It’s difficult at the best of times to manage one’s career but in the current constrained and uncertain business environment it’s particularly challenging. The rapid pace of change in technology and the volatile labour market mean that workers need to be self-directed in managing their career journey.
We all need to be responsible for our own careers but all parties benefit when managers commit to effective careers conversations with their staff. The ability to retain and manage talent is a huge advantage, and, in this respect, employee engagement is key to business success. The organisation which doesn’t offer career development to employees will lose them as soon as they can secure another role.
The worst case scenario is that they’ll stay but without displaying the commitment, energy and enthusiasm that the organisation needs. Undertaking meaningful career conversations allows the organisation to offer opportunities for development; keeping employees focused on forward momentum.
Most people leave a job because they don’t feel they have the development opportunities to progress in their career. The organisation grows and develops, you’d think there was something wrong if it didn’t, and the same goes for their staff; in the current climate you’re asking them to do more with less so it’s smart to secure their engagement level.
Managers don’t talk often enough to their staff about career aspirations and development plans, it’s a shame because successful career planning requires employer and employee to have mature conversations about ambitions, aspirations, potential, opportunities and growth.
Talented employees always have alternative options so in order to bypass a talent drain it’s a good idea to discuss career management with them. This involves making time for full and frank discussion and exploration around potential, aspirations and scope for development opportunities.
The key is in asking staff what they want from their career and it may well reveal some surprises. This isn’t a box-ticking, year-end appraisal type exercise, 10Eighty recommend setting up career conversations about what really matters to employees, and that you act on what you learn. One of the best things you can do in terms of employee engagement is to discuss career aspirations and opportunities for performance improvement in order to establish the possibilities in terms of guidance and opportunities that will benefit all parties.
As job requirements change helping employees to identify their strengths and outlining goals, assists them to think creatively about their role and to network effectively within and beyond the organisation. The aim then is to align employee motivation and aspiration with organisational needs in terms of workforce agility, adaptability in response to a complex and evolving marketplace.
Motivation and aspiration
In general terms the career ladder has been replaced with what might be termed a career lattice, and employees are seeking to develop new skills and to build their experience so they can take advantage of new ways of working. The nature of work is much more fluid and flexible than used to be the case and many people want lateral moves or more flexibility, they want outlets for creativity and meaningful work is a priority for many.
To facilitate their career aspirations talented people need good feedback, encouragement and relevant development. Regular and meaningful career conversations should ensure that employees engage with their work, collaborate more effectively and seek career growth and longevity within the organisation.
It’s important that employees feel comfortable about their career conversation, as they may be unsure about voicing their aspirations and how the organisation might help. Those employees who don’t know what they want can explore options with their manager, and those who are clear about where they want to be will want to focus more on actions are required to achieve their goals.
Many managers discount the idea of career conversations, for many of the same reasons they dislike appraisals – lack of training and a fear of talking about career progression with employees in case it raises expectations they can’t fulfil. Career conversation training is invaluable for all those who manage staff at any level.
It’s important to focus not only on the role, but on the skills, knowledge, competencies, behaviours and attitudes the employee needs in order to be effective and productive. The key to success lies in ensuring that the discussion is documented and that employees are clear as to the next steps and potential development opportunities:
- Manage expectations – the alignment between organisational need and employee capabilities is vital
- Offer clear feedback about the required skills, experience and capabilities to be developed
- Compile an action plan with SMART goals and milestones for development