Clear the Fog of Career Growth…3

People-development converts payroll costs to asset-investment

2016-01-31 13.48.45 (2)

Post 3: “Alvin, do you have a few minutes?” Frank called to him as he entered the break room. Alvin sat down with his coffee cup, anxious to hear how Frank’s first career-planning conversation had gone with his employee.

“Well, how do you feel?” he asked.

“I feel great, and I honestly think she has renewed energy for the work she is doing!” Frank sat back and shared details about how he confirmed her desired career path by asking the questions Alvin had suggested. “And I even gave her feedback on the way she sometimes turns people off with her communication. It is especially a challenge when she engages executives. She realizes their perceptions will be important if she expects support with her future plans, so we came up with a cool opportunity for her to observe how executives communicate and to better understand their priorities. I think that making a plan to help her improve in this area made her more willing to accept the feedback.”

Alvin nodded, “Hey, what’s the opportunity you came up with to help her learn about executive communication?”

Frank was a little pleased with himself. “I got permission for her to observe the executive overview sessions that we are invited to. When I first got this position, that meeting was a huge eye-opener about the complexity of business realities that must be considered at that level. So she will observe with me once a month; we will both note communication examples during the meeting; and we’ll compare notes over coffee the next week.  She will ask questions, and I’ll help apply the learning to her current opportunities.”

“That is really smart, Frank. It has minimal impact to her time away from her desk, it will show you her initiative, and it’s within your development budget since it’s free! These are critical considerations when incorporating career development.”

“Wait, I want to write those down…, and then I want to ask another question about career conversations.” Frank grabbed a napkin for notes while Alvin got the refill he’d come in for. “Okay, here’s the question: is it smart to have this kind of conversation with individuals who say they are perfectly happy with their current job? I have a couple of people who really do use their income to fuel their passions outside of work, and they really don’t want to consider a career move. I also have a person who is close to retirement, but I still want to encourage them to contribute fully.”

“You are right that discussing their plans should energize their performance. Start the same as you would with any employee: observe and ask about what’s important to them at work.  Some people want their peers to like them, or they like being recognized by leadership, or they just want to make a difference by helping; there are many drivers. If they don’t have a traditional career interest, you may still help them develop skills to enrich these other things that are important to them in their work environment or team. Lots of them need to grow communication or leadership skills for those outside passions to be more successful, and you get the payoff if they apply them here – even with their peers.

They both stood to get back to work as Alvin finished. “Bring me a specific situation when you start work one of those conversations, and maybe we can plan it together.”

Reality: Ensure you know why facilitating career-development conversations with employees can help your business. Ensuring you also make the conversation beneficial for the employee increases the impact to both their job satisfaction and their contribution to your business. This is not as difficult as we often make it.


  • Leaders should only be guiding career development; they should not behave as if they are along for the ride. The employee is controlling this journey!
  • Most employees are unsure of how to plan for the next steps in their careers even if they have ideas of what they want.
  • They look to leaders to help them clarify ideas, what they could be doing to get there, and the skills they’ll need when they arrive.
  • Many employees need help identifying their own individual values and if their career plans will support those priorities.
  • Leaders are rarely equipped to suggest an employee post for an open position unless they’ve investigated the employee’s career desires.
  • Here are examples of career support that can be offered by a leader and may also influence engagement in an employee’s current job:
    • new challenges or experiences
    • the acquisition of knowledge and skills
    • confidence that there is a future in your organization
    • the next step in their long-term career goals (often this is not a promotion)
    • support in sorting through the various opportunities in your organization
    • a tap on the shoulder that tells them what to consider doing next

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