FINDING good employees is not enough. Developing them is critical to keeping them.
Everyone has options. If you are not growing and leading your employees, they will look elsewhere.
“Success today,” say Beverly Kaye and Julie Winkle Giulioni in Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go, “rests upon finding ways to continuously expand everyone’s capacity, engagement, and ability to contribute to the organization.”
While many leaders may feel they don’t have time for career development, it’s not as complicated as we often make it out to be. “Career development is nothing more than helping others grow”—one conversation at a time.
“Quality career development boils down to quality conversations”—frequent, short conversations that occur within the natural flow of work. It is based on good questions, not in having all of the answers.
Go ahead and courageously ask the challenging questions and even end the conversation with a real tough or thought-provoking one that the employee can contemplate for a while. Closure is overrated. Unfinished business … that’s what will cause employees to continue to ponder and will ultimately spark action and feed progress.
They suggest that we “reframe career development in such a way that responsibility rests squarely with the employee and that our role is more about prompting, guiding, reflecting, exploring ideas, activating enthusiasm, and driving action.”
Their framework for career development is organized around three types of conversations:
“Hindsight conversations are the foundation of career development.” These conversations are meant to help develop self-awareness—where they have been, what they’ve done, and who they are. This has two parts: self-perception and other-perception—how others perceive them. Encourage employees to get feedback from those they work with. “Helping people look back and inward also provides a reservoir of information that allows employees to move forward and toward their career goals in intentional ways that will produce satisfying results.”
What an employee learns about themselves in hindsight needs to be applied in the context of what is going on around them and the implications of all of the changes they see happening. “When you help your employees develop the ability to scan the environment, anticipate trends, and spot opportunities, you provide a constructive context for career development.” Harness the power of your crowd. Get them asking questions like, what are you seeing and what might these things mean to our industry, our organization, and your career? “Encouraging employees to interact directly with the environment is just an exercise until you debrief their experiences and encourage reflection.” It’ll turn employees into business partners.
These conversations leverage what your employee learns from the convergence of the insight and foresight conversations. Here you guide them into practical steps they can take to be where they want to be. “Onward and upward has been replaced by forward and toward.” Today, it’s not about moving up the ladder but moving to the place you want to be. Kaye and Giulioni suggest that we learn to help them grow in place. This requires a shift in thinking. “The challenge of growing in place involves stripping titles from our thinking and instead focusing on what the employee needs to experience, know, learn, and be able to do.”
Reframe the conversation to be about experiences, not position. It creates unseen possibilities and allows them to grow where they are.
Develop a Career Development Culture
Ultimately what you want to create is a career development culture that supports and values the employee. Cultures that actively support career development and enjoy its constructive byproducts share some fundamental characteristics or cultural markers. They tend to be:
- Information-Rich – Information flows freely. To drive their own development, employees need information about performance, perceptions, and possibilities.
- Curious – A genuine inquisitiveness with a focus on inquisitiveness, questions, the inclusion of diverse points of view, and exploration of ideas.
- Patient (with the development process) – Growth takes time. The hallmarks of this culture are flexibility, commitment, and consistency.
- Results-Oriented – Leadership clarity about the what can allow for more creativity and flexibility around the how creating countless vehicles for growth.
- Blurry Around Boundaries – Collaboration. A culture that brings a spirit of generosity to development, sharing resources and even being willing to lose good talent as a way to support their development.
We have conversations about the work anyway, so why not make it a teachable moment. “A few minutes of conversation can help others slow down enough to reflect, bring deep insights to the surface, verbalize important messages, and consider how to leverage their expanding skills and knowledge base.”
If you don’t think you have the time to incorporate this vital task in what you do, this book is for you. Kaye and Giulioni offer templates, guidelines, and sample conversations and questions that you can adapt to your own situation. With their approach, career development stays fresh because each employee’s career plan is unique and done in real-time.