and retain talented employees.

Module 1 – Getting to Know You
In this hands-on workshop, participants:

  • Learn how to bolster their influence.
  • Complete values, likes and abilities and competency self‐assessments.
  • Get input from peers and share ideas with others.
  • Begin the journey toward professional growth.

Module 2 – Social Styles and Interpersonal Effectiveness
The workshop guides participants to:

  • Understand the SOCIAL STYLE model.
  • Complete a paper‐based self‐perception questionnaire.
  • Increase understanding of style and how others tend to view people with that style.
  • Identify ways to use SOCIAL STYLE in order to be more effective with others.

Module 3 – Creating Your Development Plan
In this workshop, participants create their own personal development plan. The development plan incorporates the individual’s values, likes and abilities; competencies; top five interest areas based on the Strong Interest Inventory assessment (which participants can take at no charge through the university); top 10 identified occupations and personal style preferences; social style; goals for current and desired roles; and action steps to meet development goals (short- and long-term). It also helps the employee anticipate obstacles and solutions, identify strengths and how those strengths will help achieve goals and identify resources and support for achieving those goals.

Module 4 – Preparing for an Internal Move (Resume and Interviewing Tips)
In this experiential workshop, participants learn resume tips and how to incorporate transferrable skills and practice interviewing skills and techniques. Participants also receive an individual counseling session with a member of the human resources team.

Other Internal Career Mobility Resources and Tools
In addition to the PROGRESS program, human resources provides support for internal mobility in myriad other ways, including the creation of a career portal to give priority to internal candidates, providing one-on-one career coaching, and the creation of an online internal career mobility toolkit with links to training and development opportunities and resources. “The best part is, we’ve done all of this at little to no cost,” said Vivian.

In the end, said Vivian, PROGRESS and the other career mobility resources have encouraged employees to take ownership of their own development and have established a structured framework for employees to work toward their future career goals. “As a result of participation in this highly interactive program,” said Vivan, “participants establish intentions for commitment to personal growth; identify their strengths, weaknesses, skills and occupational interests; benefit from one‐on‐one career coaching; discover their work style and ability to adapt behavior to multiple audiences; and begin to visualize a career path.”

And the numbers prove St. John’s efforts are working. Since the program’s inception two years ago:

  • The career portal has been used by 160 unique internal applicants.
  • Last fiscal year, 42 percent of open positions were filled by internal transfers (110 open positions have been filled with internal transfers over the past two fiscal years).
  • HR Services has conducted nearly 90 career coaching sessions.
  • More than 60 Strong Interest Inventory assessments have been administered.
  • More than 70 employees participated in at least one module of the PROGRESS program (with more than 90 percent having rated it very good or excellent).
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  • Ken Pinnock

    My name is Ken Pinnock, Director of People Development at the University of Denver. We just hired a Performance and Career Development Consultant to focus on a very similar area. She is a professional career coach and leadership development expert. The goal of this position is to support staff, and faculty in their career development at the university, but with the full realization that sometimes career growth opportunities lead people to other organizations and we want to be transparent about that. So we are launching services similar to what this blog has described, but I really appreciate you sharing your model, and if we can ever be a sounding board as well as to our experiences please contact us