Career Development Conversations: Overcoming Common Myths: Help Your Employees to Grow Their Careers, One Conversation at a Time

By Kaye, Beverly; Giulioni, Julie Winkle | Talent Development, May 2012 | Go to article overview

Career Development Conversations: Overcoming Common Myths: Help Your Employees to Grow Their Careers, One Conversation at a Time


Kaye, Beverly, Giulioni, Julie Winkle, Talent Development


Assuming a management role in today's workplace comes with a front-row seat to some of the greatest business challenges of our time. On a daily basis, managers are tasked with the following responsibilities.

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Do more with less. This phrase has become cliche, but it permeates life at work. You've likely become a master at finding ways to reduce costs, time, and other resources to levels you once imagined were impossible to reach.

Meet ever-expanding expectations. Every quarter, you're asked to achieve a little (or a lot) more such as generate bigger sales, accumulate a greater number of service interactions, take on more projects, or hit higher scores.

Continuously improve quality. "Good enough" isn't good enough. Given the competition in today's global market, perfection is the standard--until it's met; then you must perform even better.

Deliver the next big thing. Most organizations believe that if they're not moving forward, they're sliding backward. Innovation has enjoyed the spotlight because it represents the promise of greater success.

No matter how long, hard, or smart you work, you can't do all of this alone. Success depends on effectively accessing the very best that each employee has to offer and enabling the highest possible levels of engagement.

Rethink career development

Study after study confirms that best-in-class managers--those who consistently develop the most capable, flexible, and engaged teams able to drive exceptional business results--share one quality: They make career development a priority.

The problem lies with how we think about career development. For many it's become a complex and convoluted task to be avoided rather than embraced. Too often career development evokes unpleasant images of forms that must be completed and complex processes with checklists and deadlines to follow. But such administrative tasks are not career development.

Career development is nothing more than helping others to grow--and nothing less. It doesn't occur through meticulous documentation, but rather through the human act of conversation. Careers are developed one conversation at a time, over time.

Whether through a formal individual development planning meeting or an on-the-fly connection, it's the quality of the conversation that matters most to employees--that's how they judge a manager's performance and their own development. It's also how they make the decision to go, stay, or stay and disengage. So if it really is as simple as merely talking to people, then why isn't career development a more prevalent feature in the organizational landscape?

Immobilizing myths

Through the years, managers have created and continue to propagate several myths by sharing oral history and spinning lore. These myths--that is, reasons or excuses--keep them from conducting the career conversations that their employees want. Which of the following are familiar to you?

Myth 1: There simply is not enough time. No one will argue that time is among the scarcest resources available to managers today. But let's get real: You're having conversations already, and probably all day long. What if you could redirect some of that time and some of those conversations to focus on careers?

Myth 2: If I don't talk about it, they may not think about it, and the status quo will be safe. Why invite problems? Developing people could cause them to leave and upset the balance of your efficient department, right? Wrong. Employees have growth on their minds, whether you address it or not. Withholding these conversations presents a greater danger to the status quo than engaging in them.

Myth 3: Employees need to own their careers; it's not my job. Agreed. Managers don't own the development of their employees' careers; employees do. …

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