While I was in Toronto I met with Lucy Vasic of Knightsbridge. Knightsbridge describe their business as “Human Capital Solutions” which essentially means that they offer companies help in dealing with people. This in turn boils down to
helping to find and choose talent;
helping to develop talent within organisations and through this to develop organisations; and
helping to people to transition out of organisations or out of existing roles.
If you look at these three areas of work it is pretty clear that what Knightsbridge are engaged in is career development. This becomes even more clear as you talk to them about their practice. The kinds of things that private sector HR consultancies do are very similar to the kinds of things that careers workers do in schools or employment centres. We all talk to clients, run workshops, provide labour market information, offer tests, broker contacts, encourage action planning and so on. Obviously the detailed nature of people’s practice varies, but the overall impression that I had was of a single raft of professional practice. However, it is also notable that despite these similarities we do not operate with a single community of practice.
Colleagues in the private sector are recruited from different pools, have different qualifications, go to different conferences, receive different levels of salary and have different career structures. Some of the underpinning theoretical knowledge is the same or similar, but new ideas don’t move around the two worlds very easily.
While this division seems regrettable, it is difficult to see a way past it. It is much easier to call for joined up thinking than it is to actually enact it. Many in the mainstream careers world don’t feel comfortable in the corporate world and have chosen careers in the public sector because they would like to operate in a world which is closer to their own values. On the other hand many in corporate human services look towards a community of practice in HR and organisational development. We can observe that all of this is careers work, but actually forging it into a single profession is difficult.
What I can say from my discussions with Lucy and others in the corporate human services world is that there is some very good quality and innovative practice going on there. The use of group work, technologically based career learning, networking and mentoring, coaching techniques and so on echo or exceed much that you would see in the public sector careers world.
How we respond to this strategically, I’m not sure. I wonder whether a joint national conference for both HR and careers professionals would be worth trying. There is certainly learning to be done on both sides, but perhaps the most important bit of learning is noticing how similar we all are.