The theorization of the relationship between organizational investments in career development and individual success remains underdeveloped, and empirical tests of this relationship, which have been dispersed among several disciplinary areas, have produced inconsistent results. Addressing these issues, the purpose of this article is to propose a theoretical framework that illustrates why and how organizational career management practices translate into career success and under what circumstances the relationship is effective. Using a systematic review of empirical studies on career management practices and objective success, we identify three theoretical mechanisms - developmental, informational, and relational - and two groups of contingency factors that explain this relationship. Our framework advances the extant literature on organizational career management and provides suggestions to companies for designing effective career management systems.
Organizational career management (OCM) refers to the activities companies carry out to sustain their employees' career development (Baruch & Peiperl, 2000), helping them obtain promotions and pay raises, and assisting their transition into leadership positions (Vinkenburg & Weber, 2012). Over the last twenty-five years, the career literature has conceptualized “new” career models (e.g., boundaryless career, protean career) centered on individuals' proactivity (Arthur & Rousseau, 2001; Hall, 1996; Tomlinson, Baird, Berg, & Cooper, 2018) and it has acknowledged that career success has evolved into a concept broader than pay and status alone (Ng, Eby, Sorensen, & Feldman, 2005). Notwithstanding, research and practice have continued to place organizational career management, which aims at feeding the “talent pipeline”, among the most important challenges for organizations' human resources (HR) function (Clarke, 2013; De Vos & Cambré, 2017; Koch, Forgues, & Monties, 2017). Theoretical research on OCM, which dates back to the 1970s (e.g., Bowen & Hall, 1977; Walker, 1978), initially focused on providing companies with guidelines and advice on the design of effective succession plans and later on the definition of OCM practices that either individually (Baruch, 1996, 1999) or as systems (Gunz, 1989; Lepak & Snell, 1999; Sonnenfeld & Peiperl, 1988) can support employees in reaching their career goals. However, with the exception of Rosenbaum's (1984) seminal work, which subsequent career studies have substantially overlooked, no authors have proposed a theoretical explanation of the relationship between organizational investments in career management and career success. The empirical research on career management is fragmented, since studies have been published in a variety of disciplinary areas (e.g., vocational psychology, labor economics, HR management), have tested OCM practices (e.g., mentoring, training, assessment centers) in isolation (e.g., ⁎Dreher & Ash, 1990; ⁎Georgakakis, Dauth, & Ruigrok, 2016; ⁎Jansen & Vinkenburg, 2006) and have achieved ambiguous results (e.g., ⁎Fagenson, 1989; ⁎Whitely & Coetsier, 1993). Thus, no consolidated empirical research has stated the effectiveness of OCM practices either as single practices or as a system of practices (De Vos, Dewettinck, & Buyens, 2008). We contribute to the theoretical and empirical career literature by proposing a theoretical framework that illustrates the relationship between OCM practices and individuals' objective career success (OCS). In developing this framework, we perform a systematic review (Denyer & Tranfield, 2009) of the empirical research that tests the effectiveness of OCM practices on OCS. This review approach is particularly appropriate for our research purpose since it can help us ascertain why and how a relationship between two variables occurs and under what circumstances it is most effective (Denyer & Tranfield, 2009, p. 682). In addition, the systematic review is useful in research on topics such as career development and success, which are characterized by interdisciplinary literature and empirical studies that adopt various definitions, measurements, and participants (Arthur, Hall, & Lawrence, 1989; Gunz & Peiperl, 2007).