Career Anchors | What employees want from jobs

Career Anchors | What employees want from jobs

It took a battery of tests for Chetan Shahdeo to know that he was right about the entrepreneurial streak in him.

The 28-year-old electrical engineer from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, who also has a degree in management, works as a process manager at the data analytics and customized process solutions provider eClerx Services Ltd.

To identify his “career anchor", or what interested him most at work, his employers conducted 10 tests that mapped his leadership, decision-making, analytical and problem solving abilities, customer focus, quality and team work skills. The results were then coupled with feedback from his team, his career history and one-on-one interviews with an independent assessee.

“The findings helped me identify that my dominant anchor is entrepreneurial creativity. It also revealed what I am good at and what I am not," Shahdeo says.

He scored high on leadership skills, decision-making and communication, but had a poor focus on quality. “Perhaps the quality bit explains why?I?didn’t find my 10-month stint at Essar Steel’s Hazira plant very fulfilling," he says. The data also equipped him to decide whether he wants to work on his weak areas or play on his strengths.

Shahdeo’s seniors acted on cue and deputed him to set up one of the smaller processes for the firm’s largest client. After that Shahdeo moved on to sales support function and then to his third role of facilitating the integration process of the newly acquired UK-based supply chain and Web-automation software firm Igentica Ltd. He did all this in the 33 months since he joined the company in March 2005.

Clearly, eClerx’s pilot on career anchors involving Shahdeo and other managers, conducted 18 months ago, was successful both in motivating employees and in improving performance. The feedback prompted the firm to set up an assessment centre. “We now have a dedicated 15-member assessment team to look into career development and management," says Kishore Poduri, head, human resources, eClerx Services.

IT services firm HCL Technologies Ltd recently conducted a pilot on career anchors after identifying the need to have a structured career management process, so that employees may craft career paths to suit their interests and abilities. The official launch is due soon.

And eClerx and HCL are not alone. An increasing number of companies in India, including fast moving consumer goods firms Hindustan Unilever Ltd and Marico Ltd, textile conglomerate Lalbhai Group, HDFC Bank Ltd, Syngenta India Ltd and Wipro Technologies (the IT services business of Wipro Ltd) are mapping their managers’ careers using the concept of career anchors.

As companies in India battle tight manpower supply and rising attrition rates, the need to keep employees motivated has become critical. “Jobs are plenty in the market and the biggest challenge facing HR (human resources) managers is to drive retention," says A. Sudhakar, executive vice-president, HR, Dabur India Ltd.

Retaining the 100-odd management trainees in Dabur is a tougher job than hiring. “Getting people on board is not so difficult with the proposition of a good employment brand. The litmus test is when the candidate joins and looks for what’s in it for him in the organization," Sudhakar says.

This is where identifying career anchors helps HR managers find out what employees want from their jobs. Experts say it takes the guesswork out of the career development process, and helps businesses get more out of fewer people.

“It allows companies to tailor its communication, and get the best out of their employees by choosing most effective ways to recognize and reward," says Ganesh Shermon, head of human capital advisory service at consultant KPMG IndiaPvt. Ltd.

The concept of career anchor was developed by Edgar Schein, a Sloan Fellows professor of management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in the early 1990s. According to Schein, people are primarily motivated by one of eight anchor themes that define how they see themselves and their work (see chart).

The career anchor model typically features four components: source, align, develop and reward. Shermon says employers, along with employees, first need to find sources of career anchors and then align them purposefully. The next step involves developing people to align them with career anchors and reward them for meeting their goals.

“By ensuring that the choices an individual makes are in line with his or her anchor and not with immediate constraints, the chosen job becomes natural to the individual," says D.K. Srivastava, head, HR, HCL Technologies. “This helps achieve a good fit between the individual’s career aspirations and business demands," he adds.

Srivastava says it’s as natural as asking cricketer Wasim Akram to bowl left-arm-fast-medium. “By doing what he is good at and intrinsically likes doing, he (Akram) tends to be a world-class performer," says Srivastava.

While firms such as ICICI Bank Ltd and Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd (M&M) don’t use the career anchor model, they use various tools to map competencies and personality traits to find out what motivates their employees. “We intuitively use the concept through several other surveys and methods," says Rajeev Dubey, president, HR and corporate services, M&M. “Before giving out assignments to our managers, our development centre tries to ensure that the right guy gets the right role."

The trend of applying organizational psychology in understanding and managing employees is fast catching up in India, say experts. “Companies are looking increasingly into personality traits, since good education and experience have become hygiene factors now," says Dhirendra Shantilal, senior vice-president, Asia-Pacific, Kelly Services Inc., a global staffing firm.

But career anchoring is largely limited to senior management levels, barring a few. “In the next couple of years, it will start to go down to middle managerial levels," says Shantilal. Poduri says it’s an expensive and time-consuming process, adding, “However, if your business really depends on human capital, then effective assessment should be seen as an investment." The research that goes into identifying career anchors, creating individual profiles and mapping it to organizational needs including a career plan can cost companies Rs20-25 lakh for 100 management staff.

Career anchoring, consultants predict, will soon percolate down to junior levels and also in hiring. Marico, for instance, uses the model during lateral hiring. “We started using this as an input for the personal development planning process of senior-level employees and then started using it as a tool for reflection while hiring middle to senior level employees," says Ashutosh Telang, head of organization development, Marico.

Telang says using information about a hire’s career anchor helps you understand how the person makes career choices and then craft roles that appeal to the person.

Since competitive advantage depends on competent people, knowing what hooks employees to work could just be the way to have an edge over competitors. “People as well as organizations have aspirations and when the two get aligned, you cater to the individual career anchoring at one level and organizational anchoring at the other," adds Shermon.

THE EIGHT CAREER ANCHORS These themes help identify employee types and their priorities

Technical/functional competence

• The ideal way of rewarding such employees is to give them opportunities to attend conferences and training sessions, so that they can continue to be the best.


• Do not expect these employees to be very communicative. Reward them by giving them freedom and allowing them a free hand in their area of work.

Pure challenge

• What finds favour with them is challenging work and raising the bar for success.


• Appreciation and simple gestures of acknowledging their contribution towards the organization is rewarding for this set of lifers.

Entrepreneurial creativity

• Recognizing them publicly for their ideas or giving them opportunities to be more creative works.

Service/dedication to a cause

• Recognize them by giving an assignment/project that is in sync with the values or cause they identify with.

General managerial competence

• Promotions and salary increases work the best for them. Recognition through exclusive rewards also helps.


• Flexible timings, telecommuting and time off are the best way to reward this group of employees.

These eight career anchor themes had been outlined by organizational culture expert Edgar Schein. The reward/recognition methods have been suggested by KPMG’s Ganesh Shermon, who helps companies put competency models to map career anchors.