The ability to grow in both your job and career is a key driver of employee engagement but the results of a recent study suggest that leaders are falling short in meeting the expectations of their direct reports.
Researchers from The Ken Blanchard Companies teamed up with Training magazine to poll a cross-section of 456 human resources and talent management professionals. The survey found gaps of 29 and 39 percent between how often direct reports had career conversations with their leaders when compared to how often they wanted to have those conversations.
29% Gap in Job Development Conversations
Survey questions in this section asked respondents if their immediate manager conducted performance planning in a way that resulted in at least one developmental goal that would help a direct report progress in their current job. Questions asked respondents to evaluate the frequency with which their leader discussed job assignments that would help to broaden the direct report’s job experience and knowledge. Questions also asked respondents to evaluate how often their leader discussed the training needed to improve the direct report’s performance during the current performance period and whether the leader made time and resources available to help the employee get the training they needed.
39% Gap in Career Development Conversations
In this section respondents were asked to evaluate the degree to which their leader prepared them for career advancement. Questions asked respondents to evaluate the degree to which their boss understood the steps needed to prepare the direct report for career advancement, explained the organization policies and procedures that impacted career development, and discussed potential career opportunities for the direct report. Questions also specifically asked if the leader clarified the steps a direct report could take and whether the boss felt those steps were fair and reasonable.
Make sure managers are taking the time to have “stay” interviews so they can avoid having “exit” interviews
Leaders play a key role in job and career growth. This survey suggests that significant gaps exist between employee expectations and what they are experiencing at work. Left unaddressed, these gaps create a drain on overall organizational vitality through lowered employee intentions to stay, endorse, and apply discretionary effort as needed.
Retention experts Beverly Kaye and Julie Winkle Giulioni, authors of Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go, believe that job and career growth conversations are one of the most powerful and under-utilized tools at a leaders disposal. In an article for Executive Excellence, they identify that:
- Conversation has the power to touch employees’ hearts and minds.
- Genuine career development isn’t about forms, choreographing new assignments, or orchestrating promotions. It’s about having quality conversations that facilitate insights and awareness, explore possibilities, and inspire responses that drive employee-owned action.
- When leaders reframe career development in terms of ongoing conversations—rather than procedural checkpoints or scheduled activities—theyhave more flexibility and the chance to develop careers organically.
Mirroring the sentiments of the respondents in the Blanchard survey, Kaye and Giulioni identify that:
- Shorter conversations fit better with the cadence of business today
- Frequent, ongoing dialogue communicates a genuine commitment to the employee and development
- Iterative conversations allow employees to layer awareness, insights, and action more naturally
- The ongoing nature of the conversation keeps development alive in everyone’s mind (vs. tucking it away for a formal meeting.)
Growth opportunities at the job and career level are important drivers of employee work passion and one of the better ways that leaders can show team members that they care and are invested in them. Be sure that your leaders are taking the time to discuss ways that employees can improve their skills in their current role and also how they can continue to advance in their careers. You can learn more about the Blanchard research by accessing the white paper, Ten Performance Management Process Gaps (and How They Negatively Impact Employee Intentions). Read more of Beverly Kaye and Julie Winkle Giulioni’s thinking by reading Career Conversation: It’s today’s common sense competency.