Sweeping changes in the way we work, live, and build careers are
not just on the horizon - - they are here to stay. Rather than
climbing the "one-size-fits-all" corporate ladder, today's
knowledge workers are continually tailoring their careers by moving
in and out of organizations and up and down hierarchies, albeit
often without support or structure from their employers.
While all this movement can be interpreted as a lack of loyalty, we
believe its underpinnings are rooted in a set of converging
workforce trends that are redefining today's workforce, one that is
diverse in background, personal circumstances, expectations, and
- Shrinking pool of skilled labor. This is resulting
in a 6 million person gap between supply and demand of knowledge
workers by 2012.
- Changing family structures. Only 17 percent of
households have only one spouse in the workforce, down from
two-thirds in past generations.
- Increasing number of educated women. Nearly 60
percent of bachelor's and master's degrees are awarded to women.
- Changing expectations of men. Eighty-four percent
of male executives would like to realize professional aspirations
and have more personal time.
- Evolving expectations of generations X and Y. Baby
boomers are twice as likely as Gen X and Gen Y to be work-centric.
- Increasing impact of technology. With 76 percent
of U.S. households with broadband, communications are ubiquitous.
Each of these trends is powerful in its own right. But they are
converging, and that convergence is pushing a fundamental paradigm
shift that is replacing the outdated, corporate ladder model of
career progression with a new model: the corporate lattice.
In mathematics, a lattice allows one to move in many directions, is
not limited to upward or downward progress, and can combe repeated
infinitely at any scale. In the real world, lattices are living
platforms for growth, with upward momentum visible along many
Building a corporate lattice organization requires a new mental
model of career progression and a supporting framework, approach,
and set of processes that identify, develop, and advance talent in
ways that go well beyond the one-off marginal systems of flexible
work arrangements. We've created a framework called mass career
customization (MCC) that reflects the reality of today's workforce
and provides a structured approach for organizations and their
people to identify options, make choices, and agree on trade-offs
to ensure that value is created for both the business and for the
Mass Customization is All Around
We are increasingly familiar with products in our daily lives -
from ring tones to stamps to credit card billing cycles to M&Ms
- that enable us to customize various features to our tastes and
wants. According to the Production Planning & Control article
"Does Mass Customization Pay? An Economic Approach to Evaluate
Customer Integration," replacing one-size-fits-all products with an
array of customized product offerings, mass product customization
has resulted in lower costs, higher profit margins, and
strengthened brand loyalty.
These benefits are readily transferable to MCC. If you can
customize your candy, music, sneakers, and coffee, why not your
career? MCC does this by supporting multiple career paths, each
designed and executed through continuous collaboration between
employer and employee. MCC delivers competitive advantage through
increased productivity through greater satisfaction and career-life
fit, decreased acquisition and retention costs, and increased
loyalty from greater connection with employees.
Core Characteristics of MCC
MCC is centered on the view that increasingly the career journey of many employees in knowledge-driven organizations will look like a sine wave of sorts with climbing and falling phases. MCC addresses this reality by replacing the norm of continuous full-time employment up the ladder with a set of variable paths.
MCC defines a set of options along four career dimensions - pace,
workload, location orschedule, and role - and provides a structure
to articulate and manage these options as commonplace events rather
than as on-off accommodations. In collaboration with their
managers, employees customize their careers by periodically
selecting options along each dimension based on their career
objectives and current life circumstances within the context of the
needs of the business.
Option Value is Greater Than Options Taken
Although MCC provides options for multiple career paths, it does not open the door to an infinite number of profiles. On the contrary, at any time a majority of employees will have profiles. The profiles are common in that they look the same as many others; however, they are tailored because each represents an individual's choices at any particular time. Deloitte has rolled out MCC to approximately 7,500 individuals, with plans to roll it out to the entire organization over the next year: More than 90 percent have selected a common profile.
However, studies show that employees who believe they have greater
control over career options and enjoy organizational support for
their decisions are happier, more loyal, and more productive. So,
even if they don't currently need options, employees receive a
psychic benefit from knowing that real options and an
organizational process for managing them are available should they
need to deviate from standard,
full-time employment some time in the future.
