How to Conduct a Career Development Conversation

Career development conversations are some of the most important meetings managers can have with employees. Career development is a common driver of engagement. An organization filled with employees who don’t feel they have the opportunities to learn, grow, and develop risks high turnover.

We recommend having a career development 1-on-1 meeting with each direct report at least once a year. Employees’ lives and goals change, and this cadence helps you stay on top of their ambitions. It’s an important check-in that keeps employees thinking about their future while showing you value their development and want to help them become their best selves.

Follow these five tips to maximize your development conversations, boost employee engagement, and avoid unnecessary turnover!

Don’t box the conversation into just promotions.

Development doesn’t necessarily mean a role change. You may not be in the position to offer a promotion, but you can provide other ways for an employee to grow. Use this time to get to know what the employee is thinking about and where they see their career progressing. Perhaps they’re seeking additional mentoring, or they believe they have the capacity to coach others. They may desire to attend formal learning opportunities such as classes and conferences.

Avoid being abstract or using broad questions.

Some employees have a very detailed plan for their future and thrive answering questions like, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” But these queries do little to engage the employees more focused on day-to-day opportunities.

Ask specific questions that tap into what the employee has worked on that they’re proud of or are energized by. The key to development is finding tasks employees are passionate about. Identify what excites them at work and look for opportunities to have them perform those actions more often. If you’re able to discover passions and interests, you’ll unlock an employee’s true potential.

Set developmental goals.

Give your employees something to strive for. Set benchmarks that an employee works towards throughout the year versus those with a concrete ending, such as “Complete HubSpot’s 2018 SEO Training Course” or “Obtain Master’s Degree”. Vague goals such as “Research competitor strategies” are likely to go unfulfilled. Try tying developmental goals to team and/or organizational goals.

Know your role.

As the manager, you play a massive part in helping your employees reach their goals. The employee should have initiatives to get started, but you should be right behind them to support and guide their efforts. Identify the aspirations of your employees and serve as an advocate to help them progress.

Discuss how short-term goals affect long-term goals.

Help your employees see how the goals they set for the next six months will affect their long-term aspirations. A series of short-term goals should build together to help progress toward loftier, impactful benchmarks down the road.