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10 Ways to Have Career Development
Conversations with Your Employees

See also: Conversational Skills

They do not always admit it openly, but most employees think about being promoted sooner or later. For some, climbing the corporate ladder means foolproofing their future with financial security. For others, it could mean following their passion and taking their bliss to greater heights.

As a manager, the responsibility to support your people in their career endeavors lies in your hands. Without your proper guidance and supervision, employees may feel the need to seek career advancement in another company, thereby resulting in people leaving your organisation. Because of this, having career conversations has become a crucial part of employer-employee relationships.

Regrettably, career conversations remain undervalued by many managers. For one, they lack the necessary training on how to improve communication skills and get involved with people’s professional lives. This may lead them to hold misconceptions about career development, such as it being linked to financial issues such as salaries and bonuses.

But as we said, career development conversations are important to increase, or at the very least, maintain a company’s employee retention rate. If you find it hard to talk with your people about their career plans, you can follow these steps to let them know that you care:

1. Schedule a meeting

Some people would say that impromptu conversations are the best way to talk about important matters without the pressure. While it may be appealing to do things casually, setting up a meeting with your employees to specifically talk about their career plans and development is one good way to show that you value them enough to make time just to lay out a plan for their future. You can, therefore, set up a meeting wherein the main agenda is your employees’ career development.

2. Prepare a concrete career development plan

Knowing your employees’ aspirations is one thing but being able to truly support their growth as an individual is a different thing altogether. To do this, you need an action plan. Ask yourself: How can you further develop their skills and talents? What kind of experiences and exposures do they need in order to achieve their goals? A good action plan will not only boost your employees’ skills but the improvement in their performance will surely also benefit the entire workplace.

3. Be familiar with their character

To have a good and effective career development conversation, you should be familiar with your employees’ unique personality and traits. Why? Because it will allow you to communicate with them effectively and get your message across. For instance, there might be some people in your team who would like a lighthearted conversation first before opening up, whereas there are others who prefer a more straightforward approach. Not everyone also reacts positively to comments and criticisms, so you must tread carefully and know the right words to use with different people.

4. Listen to what your employees want

You, as the leader, have your own visions and plans for the team and each individual within it. But be that as it may, you should allow your employees to decide on their own career path. Do not force your ideas and own plans onto your employees while you are having these career development conversations. Instead, know what kind of growth your employees would like and work from there. This will also show them that you acknowledge their own individuality and that you trust them.

5. Exchange tidbits about your life

Knowing even a little bit of your employees’ background will give you an idea of where they are coming from and why they are striving for their goals. This is also the same for them as they learn to understand you. These conversations are nice icebreakers when having a serious meeting about their careers and will also give both parties a stronger working relationship that is built on a solid foundation of trust, understanding, and solidarity.



6. Focus on long-term goals

When having this conversation with your employees, discuss long-term plans and goals instead of only short-term ones. This will let them know that you want them to work for you for a long time and that, yes, they are included in the plans for growth, expansion, and other future endeavors that your company is planning to pursue. This will make them feel more valued, and they will be more comfortable sharing their own opinions and ideas.

7. Be Genuinely Curious

When asking your employees questions, do not make it sound like you are hiring them all over again. Have a conversation, not an interview. Be genuinely curious about their career and lives and ask open ended questions. Get to know how they feel about a successful project and their next step after that. Let the conversation take its own path based on what comes up.

8. Do not just make promises about promotions

Career development conversations are not just about giving your employees promotions and bigger roles. At the end of the day, it is important to know if they still find fulfillment in their jobs and what skills they really want to improve. While a job promotion is nice, showing that you are willing to go step-by-step with them, instead of just giving bigger responsibilities, will be appreciated.

9. Follow-up on your career development talk

Conversations about career development are something that you should be having with your employees from time to time. Only doing it once and never following up on your conversation will give the impression that you are only doing it just for show. Initiating regular talks will also slowly bring your employees out of their comfort zone in talking to you about this topic, and future conversations will become smoother and easier.

10. Keep an open ear and mind

You should invite feedback from your employees. In fact, allowing them to voice their concerns or give suggestions about your leadership will let them know that you are also willing to improve for their sake. Having this understanding is beneficial for your own growth as a leader and will undoubtedly make your relationship with the employee stronger.

There is no shortcut to success, but clear, empathetic, and effective communication is one of the proven ways to get you rolling. Encouraging conversations about career development will result not only in the growth of your employees but also their personal well-being and your company’s business results in the long term.


About the Author


Sumit - Deploy Yourself.

Sumit helps powerful people realize how powerful they are. He runs a leadership coaching program called “Deploy Yourself” to coach leaders and individuals to pursue their wildest dreams. He started out as a software geek but was soon thrown, unprepared, into the leadership world.

After leading teams and making numerous mistakes, he now feels as comfortable talking about team building, leadership, and producing meaningful results as about machine learning and software programming.

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