Clients / Case study

Digital career thinking in Cancer Research UK

How do you drive a culture of personal career ownership?

Digital career thinking in Cancer Research UK

The brief

Cancer Research UK (CRUK) is a large charity offering a wide range of fulfilling job roles, but was finding it challenging to encourage employees to build sustained careers within the organisation: they came to us for some fresh thinking and inspiration.

CRUK wanted us to help them forge new ideas to engage staff more directly in their own career development. They wanted to break down silos, making employees more aware that they could build a sustained career within CRUK and had the flexibility to move between functions.

The challenges

The practical challenge was that within the organisation, a wide range of job roles existed -from research scientists to marketers, fundraisers to administrative staff - so the profile of the workers was very mixed. Length of service varied: many middle managers had been in post for years, whilst at a junior level they were attracting talented interns who tended to stay only two or three years. They also faced internal limitations around budget and roles. It was clear that work was fairly siloed with no common understanding of how to move across the different divisions.

The solutions

Sandra Evans, our Managing Director, explains: "We helped to develop their thinking and approach so that the focus moved away from job roles and levels, and more towards an open and lateral dialogue around their career journey. We gathered and shared inspiring career stories, and from this starting point, the Career Development Zone was conceived. We enabled CRUK to really get to grips with the idea of a career website and explore some key questions: What was the purpose of the site? How could they share career stories successfully? What tools could they use on the portal given their limited budget and technology options?”

Sarah Burgess, our lead practitioner skilled in combining the latest technology with fresh careers thinking, encouraged CRUK to focus on certain key areas: the purpose and content of the web portal, and what they wanted to achieve in terms of uptake and ongoing usage beyond the launch.

At the same time, sessions in career conversations in action encouraged managers and individuals to take ownership of their careers, as well as how to use the website and some of the valuable tools and information on there.

The results

Sandra reports that “The site, after initial launch, has continued to develop into the go-to place for fresh career thinking and support. The most popular area remains the career stories, with a range of different CRUK employees telling fresh stories and bringing them to life. Feedback remains outstanding, and indeed CRUK have been sharing their website more widely with other charitable organisations and large corporates, as they feel very proud of the Career Development Zone and the impact it’s had on their employees.”

Sandra Evans

Sandra Evans

As our careers specialist, Sandra worked together with two of our practitioners, Kerrith Harris and Sarah Burgess, on this project. "This was a great opportunity to help move career thinking forward and encourage more personal ownership of careers. Together with Cancer UK we developed a low cost web based 'Career Development Zone' which, for the first time, gave all employees the tools and techniques required to manage their own careers and to have more purposeful conversations with their line managers and mentors. A fantastic innovative project making an immediate difference.

Sarah Burgess

Sarah Burgess

Sarah comments: “In our experience, many organisations focus primarily on the launch, but it’s the continuing usage of the website that will make the long-term difference. Developing a sustainable and accessible platform was a vital part of our thinking as we helped CRUK to build the website, and we provided ongoing support throughout the build and launch, which has had a fantastic uptake and ongoing use.”

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