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When employees sit down with their managers for development conversations, what are they really talking about?

Jamie Graceffa, speaker and the author of Career Control, Love the Job You’re in or the One You Want poses the opening question:

When employees sit down with their managers for development conversations, are they talking about job development or career development?

Many times these discussions are seen as interchangeable, but there are clear differences, and it’s important to disentangle them for a more productive exchange between managers and employees.

Job development is a mandatory conversation that is tied to current role, co-owned by the manager and the employee. It’s about developing the skills necessary to maintain employability.
Career development, on the other hand, is an informal conversation, not tied to salary, voluntary, employee-owned and typically future based. How one manages his or her career is as unique as a fingerprint.

Think about a job development conversation this way:

What formal or informal learning, if any, does your employee need to achieve his or her goals and objectives for the year?
Who else is involved – perhaps a mentor, coach, or somebody who is willing to support the individual with his or her development?
And lastly, how will she activate the learning?
How will she put into play the formal learning and support of others, real time at work?

shutterstock_150064880Jamie Graceffa points out that when you think about development, the natural flow seems to be formal learning first, followed by the support of others, and then putting it all into action. When it comes to career conversations, doesn’t guarantee a promotion, even if the employee is qualified for it.

Be honest with the employee and let the individual evaluate the other parts of the job and make an informed decision about what he or she wants to do. Most people will want to stay in the job they are in, but enhance it in some way, having in mind improved life balance or more collaborative work.

It all starts by asking just a few simple, yet powerful, questions:

  • What work are you passionate about, and are you doing that type of work now?
  • When was the last time you thought to yourself, I love my job? What type of work were you doing?
  • Is the work you are doing now the work that you want to be doing?
  • What type of work don’t you enjoy? What type of work do you find draining?
  • What is your long-term plan and will your current job help get you there?
  • What was happening on the best day in your career?
  • Where do you want to be a year from now?
  • What skills do you have that I’m not aware of?
  • What do you value at work?
  • What motivates you?
  • How are you using your network?

These questions are designed to look at the whole person and not just the “mask” people wear at work. These questions speak directly to a person’s interests and work values, which are key engagement drivers.

Asking these questions will open the door to deep and satisfying career conversations. You may unearth skills and experiences you never knew your employee possessed, and enjoys using. Such skills and insight could prove quite valuable to your own deliverables and the deliverables of the team you lead. In turn, you may also discover areas of work where your employee is completely burned out. Know your team, know what work motivates them.

Is your team taking advantage of each member’s individual strengths?
Where can you reduce burnout and increase motivation?

These questions also give an employee permission to express to you that the job they want or are interested in exploring may not be the job they are in.

You should do your part to help facilitate your employee’s career development, while reinforcing the expectation that the employee will remain fully engaged until another position is found.

Jamie Graceffa concludes: The hope for most organizations is to retain their valuable talent, but if the employee is truly unhappy with the work they’re doing, wouldn’t you want that employee happy in a role they really want and replace him or her with someone who is passionate about the work on your team?

Finally, be careful not to “own” your employee’s career plan. Managers can and should support their developing employees, but ultimately career management is the responsibility of the employee.



Jamie Graceffa is a speaker and the author of Career Control, Love the Job You’re in or the One You Want.  Full Bio | More from Jamie Graceffa
The Conference Board, founded in 1916, is a global, independent business membership and research association that provides the world's leading organizations with the practical knowledge they need to improve their performance and better serve society.

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