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Success Story

Reimagined career experience enhances employee longevity and culture at ManTech

Employee Engagement |Talent|Total Rewards
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October 7, 2021

A case study: ManTech seized the opportunity to improve talent attraction and retention by redefining career progression in a way that would enable employees to chart their own career journeys.

ManTech is a federal government contractor specializing in mission-focused technology solutions and services for defense, intelligence and federal civilian agencies. As an established business with more than 52 years of experience and approximately $2.2 billion in revenue for 2020, ManTech excels in full-spectrum cyber, data collection and analytics, enterprise IT, systems and software engineering solutions that support national and homeland security.


The Challenge


ManTech prides itself in its core values of trust, inclusion and quality, a commitment it demonstrates externally as well as through its employees and company culture.

Julie Anna Barker, Chief Human Resources Officer at ManTech, advised, “Recruiting, retaining, and developing talent is critical, and ensuring the longevity of our employees is even more so. We’re recruiting employees to join us for a career at ManTech — not just a position.”

In listening to its employees and reviewing internal data, ManTech found it had an opportunity to increase retention and attract talent looking to build a career within the organization, something not often possible for contractors who generally work within the term limits of a contract start and end date.

Recognizing a changed career ecosystem

The organization knew from employee surveys and feedback that career development was a top priority to its employees. ManTech recognized that to meet changing employee career expectations and interests, it needed to evaluate how it defined and approached careers and progression. It examined its evolving workplace needs and employee career interests, including a desire for:

  • Flexible, project-based work.
  • Skills-based lateral and non-linear career progression and evolution.
  • Transferable and adjacent skills, employee capabilities.
  • Workplace flexibility.

In a world where careers must rapidly evolve to address changing workplace realities, ManTech needed to redefine career progression in a way that would enable employees to visualize possibilities and chart their own career journeys.


The approach


Partnering to identify a solution

ManTech partnered with Willis Towers Watson to embrace a progressive approach to career development due to its extensive capabilities, data, and history of proven, creative solutions. As an industry leader in talent and rewards, Willis Towers Watson was able to leverage its expertise and relevant research data to determine how to best meet ManTech’s objectives based on the organization’s culture, as well as employment and industry trends.

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About the solution: Career Enablement

Career Enablement is an integrated, holistic career philosophy that considers each organization and employee’s experience through a unique career ecosystem. It considers a formal and informal infrastructure for work, movement and growth internal and external to the organization to impact overall career experiences. Through framework, the solution develops infrastructure to organize work and jobs through leveling and grouping jobs, knowledge or skills. Through career enablement, it defines career pathing and the methods to activate paths and infrastructure.

“Willis Towers Watson identified it’s Career Enablement solution as a great fit for ManTech’s needs, as it spoke directly to its objectives and business strategy,” noted Danielle Rasey, Talent and Rewards Senior Director of Willis Towers Watson.

ManTech and Willis Towers Watson chartered the career enablement initiative with key objectives, including:

  • Attract and retain high-quality talent
  • Engage employees
  • Develop a culture of mobility and learning
  • Renew a focus on innovation
  • Increase its workforce’s capabilities and diversify its experiences
  • Ready the workforce for the future

Establishing a foundation

Willis Towers Watson first collaborated with ManTech’s leadership and project team to better define the vision. Willis Towers Watson’s team of experts supported ManTech through its initial strategy efforts, which included focus groups and interviews with leaders and employees. From these insights, the team collaboratively developed a foundational career strategy which included four career enablement pillars that unified ManTech’s desired key outcomes and its business strategy.

These pillars serve as a foundational element that help all employees believe in and see career possibilities that will exist, even though, given the nature of contracting, they haven’t yet been specifically defined.

“Developing the pillars helped us to redefine the possible. We wanted to move the needle on what it means when we talk about development. That discussion doesn’t have to be simply learning to do a better job in your current role; it’s about positioning yourself for your next move,” commented Barker.

Redefine progress and development

To put the focus on development and the future, ManTech transitioned away from a traditional performance rating system and introduced an employee check-in process that focused on development. ManTech and Willis Towers Watson chartered the career enablement initiative with key objectives, including increase capabilities and diversify its experiences.

“The employees had a very early adoption to the quarterly check-in process. Rather than looking back, we’re focusing on looking forward,” explained Barker. A ManTech employee shared, “My first career enablement check-in was organic and productive, and a nice pivot from a traditional performance review to a more personal development discussion.”

