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6 Truths About Career Conversations with Employees

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Think of when you met someone for the first time. One of the first questions they likely had for you was, “What do you do for a living?” For many, our careers bring us a sense of purpose and identity. This was shown in a survey by McKinsey that found that 70% of professionals agreed their sense of purpose was defined by their career and work.

However, for a crucial topic to so many employees, one survey uncovered that only 9% of direct leaders are having career conversations with their employees. There are many misconceptions about having a career discussion with employees. We want to clear them up with the 6 truths about career conversations anyone leading a team should know.

 

You Need to Initiate the Career Conversation

Your employees want to have career conversations. They want to know you are invested in them and their career aspirations. That’s why one of the top Google searches on the topic is “How to have a career conversation with my manager?”

However, they’re afraid to bring it up as they fear it signals they’re unhappy or planning to leave the company. That’s why managers must initiate the discussion. It cannot be left up to chance that if any employee cared about their career they’d bring it up. They care about their career, they’re just afraid, and you show you care too by starting the conversation.

 

Is the way you communicate helping or hindering your effectiveness as a  leader? Find out in this guide.

 

Your Employees Won’t Suddenly Leave Because You Talked Career Development

One big misconception managers have about career development discussion is that if there are no open positions or the organization is experiencing uncertainty, it is pointless to bring it up, as it may encourage their employees to look elsewhere.

This is a huge mistake. Employees expect their managers to take an interest in them and their careers. As Gallup puts it in their article, 3 Reasons Why Performance Development Wins in the Workplace, “Employees used to expect to work for a boss. Now, they're looking for a coach. Because they don't just want to be satisfied with their role or their job. Your employees want personal and professional development, immediately and for the future.”

You Will Face Consequences if You Avoid Career Discussions

When you avoid career conversations with your employees, it signals there is limited opportunity for progression or development at their company, which can result in turnover. Gallup found the number one answer for the voluntary job-related reason for changing jobs was leaving for career advancement at 32%, which ranked above pay at 22%.

In the same study, they uncovered that the employee's direct manager can influence at least 75% of the reasons for voluntary turnover. Being proactive and initiating conversations on career development can be the difference between retaining and growing an employee and watching them walk out the door.

 

You Should Have Career Exploration Conversations Frequently

Leaving a career exploration conversation for an annual review isn’t good enough. Talking about career development and where your employee wants to go should take place during your one-on-one meetings. We suggest during a thirty-minute meeting, the last 10 minutes is dedicated to “readiness,” which is time to discuss their career and development opportunities.

There are real benefits to having frequent career conversations. It was found that 82% of employees who have career conversations with their manager more than once a month said they’re highly engaged compared to 53% of those who only talk about their career once a year or less. Try adding a career conversation at least once a month to your one-on-one meetings with employees.

 

You Will Need to be Vulnerable and Authentic About Your Own Career

A career conversation is an opportunity to share your experiences, stumbles, roadblocks, and struggles to get where you are today. It’s important for your employees to understand that career advancement isn’t linear, and they will encounter setbacks and need to put in the work. It will help them understand that a promotion doesn’t just happen or happen overnight so that they can set realistic expectations.

 

You Need to Create Professional Goals and a Development Plan with Your Employees

It’s no surprise that employees are more likely to stay at organizations that invest in them and help them achieve their professional goals. Co-creating goals and a development plan for achieving them signal you and the organization are focused on their career development.

We’ve created a few tools you may find helpful to develop these plans with your employees.

When you’ve completed goal setting and the development plan, source out learning opportunities that will help get them to where they want to go. Typically, this would include attending programs that build their communication skills, business acumen, and leadership capabilities, as these are common development areas. In addition to attending programs, working with a professional coach will help them stay on track and achieve their career goals.

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