There is a cultural value that MCC delivers as well by requiring
well-framed conversations between employee and employer regarding
career choices. The transparency
and shared responsibility for career planning that result from
these structured conversations are integral features of a lattice
Not an Island
The MCC dimensions and their interplay are core parts of the MCC
framework, but the framework is not static - nor is it meant to
operate in isolation. Rather, the framework is meant to function
within an organization's overarching talent management systems and
processes, including roles and responsibilities; scheduling and
deployment; goal setting; career planning; professional training
and development; succession planning; performance evaluation; and
compensation and benefits.
Organizational adoption and mutual reinforcement are several
primary reasons for embedding or in other ways connecting the MCC
framework to your existing talent management systems and cycles.
Additional reasons are to:
- provide immediate scale capability
- bring career planning to the forefront, making it an
intentional rather than a haphazard discussion
- facilitate tracking of MCC's impact on talent management
- provide managers and employees with guardrails that define
option boundaries and shared business objectives
- create a lexicon for one-on-one conversations between manager
and employee, and for informal discussions within teams and
departments, and across the organization
- encourage greater transparency regarding career decisions
across teams and between the employer and employee.
We recognize that adding the MCC framework to talent management
processes is not a simple matter, but our experience is that doing
so is mutually reinforcing; makes for more robust discussions; and
ultimately improves the efficacy of these processes.
Benefits of MCC
For employees, MCC provides options and a process for making choices among these options at points in time and over time. Employees derive a psychic benefit from having greater control over setting priorities and managing their careers, and as a result, are more satisfied, productive, and loyal. Because MCC is applicable to everyone, customized career paths become the "new normal" for career progression within lattice organizations.
For employers, MCC is a tool for attracting and retaining valued
employees. MCC promotes transparency and over time can transform
the relationship between employer and employee, allowing companies
to more accurately forecast their human capital resources, reduce
costs, improve succession planning, and more efficiently target
Given these business benefits, Deloitte LLP has been on a journey
to adopt MCC since 2005, by first piloting the concept over a
two-year period and then rolling out MCC to 20 percent of its U.S.
workforce in 2007, with plans to roll out MCC to the remainder of
the U.S. workforce in 2008. Participants have reported an increase
in satisfaction and productivity, stating that the MCC framework
helped them better manage work, career, and personal life.
There also has been a substantial improvement in the quality of
career conversations. "The counseling sessions I have held using
the MCC framework were clearly more productive. My counselees came
prepared to talk about how their profiles look today and what their
profiles might look like in the future. They appreciated the
transparency," says Mike Pacetti, a partner with Deloitte and
Touche LLP. "My counselees talked openly about career-life fit.
There was a real acknowledgment of the need to be able to customize
In addition, MCC has had a positive impact on intent-to-stay
scores, indicating that loyalty is growing. It is clear that there
is psychic value in knowing a model exists that can be tailored to
evolving life circumstances - regardless of whether these options
are ever exercised.
There was a significant concern that moving to an MCC model would
open the floodgates for decelerating careers. Interestingly,
however, across the pilots and throughout the subsequent roll-out
phase, a majority of employees initially elected not to change the
level of their career progression - either through dialing up or
down - their level of engagement with the organization. Their MCC
profiles are a visual representation of their current levels of
overall company contributions. Also of note is in those relatively
few cases where individuals wanted to adjust their level of
contribution, the interest in accelerating careers outpaced
interest in decelerating by at least two to one.
Even with these initial positive results, implementing MCC has had
its challenges. One challenge has been integrating MCC into
existing talent management processes and systems. Articulating the
impact of different choices available under the MCC framework on
compensation, goal setting, and performance reviews and ratings
required some attention. At the same time, managers needed to take
action to integrate new information about their employees' plans
and desires into how their teams are structured and work is
delivered. There was also variability in their willingness and
ability to do so just as there is variability in managers'
Adoption of mass career customization as the framework to enable
the corporate lattice organization to take root is, in many
respects, acknowledgement that the organization is at an inflection
point relative to how it views and manages its talent. Leading your
organization to adopt MCC - in spirit or in form - will require a
solid understanding of and buy-in to the urgency of the realities
of the talent market, as well as articulated business benefits of
embracing the lattice paradigm.
Many companies have learned that personalizing the customer
experience is good for business. Mass product customization
exploits new communications and manufacturing technologies to
increase profit margins and customer satisfaction, build loyalty,
and strengthen long-term brand affinity. MCC provides a similar set
of benefits. MCC inspires increased employee productivity, reduces
the cost of turnover, generates greater loyalty, and enables the
organization's most valuable assets - its people - to accomplish
the organization's most important work and purpose.