Effective career development practices build healthy organisations (O’Donnell, 2007).
In recent years, research into career conversations has demonstrated the value of career development practices, generally, and the benefits of career conversations, specifically, to organisations and employees, especially when compared with annual performance reviews.
Despite the research, however, many organisations are underutilising career conversations and other career development programs and instead are placing the responsibility for career development firmly on the shoulders of employees.
Research by Kidd on career conversations found that only one third of managers committed to engaging in career development activities to benefit their employees. Additionally, although organisations generally expect their managers to support employee career development, only 5% of managers receive training to do so. These statistics represent a significant missed opportunity for organisations. Relatively simple career development activities, like coaching, providing employee feedback, and raising awareness about organisational needs and plans, can be incredibly effective in connecting employees’ development with the organisation's goals, increasing engagement and facilitating discretionary effort.
With so many organisations looking for ways to boost engagement and make their performance review processes more effective, we argue that career conversations could be your most important people strategy.
Here are just some of the benefits of career conversations for your organisation and employees.
1. Increased awareness and alignment between employees & organisations
Career development aims to raise an employee's knowledge and awareness of their own goals, strengths and values, and to identify how the employee can pursue activities with their current employer that are consistent with those goals, strengths and values. The exploration of issues relevant to career development such as promotions, secondments, project work, lateral moves, meaningful work, and work-life balance, allows employees to identify and explore the alignment between their goals and those of their organisation. In turn, this increases commitment, tenure and the pool of internal talent available to the organisation.
Career conversations also allow individuals to become more flexible and adaptable, as the constant setting and resetting of goals helps employees to cope with uncertainty in the workplace and, more broadly, within rapidly changing industries. This is an essential skill for employees in today's workforce.
Ultimately, continued negotiation and renegotiation of individuals’ career goals facilitates the achievement of organisational goals and can be utilised to shape an organisation's culture.
2. Development of professional skills & hi-po's
Taking time to hold career conversations with talented employees allows managers to acknowledge their value to the organisation and helps to map out future career goals and objectives. (Butterfield, Lalande & Borgen, 2009).
Career development initiatives, such as career conversations, help high potential employees to identify and develop the skills that the business requires now and in the future. This is particularly useful for organisations that require highly skilled employees unique to a particular field.
According to Kidd (2004), career conversations result in employee career development goals that can be used to determine professional development activities required for both employee and organisational growth. In turn, professional development activities that have been identified through this process, are likely to be seen as more relevant by the employees and therefore are more likely to result in employee engagement in learning, transfer of learning to the workplace and the workforce capability the organisation is looking for.
Unfortunately, whilst many companies do offer opportunities for training, secondments and career development, it is often done in a sporadic and uncoordinated way that focuses on the skills and capabilities the organisation needs, rather than aligning individuals goals and motivation with the requirements of the organisation.
For an employee who is committed to a role for the long term, career conversations can assist them to understand how their job will change in line with the changing needs of the organisation, and to actively identify and develop skills in readiness for these changes. In this way, career conversations can be a powerful tool for building agile, adaptable and future-proof organisations.
Career conversations, for obvious reasons, also have the added benefit of improving the communication between managers and employees.
3. Improves attraction, retention & motivation
Practices that facilitate employee development have long been linked to increased productivity, decreased absenteeism and turnover, and improvements in an employee's general dedication to an organisation. In a global market where skilled workers are in short supply, these practices become even more important.
Career development programs in the workplace help companies attract and retain high performing employees. Research by Kidd (2004) suggests that individuals of varying ages, genders, and occupational levels reported that they looked for career coaching and development support, making this an attractive component of any employee value proposition or attraction strategy.
Similarly, Kidd’s study found that employees are more likely to remain with their current employer when offered the opportunity to develop. The degree to which employees received support to develop their careers, through activities such as career conversations, corresponded with their intention to remain with their current employer. Conversely, where career conversations were not happening with managers, employees were more likely to leave an organisation.
Career conversations improve retention by providing employees with an increased knowledge of jobs and career paths within the organisation. If employees can see a clear path for development within an orgainsation they are far more likely to remain with their employer.
4. Assists with growth, downsizing, redeployment and succession planning
In the context of the competitive, global and disruptive marketplace that businesses now operate within, leaders must be vigilant in continually developing the capacities of themselves and their employees to position the organisation to successfully grasp market opportunities (Butterfield, Lalande & Borgen, 2009).
This means that organisations need to foster a performance culture, with the right people and the right skills to effectively execute current and future business strategy. Career conversations help organisations to do this. By highlighting employee competencies, career conversations (and other career development initiatives) inform workforce planning initiatives, support businesses to hit growth targets and enable succession planning activities.
Similarly, when workforce composition or size needs to change in response to changing market conditions, organisations with mature career development practices will be better positioned to identify and redeploy employees with the required skill mix.
5. Increases employee performance
Overall, organisational performance has been positively linked with career development activities such as career conversations, because of their ability to increase employee motivation. Individuals benefit from the insights and learning gained through career conversations, leading to greater fulfillment and professional success into the future. Employees gain increased self-awareness and a realistic perspective of their skills and potential.
Several studies have found that an employee's performance is positively influenced when their organisation provides relevant career opportunities. It seems obvious to say that from here, if each employee is assisted to reach their full potential, the organisation is more likely to reach its goals.
As you can see, career conversations are highly beneficial, adding great value to both individuals and organisations.
As organisations continue to compete for talent and customers in a global market, they have the choice to empower employees through the facilitation of career conversations and other career development activities, or to fall behind their competitors.