Career Conversations: The Secret Behind Successful Managers and Engaged Employees

We know from the research that meaningful and ongoing Career Conversations are a key to career success. Learn how to get started.

It’s a bit of a no-brainer: organizations that give employees opportunities to develop their careers see an increase in engagement and productivity, and will ultimately be more successful in attracting and retaining talent at all levels. 
In a recent Right Management survey, 82 percent of respondents said they would be more engaged in their work if their managers would have regular Career Conversations with them. And 75 percent said they would be more likely to stay with their current employer. 
We know from the research that ongoing Career Conversations are a key to career success. The challenge is how to create a culture of career development and equip leaders to have Career Conversations that make a difference?
As with any successful change effort, culture change starts at the top. When senior leaders believe in, model and communicate the importance career development has on the company’s success, leaders and employees across the organization will take notice. Once senior leaders set the vision for career development and empower the organization to focus on careers, it’s the managers at all levels that will have the most significant impact on building a career development culture. Yet, many managers struggle with how to have Career Conversations with their direct reports, and so they don’t. In fact, the same survey revealed that only 18 percent of managers engage in ongoing Career Conversations. 
Here are three ways to help encourage and equip the managers in your organization to have Career Conversations.
1. Help managers understand the critical role they play in the career development of their team members. 
Often, managers are not aware of the opportunities they have in everyday interactions to provide coaching support to their direct reports-- not only on their performance and development but also on their career direction. It can be revealing to ask managers to reflect on people who made a difference in their career journeys and supported their success. Typically, it was a manager who was most impactful by taking an early interest in their career and providing development opportunities and coaching along the way. Now it’s time for these managers to step into the coaching role and ‘pay it forward.’
2. Give managers the framework and resources for conducting Career Conversations.
Once managers have bought into the idea of having Career Conversations with their direct reports, they need tools to help them plan for and conduct the conversations. Developing a Career Conversation toolkit does not have to be complicated. Assuming the direct report has a vision for their career, the Career Conversation can be initiated with questions that lead to dialogue and collaboration. Conversation-starters might include:
3. Hold managers and employees accountable for focusing on career development.
Leaders at all levels should have career plans that outline their career goals, developmental activities, resources and critical milestones. A career plan is a living document that should be reviewed and updated more than once a year, not only to reflect changes in the organization’s direction but also in each leader’s individual goals.
A fulfilling career is one of life’s most enriching experiences. Encouraging managers to focus on career development for their team members—and holding them accountable for doing so—will pay dividends in creating a career-friendly culture that will help the organization attract, retain, and develop high-quality talent.