February 20, 2012

The Importance of Career Discussions

If you asked your employees to discuss their careers, what would they say? Would there be snide remarks like “what career” or “somewhere other than here?” Or would there be surprised reactions such as “no one ever asked me before” or “I have never thought about it?” Or would there be grateful comments such as “finally, someone cares” or “thank you for taking the time to discuss?”
Quite often it is the fear of employee reactions that keep managers from initiating a career discussion, especially if their company is not growing or promoting right now. Managers are afraid that if they bring up the word “careers” they are raising expectations for promotion that might not occur. Other managers express concern that if they develop their employees and a promotion is not available, they will just take their increased experience and knowledge to another company.
But here is the reality of the situation. People are thinking about their careers even if it is not discussed openly in the workplace. By not discussing careers due to fear, employees will feel ignored and not valued by the organization. And yes, if employees receive training and development they may leave your organization if a promotion is not available…but they probably would anyway so why not keep them motivated and feeling valued while they are working at your company? And you get a more competent employee during the time they are with your organization. Development is a key factor in retaining your key contributors.
Many people hear the word “career” and they immediately think of promotion, the proverbial “climbing up the ladder of success” concept. But today, managing your career is also about growth and skill development. Sometimes in order to be prepared for a promotion, you need to obtain cross training or a lateral position in another department to gain experience and a broader knowledge or the organization. For some employees, who are happy to remain in their current position, career growth is still possible in the form of job enrichment, increased decision making, or mentoring of new employees.
Here are a few tips for holding career discussions:
  1. Define Career: Talk to your employees about developmental growth and that careers are not just defined as upward mobility but also opportunities for progress. Ask employees if they feel they are ready to move up, would like a lateral move for more experience, or job enrichment in their current role.
  2. Provide a Roadmap: Your job as a manager is to help build a roadmap for where the employee wants to go. A job description of a future job the employee desires can be used to discuss a gap analysis…what does the employee have now and what do they need? Training and development fills the gap but it is up to the employee to follow the map for success.

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