Jolt’s Experiment to Shape Employees’ Careers Using ‘Chapterships’

Jolt’s Experiment to Shape Employees’ Careers Using ‘Chapterships’

Jolt, an Israeli professional-development startup with offices in Tel Aviv, New York, and San Francisco, has been experimenting since last year with an innovative employment model meant to give employees a boost in their career development. Instead of open-ended employment contracts, Jolt began offering two-year “chapterships,” after which employees could move on to another organization or find a new role at Jolt.

The idea behind the chaptership is for the two-year stint to be one “chapter” in an employee’s career that prepares them for the next one, based on the understanding that millennials in particular are looking to cultivate themselves through a broad range of experiences early in their careers. With that in mind, rather than attract employees with perks, Jolt invests heavily in training so that employees can learn the skills they for whatever comes next. In a recent interview with Business Insider’s Matt Weinberger, Jolt CEO Roei Deutsch discussed how the experiment has gone thus far and the lessons the company has learned from it:

It turns out that millennial workers often don’t know where they want to end up, career-wise. “People have no idea what they want to do next,” Deutsch told Business Insider in a recent interview. “Therefore, it’s hard for them to prepare for it.” Jolt hasn’t given up on chapterships. But that realization has prompted the company to modify the program to help employees figure out what they want out of life. …

Originally, Jolt’s managers were responsible for making sure that the workers who reported to them were sticking to their career development plans. But the company came to believe that arrangement was unsustainable. The company was essentially asking managers to prepare employees to leave the company for their next jobs at the same time it was requiring them to get the employees to do their current work. …

And so Jolt has started experimenting with bringing in outside career coaches. Every two weeks, each employee meets with a career coach in a confidential session subsidized by the company. Jolt also is giving employees more time to figure out their career goals. They now have a year after being hired to put together their personal development plans, up from just three weeks initially.

Jolt’s “chaptership” is similar to LinkedIn’s “tour of duty” program, which CEB, now Gartner, profiled in 2015. LinkedIn employees’ tours of duty last for three years and, like at Jolt, are focused on helping the employee with career advancement within a defined timeframe. The way LinkedIn seems to have avoided the problems Jolt’s managers faced was by having a clearer definition of how career development fit into the role. Jolt managers didn’t know how to balance developing their workers with regular work; at LinkedIn, the development of marketable skills is built into the long-term project the employee is engaged in during their tour. (CEB Corporate Leadership Council members can check out our case profile of LinkedIn here.)

Even though Jolt has made some missteps with its chaptership program, it has learned something valuable from them, Deutsch tells Weinberger, and has used them to improve not only the program itself but also the career development product the company sells to customers.