While performance check-ins would review project statuses, identify recent accomplishments, and define goals, the separate development check-ins would provide a defined forum to focus on individual needs and interests, identify skill gaps and development needs, discuss career goals, and review career enablement objectives to help employees progress their careers at ManTech.

Develop career pathways and competencies

To help employees visualize their career potential at ManTech, the Willis Towers Watson-ManTech team illuminated career pathways. Visualizations of these paths helped employees see potential options in traditional linear movement, as well as through endless other career-journey possibilities that would allow them to leverage their existing skills flexibly.

The solution also included identifying career-enabling competencies specific to each job family. The competencies bring possible career journeys to life by detailing necessary behaviors and skills within and across job families at each career level.

“Bringing clarity to potential journeys and to the competencies which can accelerate mobility enables employees to chart their own career paths and approach development with a future- focused lens,” shared Rasey.


The results


ManTech’s workforce was receptive to the new career enablement mindset and the organization’s efforts started to immediately affect change.

“Employees are responding differently. They appreciate having influence on the competencies and their direction within them. We aren’t simply defining a path: We’re listening to our employees’ feedback and letting it influence the evolution of these new processes. For example, during a check-in, they say they want to learn about a specific topic — and then soon after they see training on those topics. They’re seeing the change happen in real-time,” noted Barker.

Through its cumulative career enablement efforts, ManTech has realized leadership support at the highest levels. Employees’ views of the organization have continued to grow in favorability and have even mentioned Career Enablement in their Glassdoor reviews.

They truly invest in you as an employee and there are no limits to what you can achieve in your career.”

Mantech employee

A Mantech employee said, “They care about your career... and where you want your career to go. They empower you to make those decisions and you touch base with your manager multiple times through the year to coach and guide you to your personal goals. They truly invest in you as an employee and you have no limits, except for yourself, to what you can achieve in your career with ManTech.”

“For so long, we’ve been trying to predict or speculate what employees want from a development perspective. This shift equips employees so they can envision themselves in a position and then share that with us. It opens up the aperture for things they can do inside ManTech — and it’s okay if that doesn’t align with what they’re doing currently. They are able to redefine what they’re doing in their future,” said Barker.

Employees have enjoyed more internal mobility: There has been a 70% increase in the number of employees who have moved internally since before the solution was introduced. This is a great indication of employee retention and that employees are making use of the new pathways and career architecture possibilities.

Key improvements

A continued drive towards long-term success

Adoption rates have continued to grow, as have employee retention and mobility numbers. To continue progress, ManTech began to also consider aspirational mobility — to help employees set and work toward longer-range career goals.

Barker explained, “Aspirational mobility is about understanding where you ultimately want your trajectory to lead you and then breaking that down into small steps to map out what you need to do to get there. It’s about how you deliberately, thoughtfully outline your plan to ensure you get the right opportunities to get to the right places to reach your goal. It doesn’t happen overnight, but our career journeys allow employees to outline a path and make very deliberate, incremental moves to grow their experiences and capabilities, preparing them for what’s ahead.

With this next evolution in mind, Willis Towers Watson assisted ManTech in creating a career architecture that would bring greater clarity to ManTech’s recently deployed career pathways, harmonize and simplify job titles, and align its talent and reward programs. These matrices are visual tools that detail out career tracks and levels, functions and job families, and descriptions to clarify how employees can prepare for each job level.

In addition to its planned rollout of the career architecture, ManTech will continue to be fluid and further refine career development based on data and inputs from its employees.

“We initially set up our improved career development processes to serve employees’ needs and goals, and we’ll continue to do that. Each check-in allows us to assess their needs by listening to each employee one-on-one. We’re also listening at an enterprise level to watch for trends in data and then addressing those wants in ways that allow us to reach the largest amount of employees based on common feedback from individuals. We have an opportunity to be fluid, even in what we discuss during the check-ins, and to develop a learning curriculum. This is all based on what we learn from the employee check-ins.” said Barker.

Keys to success

According to Rasey, one of the most important drivers of success for this work is the ManTech leadership team’s passion and commitment to creating a compelling career experience for ManTech employees.

Barker attributes an additional key to success as having adopted an open mindset, with a deliberate focus on employee listening which enabled the organization to adopt a dynamic “sprint, learn, iterate” approach.

Barker commented, “One of our pillars is around being future focused. We’ll never be stagnant — we’re always looking at how we can evolve. We will continue to listen and we will continue to have an open mindset to fuel evolution of our processes so that we can further support our talented employees and their continued growth.”

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