How to hold Career Development Conversations

How to hold Career Development Conversations


One of the key trends in Learning and Development is the move away from annual appraisals to ‘Career Development Conversations’, as advocated by companies such as Accenture and Deloitte.  Instead of line managers completing performance review forms once a year, the move is towards conducting regular career development conversations throughout the year.  Many managers and employees will breathe a sigh of relief at this recommendation: the managers because they often struggle to fit the appraisal process in to their busy schedules, sometimes resulting in the January appraisals taking place in July or August when the diary is quieter!  As for many employees, they will be relieved because, according to most surveys, 95% are dissatisfied with the appraisal process, which is often accused of being somewhat of a box ticking exercise.

Often managers don’t plan for the annual appraisal and forget that it is usually one of the most important days of the year for their team members, who may be expecting a pay rise or high praise.  Many team members are apparently demotivated after their annual performance review because they were optimistic and expecting for example a score of 4/5 for their efforts, including possible extra work in the evenings and weekends, which frequently isn’t logged or witnessed by their manager, who then may insist on giving an average score such as 3/5.  In the current buoyant job market, such dissatisfaction is leading to team members actively seeking employment elsewhere in order to feel valued.

Increasingly individuals, in particular Millennials, no longer rely on HR or their line manager to map out their career paths, and feel empowered to design and create their own.  So in order to improve engagement, retain staff, and hold frequent and productive career development conversations, the following should be considered:

  • managers need to understand their team members – their personalities and key motivators as not all employees are motivated by financial reward
  • holding regular 1:1s with ongoing feedback, as favoured by Natural Talent, will ensure that there are no surprises as often happens at a formal annual performance review
  • any issues need to be addressed in an objective, structured way with constructive feedback, and praise delivered in a timely fashion when due
  • learning and development should feature high on the agenda of the career development conversations with relevant training identified in order to maximise strengths and address any performance gaps
  • the manager needs to take on less of an authoritative or transactional role and adopt a Coaching style of management, asking structured open questions and offering his/her support
  • by delegating work to the team member, finding out what they are interested in, and giving them more responsibility, the manager can offer employees opportunities to grow, such as challenging job experiences, cross functional projects, or secondments to other functions or locations
  • employees should be asked to identify some of their own SMART objectives and KPIs to improve their sense of empowerment and ownership of tasks and responsibilities
  • when a specific skill requiring development has been identified, the manager needs to agree the most suitable learning method, whether it be informal or formal Coaching, training programmes, special assignments or activities, online/formal study, or on the job training
  • in order to assess an individual’s performance in their current role and their potential to grow into more senior management or leadership roles, Talent Assessment Solutions may be utilized, such as 360 Feedback, Competency and Situational Based Questioning
  • strong Personal Development and Action Plans tailored to each team member should be provided in order that they are developed more effectively

Performance reviews should still be formalized, but if regular 1:1s take place as Career Development Conversations, there should no longer be any surprises or disappointments from individuals receiving out of date feedback.  As a result levels of retain and engagement should improve, the talent pool and bench strength will be visible at a glance, and organizations will have the management and leadership talent to build future generations of leaders to achieve strategic objectives.

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