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How to Manage your Employees Career Goals

23 Aug 2021

At MWA, we are in the privileged position of talking with attorneys almost every day. Although we are there to present a potential career opportunity, we firstly want to understand their career journey and what the professional horizon looks like for them. This, we believe, is just as important, if not more so, as approaching someone just to talk about a new job. Only when we better understand the professional interests and drivers of the individual, do we even consider expanding the conversation towards a new role.

What is the importance of having a career conversation? Why worry about these things? If I am happy in my role, why think about where I want to go with my career? These are often some of the questions we hear back from the attorneys.

Most of us will spend a large part of our lives at work – everyone wants their professional roles to offer financial stability and to be recognised for doing a good job. But just as important is the need to be in a career or a role which is meaningful, and which contributes to a bigger mission. As a manager, you need to be in tune with your employee’s drivers, motivations and values.

Let’s be clear, each person in your organisation is responsible for his or her own career. It is not your job as a manager to find them their next promotion or map out their future in the business. Your role is to listen, mentor, encourage and advise.

The benefits to you as a manager in running career conversations:

  1. Changing expectations: you will help to place greater emphasis on the employee to take charge of their career and not to expect it all to be done for them.
  2. Career longevity: by investing time and interest in your employee and how they see their career developing in the business, they will feel more valued. They will realise that they are working in an environment which shows an interest in their growth. This will help to increase retention.
  3. Fewer surprises: career conversations will provide you with any early warning signs that your employee might be looking to leave the company. This will give you advance warning to plan around or support this person’s expectations. Equally, it will build trust between you and the employee and they are more likely to share information about their possible interest in moving on.
  4. Interest in your team: by conducting these conversations, it shows you care about their careers and the people you employ.

Career conversations may already be carried out by your HR team. However, we have also seen the benefits of line managers taking an active role in these discussions. You know your colleagues better than anyone and you are in the best position to act as a sounding board, mentor and coach. The career conversation is also a chance for employees to think about their skills, talents and aspirations and to share these with you.

The Structure of a Career Conversation:

  1. Laying out the session: You and your direct report set up the purpose of the conversation. You will direct the discussion and you will need to set an agenda.
  2. The story so far: This is a great way to start the discussion – for your employee to talk about their career to date and what has shaped and informed their career to this point. This is not about current performance or to be misinterpreted as an appraisal.
  3. The experiences they want: This is where you listen to what your employee enjoys, their passions, impact and the environment that suits them best.
  4. Career goals: This opens up the conversation to the future – what goals does your employee want to achieve this year, next year or in three years. How are they tracking against these goals and where can you support and help them.
  5. Career plans: You now discuss a path to achieving that goal. Get your team member to walk through their plan and what it might look like. Discuss what could get in the way and how to tackle this.
  6. Sharing ideas and next steps: Ask the all-important question “How can I support you to achieve your goal?”. This is where you play the role of mentor and facilitator. You cannot ‘magic’ up a new promotion or career channel but by becoming more aware of your employees ambitions, you can support them in their journey.

As a manager, your aim is to expand your focus from “How can I get excellent performance out of my team members” to “How can I get excellent performance out of my team members while helping them to grow in their role”. By harnessing employee strengths, interests and passions, you will achieve far greater value for the organisation.