Performance reviews are one thing, but they generally only look back. Supervisors can benefit too by looking forward and giving employees guidance and feedback on the future of their careers.
There are many reasons for managers to talk to workers about their future. From nurturing their growth and development to increasing engagement, boosting productivity and potentially saving time and money on employee turnover, the benefits of having career path discussions are numerous. So why aren’t more managers doing it?
According to a survey by Robert Half Finance & Accounting, 40 percent of 1,200 professionals polled said their supervisors never discussed their career paths with them — but the same research revealed a whopping 93 percent are hungry for this type of information.
In light of this data, bosses who are not discussing career progression with their workers are missing out on an important opportunity to engage and retain team members. After all, staff who don’t know when they will earn a promotion or raise or don’t understand how they fit into a company’s long-term strategy aren’t likely to stick around for long.
The following tips can help you, as a manager, conduct productive proactive career path discussions with your employees.
1. Meet regularly
As a supervisor, you should be discussing career progression regularly with your staff – not just during traditional annual performance reviews. Why? For starters, they want you to. Of the 1,200 U.S. accounting and finance professionals polled by Robert Half, 45 percent revealed that they would like to speak with their manager about their career path once a year, while an additional 48 percent said they’d be open to receiving this feedback more frequently: quarterly (37 percent), monthly (9 percent) and even weekly (2 percent).
2. Ask about their objectives
If you don’t know where members of your team want to take their careers, you can’t help them get there.
When you do meet with them during performance reviews to discuss their professional aspirations, it’s important to know what types of guiding questions to ask. For example:
- What do you feel are your key skills and strengths at work?
- What are your short- and long-term career goals?
- What projects or tasks have you done that you’re very proud of?
- Tell me about a time you felt really good at work – what did you do or accomplish that day?
- What do you need from me to support you through this process?
3. Recommend – and provide – learning and training opportunities
Once you’ve determined your employee’s desired career path, consider what knowledge and skills they may need to reach their professional goals. Are there any certifications they could earn, technologies they could learn, or skills they could enhance?
Think about what your company can do to help them obtain these in a way that also benefits the business. For example, are there skills in short supply that your firm could use? Would the employee be able to share new knowledge with other staff once their training is complete?
4. Encourage and facilitate networking and mentoring
As a manager, you may be able to connect members of your team with key players within your company (and, particularly, people beyond your own department) who can provide valuable career guidance and industry insight.
There may even be someone in the organization who could serve as a mentor to your employee, sharing practical knowledge and hands-on guidance and insight that could help an up-and-coming professional better understand the organizational politics they’ll need to navigate to achieve their goals.
5. Don’t try to be a career counselor
Realize that, as a manager, you can only do so much to help members of your team realize their full potential at your firm; they are, ultimately, responsible for their own careers. But by showing them what steps they’ll need to take to reach important milestones along their desired path, you can enhance their chances of success – and build loyalty along the way.
Most employees will only care about your business when they are certain that you care about them. One of the best ways to demonstrate this is to show that just as you have high hopes for your company’s future, you also have hopes for your employees’ futures with your company.
Dana Manciagli is a career expert, speaker and consultant. She has spent more than 30 years as a Fortune 500 sales and marketing executive and is now retired after more than a decade at Microsoft. Dana is the author of the book, “Cut the Crap, Get a Job!” and a prolific blogger. She sits on the worldwide board of Junior Achievement and has her MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management.