Why you need to have confident career conversations

By Antoinette Oglethorpe, below, author of Confident Career Conversations: Empower Your Employees for Career Growth and Retention

In today’s fast-paced business world, talent management and retention have become increasingly important. Within the UK, especially amongst small and medium-sized businesses, nurturing talent is a priority and ensuring that growth opportunities are not just available but truly meaningful.

The Core of Career Conversations

The main purpose of a career conversation is to help a person explore their career options. It helps them identify both the skills and experience they already have and those they will need. It then helps them to create a plan to achieve their career goals that are mutually beneficial to themselves and their organisation. These conversations not only chart a potential roadmap for an individual’s future but also anchor their commitment and loyalty to the organisation.

The Dichotomy of Organisational and Individual Goals

All organisations are under a certain amount of pressure. They’re under pressure to grow. They’re under pressure to maximise performance. They’re under pressure to deliver results. However, there’s a challenge. While organisations want to maximise employees’ performance, employees want to maximise their careers. These goals are not one and the same.

A Shift in the Career Paradigm

Years of change, restructuring, outsourcing and downsizing have caused people to take a more active role in managing their careers. Gone are the days when career paths were linear and predictable. Employees at all levels face various career decisions daily, for example:

  • What opportunities are there for development and progression?
  • Will I stay or leave?
  • Will I change careers?
  • Will I pursue new projects?
  • Will I obtain another qualification?
  • Will I start up on my own?

In a rapidly changing work environment, the answers are not always obvious. It is in the context of this economic reality that helping employees to develop their careers assumes more significance, not less. Career management is about getting people to where they want to be and where the organisation needs them to be. If you want your people to be committed to the organisation, engaged with their work and driven to perform, you need to provide them with the tools and resources they need to

The Symbiotic Nature of Career Development

Organisations sometimes focus so much on what employees need to do to meet the needs of the business that they lose sight of what the organisation needs to do to meet employees’ needs. Yet, this is crucial if you are going to be effective in retaining and developing talent within the organisation.

Career development is a tricky area for organisations. This is because it deals with the future and is a venture into the unknown. It is also deeply personal. Many managers worry that asking about careers may unsettle staff or even make them leave, but evidence shows that attending to career issues makes staff more loyal to the organisation and more productive (2018 Workplace Learning Report, LinkedIn).

Engagement, Meaning, and Growth

Meaningfulness of work and the fit between a person and their job are two of the key drivers of engagement at work. Support your employees in managing their careers and they will feel connected to their work. They will feel valued for their contribution and motivated to contribute further. Their willingness to apply and increase their capability will be enhanced.

Navigating the Employment Market

Career management in organisations is important whatever the state of the employment market. In a buoyant job market, it’s often easier for employees to leave a company than to manage their career internally. If the organisation doesn’t develop their careers, they quit physically and leave. In a tough economy, the bigger risk is that employees quit psychologically and stay!

Supporting your employees in managing their careers isn’t just a ‘nice thing to do’ – it’s a business imperative. Incorporating regular career conversations into the talent management strategy isn’t a mere gesture of goodwill but a strategic move towards the sustainable success of the organisation. Let’s redefine the narrative, let’s empower our employees, and let’s together foster a thriving professional ecosystem.

Antoinette Oglethorpe is author of Confident Career Conversations: Empower Your Employees for Career Growth and Retention published by Rethink Press