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Voice of the Employee

Nearly two-thirds of employees say a lack of career development with their current employer would be enough to make them start looking for a new job, according to research published today by Penna.

The research found managers are ill-equipped to have career conversations with their direct reports, with nearly a third saying their organisation doesn’t provide people management training for managers.

In addition, more than a third of managers (36%) admitted to not knowing what their direct reports’ career goals are over the next 12 months.

When asked how satisfied they are with the level of career development they are receiving, employees who responded to the reserch only gave a mark of five out of ten for their current organisations. Penna said this is hardly surprising, given only a minority of managers said they are confident in talking about topics such as salary (23%), delayed promotions (26%) and aspirations versus current abilities (29%) with members of their team.

Perceptions about the frequency and formats of careers conversations also differed between managers and employees. Some 57% of managers said they talked to their direct reports about their professional goals and long-term aspirations at least a few times a month – but 50% of employees said that, at best, this happens just a few times a year.

Bev White, managing director of Penna Career Services, said: “Having an effective career conversation with direct reports is an acquired skill and given the sometimes sensitive nature of topics covered, it needs careful and considered planning and handling.

“Expecting managers to be able to do this, with little or no training, is not only feeding them to the lions – but employees are likely to feel disgruntled as a result of poor conversations about their career.”

The research also found career conversations are rarely tracked or fed into succession plans, with a third of managers admitting their organisation doesn’t have a formal process for recording and tracking the long-term career goals of its employees, while 23% said information gathered doesn’t get fed into succession planning.

White added: “It is a waste of time having career conversations if nothing is going to be done with the information gleaned from them. The whole point of career conversations is to ensure employees can fulfil their career aspirations within the company, aiding engagement, productivity and retention.

“If businesses are leaving this to chance by not training their managers on how to hold effective career conversations or recording data when they do, they’re potentially opening Pandora’s box, setting expectations with employees that can’t be met and are gambling with their greatest asset – their employees.”

In response to the findings, Penna has produced tips for managers on how to hold effective career conversations:

  1. Prepare: Spend time thinking about your direct reports’ current performance and their future abilities, along with options for development. Come armed with possible topics for discussion
  2. Set out your stall: Agree on objectives and reiterate confidentiality to build trust
  3. Let them lead: It’s their career after all, so let them speak. Use open questions to encourage dialogue – such as ‘What would you like to discuss today?’
  4. Agree an action plan: Set objectives and next steps
  5. Follow up: Put regular catch-ups in place to check on progress and to offer additional support to implement plans

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