Why Career Development Conversations Are a Must for New Managers

2 businessmen discussing Career Development Conversations

Career Development Conversations Matter
Career development conversations are a must for new managers looking to create a high performing and engaged team.  While most new manager training focuses on helping new managers navigate their own careers, it often neglects how to successfully help their direct reports navigate their own careers.

Pay Attention to the Career Aspirations of Others
We maintain that it is critical that new managers also pay close and regular attention to the careers of their individual team members.

Should Career Development Conversations Follow Performance Review Trends?
We know that in most high growth organizations the annual performance review is quickly on its way out, shifting toward consistent and more frequent performance conversations. We wondered if employee career development conversations should follow suit. Would discussing employee career opportunities and paths more frequently have the same positive effects as more regular performance conversations — increased engagement, motivation, and performance?

We did the research to find out.

Employee Engagement Context to Set the Stage
Let’s start by setting some context regarding employee engagement.

Why Employee Engagement Matters to New Managers
We define employee engagement as the combination of employee advocacy, discretionary effort and intent to stay.  High levels of employee advocacy mean that employees think and speak highly of the organization, its people, its offerings and their manager.  High levels of discretionary effort mean that employees are constantly thinking of ways to go the extra mile.  High levels of intent to stay mean that employees want to keep working for you and feel loyal and connected to their manager and the organization.

Why Employee Engagement Matters to the Organization
Companies with higher levels of employee engagement report 18% greater productivity, 12% higher customer satisfaction and 51% less voluntary turnover.  Companies with lower levels of employee engagement report 12% lower profits, 19% lower operating income and 28% lower earnings per share.

The Career Development Research
In a research study earlier this year, we found that employee engagement surveys should be conducted annually to foster the highest levels of employee engagement. Our more recent study on the effectiveness of career conversations was similar. We put our philosophy to the test…do career conversations (where employees and managers discuss employee career paths, opportunities for advancement, and ways to learn and grow in their careers) that occur on a more frequent basis positively impact employee engagement?

Why yes, yes they do! Results are shown below.

career graph

Applying the Career Development Research to Management Development
The research has greatly informed our new manager training programs.  Managers who held career development conversations at least once per year had 28.3% higher levels of employee engagement compared to managers who held them less than once per year.  And those managers who held career development conversations on a monthly basis had 43.7% higher levels of employee engagement.

What Surprised Us the Most
Surprisingly, there’s not a distinct difference between having quarterly or annual career conversations, which suggests that — from a resource and time management perspective — it’s better to have annual conversations. However, engagement spikes up sharply when moving from quarterly to monthly career conversations. And because the difference is negligible between “more than once a month” and “once a month,” these results paint the following picture: monthly career conversations are optimal for the best engagement results.

The Bottom Line
We believe that any meaningful conversations between managers and their followers increase employee engagement by strengthening the connections between employees and their job. Frequent check-ins by managers show employees that you care about their well-being and want to do all you can to help them be successful. You can call these one-on-one discussions whatever you like—weekly meetings, phone chats, career conversations, performance check-ins.

The point is that you keep tabs on how things are going for the individuals who work under your guidance and provide relevant growth opportunities that enhance their path forward.

New managers, you know how important it is to have a fully engaged team. Now that you know the best frequency for career conversations, it’s time to get talking. Use career conversations and manager-employee coaching sessions to spark employee motivation and fuel employee growth.

To learn more about how managers can best engage their top talent, download The Top 10 Most Powerful Ways to Boost Employee Engagement.

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