Effective talent management is essential in developing employee potential, leading to optimal work experiences. A comprehensive talent management strategy must focus on enhancing employee wellbeing through career development. Industrial psychologists are well positioned within organisations to effectively address the 21st-century career development challenges employees face. The life-design counselling (LDC) approach of Savickas, as a component of his career construction theory, represents a postmodern approach to career guidance that aims to improve career functionality. This approach can be applied to address the career management needs and challenges employees experience. The career construction theory of Savickas, which incorporates elements from Super and Holland’s career theories and psychotherapeutic theories from Adler and Freud, is well suited for use in the industrial psychology profession. The impact of the rapidly changing world of work on career management in the workplace can be effectively managed by adopting Savickas’ approach.
In the modern global economy, the wellbeing and productivity of employees are not just internal organisational concerns, but integral components of economic prosperity (World Economic Forum 2020). This realisation gained further prominence during the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the disruptive COVID-19 pandemic, which in many ways enhanced digital transformation. This transformation manifested in significant career transitions, increased remote working and waves of unemployment (Cohen 2021; Iacurci 2022; World Economic Forum 2020). These changes inherently brought about heightened anxiety and uncertainty among employees as traditional career paths became less predictable and more fluid (Moralo 2021). A profound impact of this unprecedented period has been the mass resignation phenomenon, where many employees decided to leave their current positions and explore alternative opportunities (Smith 2022). This movement went beyond mere job changes but reached a fundamental shift in the relationship between employees and their work, reflecting a desire for greater autonomy and alignment of personal values with professional pursuits (Cohen 2021).
Creating psychologically safe workplaces that foster employee wellbeing and development highlights the importance of modern talent management strategies that incorporate career development and personal fulfilment (Cooks-Campbell 2022). In this context, the role of career counsellors, particularly those grounded in industrial psychology, becomes crucial. Industrial psychology as a discipline encompasses the study of human behaviour within the work environment. Industrial psychology is a profession that applies psychological principles to foster behavioural changes among individuals in the context of work (Bergh 2021; Landy and Conte 2004). In South Africa, this profession is governed by the Professional Board for Psychology within the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA), which underscores the significance of industrial psychologists’ role in various domains, including career guidance (Department of Health 2011; HPCSA 2019a). The industrial psychology profession encompasses a range of key areas, including career guidance, where employees are equipped to navigate the complexities of their evolving careers (HPCSA 2019a). Career counsellors work to provide guidance and support in managing these challenges, empowering individuals to navigate their career trajectories with emotional intelligence and resilience (Coetzee and Schreuder 2021).
The life-design counselling approach was formulated by Savickas in response to the critical role of career counsellors, the growing nature of self-constructed careers, and the various obstacles that employees encounter today (Savickas, Nota, Rossier, Dauwalder, Duarte, Guichard, Soresi, Van Esbroeck and Van Vianen 2009). Moreover, the LDC approach encompasses a structured process involving six stages (Maree 2015; Savickas et al. 2009). During the first step, the counsellor collaboratively establishes the counselling objectives and the client’s goals, concurrently defining the specific challenge the client is facing. In the second stage, the client is guided to delve into their self-perception and how others perceive them in particular contexts. Subsequently, stage three involves expanding the client’s perspective and reshaping their life narrative through a novel alternative lens. In stage four, the focus is on assisting the client in situating their prevailing obstacles within the framework established in stage three. Stage five emphasises shifts to aid the client in formulating pragmatic action plans that align with their developing self-identity. Finally, stage six encompasses a series of follow-up sessions, ranging from short term to long term, contingent upon the client’s requirements.
The six stages are structured into three career counselling sessions (Savickas 2015). The client is encouraged to recount their career narratives during the first session. These reflections are addressed through Savickas’ career construction interview (Savickas 2015). Five core subjects are utilised to construct the clients’ overarching life themes (Savickas 2015). The five subjects (role models; media sources such as magazines, TikTok channels and YouTube; personal stories; favourite quotes; and early memories) are used to facilitate the construction of life themes. The career counsellor combines life themes to form a comprehensive life portrait of the client (Savickas 2015). This life portrait serves as a foundational platform for the subsequent steps. During the second session, the life portrait is discussed with the client using narrative counselling, where the counsellor and client collaboratively devise actionable strategies for implementing the newly crafted life portrait (Savickas 2015). The final session incorporates a feedback session, appraising the client’s advancements in the execution of the action plans devised during the counselling journey.
Industrial psychologists trained in the LDC approach can help employees examine their lives, make informed career decisions, and clarify their future careers (Do Céu Taveira, Ribeiro, Cardoso and Silva 2017). As employees cope with career decisions amidst digital transformation, remote work shifts and changing skill requirements, industrial psychologists could utilise Savickas’s theory to offer guidance and direction. By incorporating this approach, they aid in developing adaptive career strategies and enable individuals to derive profound meaning from their work (Bergh 2021).
Barnard and Fourie (2007) state that industrial psychologists, as career counsellors, are responsible for equipping themselves with the necessary knowledge and skills. Moreover, Barkhuizen, Jorgensen and Brink (2015) found that industrial psychologists must be explicitly trained in career counselling skills. Industrial psychologists must have suitable counselling techniques and skills in order to facilitate career counselling sessions effectively. Listening and reflecting are prerequisites for effective conversation within a counselling context (Barkhuizen et al. 2015; Barnard and Fourie 2007). Several studies have shown that industrial psychologists lack the self-confidence to act as workplace career counsellors (Du Plessis and Thomas 2021; Graupner 2021). We recommend that industrial psychologists develop self-confidence, especially as career counsellors (HPCSA 2019b), by obtaining training in practical counselling techniques and skills such as the LDC approach. Moreover, the HPCSA (2019b) mentions that industrial psychology practitioners should be well equipped with counselling techniques to facilitate career guidance, performance counselling, and even crisis counselling sessions and psychopathology in the workplace. Therefore, we recommend that career guidance interventions, such as LDC, be included in all tertiary institutions’ training curricula and professional development opportunities.
In conclusion, effective talent management forms the basis of cultivating employee potential and fostering optimal work experiences. This journey must encompass employee wellbeing through thoughtful career development strategies. Industrial psychologists are pivotal in helping employees navigate career uncertainties and derive meaning from their careers. Industrial psychologists could effectively assist employees in constructing their professional narratives in a rapidly transforming world by employing approaches like Savickas’s life-design counselling approach.
Keywords: career adjustment; career construction; career counselling; industrial psychology; life design counselling; talent management; wellbeing