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Career Coaching in Organizations

What is Career Coaching?

  • Career coaching is a conversation to help employees clarify their career aspirations and take steps towards their career goals.

  • In this process, they develop take on new challenges, build more capabilities and find opportunities to grow within the organization.

Who should conduct career coaching?
  • Within organizations, career coaching is usually conducted by managers and human resource professionals.

Why should managers have career coaching conversations?
  • Managers grow and develop their people so that they can be more skilled and perform better. Imagine what a team of A-players can do!

  • Managers develop their reputation as great managers to work with and attract more talent.

  • Managers who grow and keep their people avoid regrettable attrition and negative impact on team morale.

  • Managers will also enjoy the intrinsic satisfaction of seeing their people grow, take initiative, and thrive in their careers.

Who can benefit from career coaching?
  • All employees at any stage of their career can benefit.

  • Especially employees who are unclear about how they can grow in the organization, this includes young talent and employees at crossroads.

When to conduct career coaching?
  • Career coaching can be short iterative conversations that happen in the flow of work.

  • They can also happen in the regular 1:1 conversations between the manager and the employee.

  • Don't limit career conversations to performance reviews.

What are the questions to ask during career coaching?
  • What is career success to you?

  • What are your strengths and talents?

  • What are your areas of development?

  • What are your interests?

  • What are your highs and lows at work?

  • What is important to you in your job?

  • What do people say about you as a professional?

  • What trends or changes do you see?

  • What are the future skills you want to develop?

  • What are your top 2 or 3 career options?

  • What roles do you hope to see yourself in 1 or 2 years time?

  • What experience or exposure would you like to have?

How is career coaching different from performance appraisal?
  • Career coaching is future-oriented to develop skills to be successful in a different or bigger role.

  • Performance appraisal focuses on the current job and if an employee is performing up to expectations.

How to help people grow when promotions are limited?

There are many options to grow beyond promotions.

They include:

  • Lateral: same level in the organization but in a different function or business unit.

  • Enrichment: staying in the same job role but learning additional different skills or being exposed to projects.

  • Exploratory: staying in the same job role but exploring different job roles to assess potential fit to other roles.

  • Realignment: taking a step back or stepping down from a larger role to take care of other personal priorities, e.g., health or family.

  • Relocation: changing organization or location of work.

How to have career conversations with employees who don’t know what they want?
  • Encourage these employees to take initiative to explore.

  • Know their strengths and skills, manage their reputation, understand what skills will be required in future, and decide what and how they need to develop.

  • Ask questions such as:

    • “Tell me a time when you really enjoyed your work and felt a sense of aliveness?”

    • “What challenges do you enjoy at work?”

    • “What projects are interesting to you?”

    • “How can you leverage your strengths and experience?”

How to have career conversations with employees who are disappointed that they are not promoted?
  • Tell them the truth that promotions do not depend only on performance. They also depend on opportunities and competition with others.

  • Check if they know how they are perceived by their career audience. This could be a blind spot on a career derailer.

  • Ask if they know the expectations for the higher-level job.

  • Promotions happen after they demonstrate their capability for bigger roles.

  • Advise them that moving up too quickly or specialising too fast could limit their flexibility to move into other roles in the future.

  • Reframe promotions to experiences and skills.

How has career coaching helped organizations?
Here is an example of a client organization that sent all its managers to our career coaching workshop. These managers then conducted a career conversation with their staff.

Here are the results:
  • Their employees rated these career conversations as 4.5 out of 5 in terms of helpfulness.

  • How was the conversation helpful to their employees:

    • "Establish realistic goals, discover solutions to challenges I am up against, develop action plans, build self-confidence, and instill motivation to take action."

    • "He is a good leader, he shared the alternative for me to progress or develop my career."

    • "It allowed me to further expand self knowledge and what I am interested in my career pathway."

What did the manager do that was helpful?
  • "Definitely sharing his personal experiences helps as it’s more realistic."

  • "Explain the criteria, process and realities about promotion to me."

  • "She probed with correct questions in leading me to share the issues in detail. She listened to me patiently and gave me some ideas to solve it thereafter."

  • "She shared with me my strengths and weaknesses in the conversation."

Ultimately these career conversations lead to more engagement, growth, and retention of people. They also built a learning and supportive culture that attracts talent.

Wendy Tan

Author, Keynote Speaker & Managing Partner of Flame Centre | Future Skills Institute

Updated 17 July 2023


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