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SBCo October Newsletter: The Career Conversation – Re-Framed

October Newsletter: The Career Conversation - Re-framed

Revised Bev

We recently sat down with a dear friend of the firm and trusted thought partner to chat about one of the hottest topics in HR: Career Development. Dr. Beverly Kaye is a leading authority in the world of modern workplace performance. She has dedicated her life’s work to helping individuals and organizations grow in a workplace that fosters greater commitment, fulfillment, and humanity. As an international best-selling author of a multitude of books, including, “Love ‘em or Lose ’em: Getting Good People to Stay” and “Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Employees Want” (co-authored by Julie Winkle Guiloni), we thought Bev would be the perfect person to open our minds to reframing the career development conversation.

Sherry Benjamins: How is the career development conversation being reframed today?

Bev Kaye: In the years that I have been doing this, the construct of career development hasn’t changed. I think what is important is reminding ourselves that three things have to happen for career development to work:The employee has to own it, the manager has to support it, and the organization has to provide systems to help it. All three components must be there to get (ROI) Return On Investment.

Organizations tell employees “You own your career”, which they do, but often employees lack the support from their managers or systems are lacking. The manager doesn’t have to have the roadmap for an employee’s career development, but they do need the right questions, a curiosity about how employees answer those questions, knowledge of where the organization is going and how an employee can fit into the strategy.

SB: Are companies rewarding learning?

BK: Development is all too often, not overtly rewarded. Ideally, career development would happen every day in the context of work itself. Short conversations between employees and managers around the daily workflow are plentiful if managers are tuned into the clues and cues that present themselves.

One example of a company that practices ongoing feedback is Covidien.Their managers learned that open, productive conversations pay off in retention and employee satisfaction and are in sync with the organization’s strategic needs. It is being built into the culture of the organization and seen as a model for great leadership.

SB: How do employees define career development?

BK: There is a hard-to-change belief that development involves leaving a current job and going to training or advancing (lateral or upward) to another role, but development should be able to occur through growth in place.

Through engagement/satisfaction surveys, we often hear employees talk about a lack of opportunities in the work place. The word “opportunity” needs re-framing because “opportunity” is traditionally associated with “upward advancement”. However, up is only one way to define opportunity. We need to be thinking lattices over ladders. My own metaphor is to see development as a climbing wall with foot holes that take you across, around, and eventually up.

SB: Is part of the career development pressure generational?

BK: I believe that much of what millennials want in their careers, are also what every generation wants, but the millennials are saying it louder. Who doesn’t want a meaningful job, a boss who values and respects them, and an opportunity to learn and grow?

There are 5 things every employee asks about explicitly or implicitly when they are being recruited and right after they are hired:

  1. Will you get to know me and use all my skills?

  2. Will you tell me how I can keep getting better? Will you give me specific feedback outside of performance reviews?

  3. Will you clue me in to where the organization is going? I don’t want to find out via media.

  4. Will you help me see my options and possibilities for growth?

  5. Does this organization believe in learning? Will I be able to develop here?

SB: How is the career development spark ignited with companies you work with?

BK: Most companies are sparked to take initiative on career development by the results of their engagement survey.Career development is consistently one of the 5 lowest scores across the board.

Example of low-scoring items include:

  1. Internal movement is encouraged in my organization.

  2. I’m given real opportunities to improve my skills in my organization.

  3. My organization develops people to their full potential.

  4. I believe I have a long-term future here.

  5. In the last six months, my manager has talked with me about my career.

The Vascular Therapies division of Covidien (now part of the Medical Devices business unit) identified career development as a solution to address low engagement scores and tackled it head on in support of a learning culture, which was reflected in stronger engagement scores.

SB: If it is true that 50% of our workers will be independent in 5 years, what impact will that have careers?

BK: Years ago we talked about organizations having a “stable core and flexible ring”. I believe there will always be a stable core that organizations will rely on. The question will be how to manage the flexible ring. Managers will have to ask “How can we make you a great contributor while you are here?” Managers will grow employees to be valuable in their organization and also to be employable elsewhere. Managers might struggle with this but this will happen with “project based” and flexible work.

SB: Where are your clients starting career development as a practice?

BK: They are starting small, and holding managers accountable. I’ve seen organizations start with “Stay Interviews.” What a great notion to hold people accountable for actually having these interviews early when employees are new. We are good at exit interviews, yet not so good at asking our people what can be done to keep them.

SB: I actually just heard a story from a colleague and respected Executive in HR about the first ever onboarding experience implemented at his firm. For them, it started the moment a candidate accepted the job offer and continued through to the 90 day stay interview discussion. We will learn more about this in Bev’s new book (to be released soon).   

Our Big Takeaway

It is time to think about careers in unconventional ways. Managers can reframe the career conversation and positively impact engagement.

The LA Times Oct 22nd article on Tech Job Perks in LA, highlighted the need to attract scarce tech talent to our region. One enlightened CEO, Zach James from Zefr in Venice disclosed that his angle is to attract talent to the Venice/Santa Monica lifestyle. According to James, “people love to talk about perks, but what really brings in the best people is the fundamentals. Is this company growing and where am I going to fit in? That is the core of how we want to attract people.” Thank you Zach for sharing your views and Bev for sitting down to chat with us.

How are you starting the career conversation with your employees on the road to meeting them where they are?

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