The most common pushback I hear from managers when asked if they have had career conversations with their employees is that things are too unpredictable and promotions are just too hard to come by to have career conversations. When I ask individuals whether they’ve spoken to their managers about their careers, they say their managers haven’t had them with them.
But when things hit the fan and everything seems uncertain and chaotic, it’s the most important time to keep employees engaged. Also, it’s the perfect time to strategize with your manager on how best to be of use in the present, near and distant future.
To do this effectively, consider the following tips:
Recognize that the individual must drive their own career. This means that the individual initiates career conversations vs. passively waiting for their managers to be in the mood or have time. No one will care more about your career than you do. Act like it.
Understand that a manager plays a critical role of career collaborator and it’s their job to do so. Companies assign managers resources and pay them to care for, nurture and get the most out of those resources. This includes the employees that report to them. Managers should look to engage employees as much as possible. When it comes to career conversations, managers should focus on learning how to help an individual make the greatest impact for the company, for as long as it’s mutually beneficial to both parties. This means learning about the individual’s goals and helping the employee align that to the goals of the company.
Hold career conversations before or after performance reviews. Too often, people try to bundle reviews with career discussions. It tends to create too much pressure and disappointment. Managers end up only having career conversations with those that are already positioned for a promotion of some sort. Employees wait to discuss their career until it’s often too late or they are giving an ultimatum. Instead, holding career conversations a few months before or a month after the review ensures every employee gets a dialogue that’s solely focused on their interests and hopes.
Focus on developing for impact. When having the career dialogue outside of the review conversations, it’s easier to focus on the impact the person wants to make. This removes the roadblock that solely discussing promotions does. If there are no spots open the promotion discussion disappears. But impact is always up for discussion.
Don’t be afraid to discuss title or money. There’s nothing wrong with discussing money and titles. Career conversations shouldn’t be viewed as contracting or decision-making discussions. They aren’t a holiday wish list request the employees are demanding from their managers. They should be treated as exploratory conversations. Discussing competitive pay ranges shouldn’t be taboo. We are always demanding employees to be cost conscious on behalf of the company we should be income conscious with them.
Too often, career conversations are treated as hiring or promotion conversations. Those are just two topics that belong in a career dialogue. The main focus is to help the individual get clear on their goals, help them stay motivated and collaborate on opportunities for them to make greater and more meaningful impact. This helps feed the growth and development of the individual and the company.