Having Career Conversations with your Employees

Author: Mark Danaher

Having Career Conversations with your Employees

Purpose

A career conversation is an ongoing discussion with your employees to review and reflect on their skills and the steps they need to take to help them grow and succeed and to contribute more fully to your company. This conversation can help employees understand how well they have done and what the future looks like. It can lead to direct growth within the department or may lead to potential promotions within the company. Many leaders who have conducted these dialogues have found an increase in employee retention because the employees are able to see the opportunities for their career advancement.

A recent study conducted by Right Management found that ongoing career conversations can motivate business success. In the study, most of the respondents said they would be more engaged in work if leaders would have regular discussions with them. In addition, many said that they would stay with their current company if these conversations were ongoing. Pretty good results from a simple career conversation.

In the study, only 16% of the respondents said they had regular discussions with their leaders about their career. Think about the opportunity you have to engage and retain top talent within your company by incorporating these talks as a normal practice. Imagine helping your employees discover their career aspirations and helping them achieve those dreams.  Think of the satisfaction you will get watching them grow. As a leader, you are in a position to help your employees become successful in your department and help them become successful beyond their current work.  

In having career conversations, you help develop positive relationships with your employees. As a leader, you need to be a coach who helps mentor and grow your workers to reach their goals. By taking the time to invest in your personnel, you will find their engagement and productivity will increase significantly.

The best way to have these exchanges is to schedule them over a couple of weeks when you can discuss three areas:

  1. Learn about your employee’s life stories
  2. Ask them about their dreams
  3. Develop an action plan

Learn about employee’s life stories

Have them share stories from when they were young to the present time. Stories should be about successes and failures. The stories should include time in school, career, and events outside of work. Everyone learns from the power of stories. As a leader, it is important to listen and understand the life and career events that have shaped them. This will give you insights into what has helped shape this person in and outside of their career experiences.

Ask them about their dreams

Take time to let them share ideas of where they see themselves no matter how far outside their comfort zone.  Ask the employee this question, “Imagine you had a magic wand, and you could wake up tomorrow morning with your life, no barriers and your life was absolutely perfect, tell me what that looks like…” Encourage them to tell you more so they can get as detail as possible. The conversation should focus on their experiences, skills, and career goals to understand what is needed to achieve their dream. 

Help Them Develop a Written Action Plan

This plan should lay out the necessary steps in and outside of their comfort zone to help reach their dreams. It should include goals and steps to achieve them, along with check-ins to see how they are doing along the way. The action plan should be set up for the next 18-24 months. This will help shape their experiences and responsibilities to reach their goals and dreams. While these questions can be a bit uncomfortable for an employee to answer with their leader, it is important as the leader to build trust and credibility with them. 

These three areas can be the focus of your career conversation.  Schedule a discussion with your employees now and watch the productivity of your department and company begin to grow. 

If you are unsure of how to organize a career conversation, reach out to a career coach or other professional to get a better understanding of how these conversations can be structured.  You will be glad you took a chance to invest in a conversation that will keep you and your employees fulfilled and productive.