This article examines the use of Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) in the analysis and improvement of a “messy” HRM problem in Nationwide Building Society (NBS). SSM will be described in outline and related to a case study application of the methodology in the area of career management and career counselling. In the case study, the following represented particular issues of concern: * A formal integrated career management framework did not exist in NBS. * Successive voluntary redundancy programmes had made for a relatively young and newly appointed workforce at junior and middle-management levels. Hitherto, career development had equated to promotion through a 17-grade structure. Hence, prior to the redundancies such promotion could be expected every two to three years. Fairly simple manpower-planning techniques revealed a significant slowing down in the number of future promotions. * Career development at senior executive level relied almost exclusively on attendance at a compulsory assessment centre, which was little more than a stocktaking exercise and was seen as a “maker or breaker” of careers by those who participated in it.
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