Human Resources professionals and managers are often expected to conduct career coaching. In our career development workshops, we discover three distinct types of employees. While we train managers to navigate career conversations using a career coaching framework and tools, it is not a one-size-fits-all approach. We need to tailor our approach to different employees.
Below are the three profiles and our suggestions on how to support each of them in their career development:
1. The Ambitious Employee
“When can I be promoted?”
“What are your plans for me?”
“I would like more interesting and challenging assignments.”
These comments typically come from employees who are eager for success and want it now. They tend to be younger employees and will initiate these career conversations. Asking for feedback is a norm. They may also compare themselves with their peers and expect to progress as quickly as them. If they are not promoted as fast as they think they should be, they will wonder why—and inquire about it.
The key is to manage ambitious employees’ expectations and channel their energy for challenge constructively. Find out what their career aspirations are.Inform them that promotions do not depend only on performance. Opportunities go to people who are prepared, so help them prepare themselves by focusing on learning. At the same time, help them be strategic in their career development—moving up too quickly could limit their flexibility to move into other roles in the future. Reframe the conversation from being about promotions to being about experiences and skills needed for future roles.
2. The Reluctant Employee
“Please do not give me more work.”
“I am happy doing what I am doing.”
“Please don’t stress me out.”
Reluctant employees tend to be comfortable in their field of work and dislike change and uncertainty. They are not ambitious and do not see the need to progress in their career. This may be due to lack of skills, or perhaps their interests simply lie outside of work. They are satisfied doing their current job well.
As their manager, you need to educate them on the fast pace of change. Talk with them about the fact that developing organizations, transforming customer requirements, and new technology create a demand for change inside the organization.And give specific examples—for instance, how automated payment stations have led to fewer cashiers in the supermarket. With relevant skills, they can be re-deployed into other roles.
Gently tell them the risks of not learning and their vulnerability if there is a sudden change. Let them know their career stability comes from their skills, not from trying to keep doing the same thing in a specific job in the organization. They will be anxious hearing this, but it is better for this anxiety to motivate learning now than to find themselves in stressful situations later.
Give positive examples of how others have learned throughout their careers. For example, a client of mine, Jane started work asa secretary with secondary-school education. She kept upgrading herself and taking on new challenges and is now a regional director. So find out their strengths and interests and expand the areas where these can be applied.
3. The Clueless Employee
“I don’t know where and how I want to develop”
“I am too busy with work to think about this”
“I want to develop as an XX, but I don’t know how to get there.”
These employees are probably your solid employees. They do their work and add value to the company. But they probably do not spend time thinking about their career. Or even if they do, they do not know how to plan their career. They probably have a vague idea that career development leads to higher positions, but lack clarity and specific strategies to get there.
Such employees will certainly benefit from learning how to plan and develop their career. A workshop participant exclaimed, “Since I was young, we have been told to study hard, do well, and go from primary and secondary school to tertiary education. We are also encouraged to study subjects that will add value to the economy, such as computer science, life sciences, and engineering. But after we graduate, suddenly there are no more instructions!”
How true. We spend so much of our lives studying content that we will never use. Think of calculus, physics laws, or biological terms. But we do not spend time learning how to navigate forty years of our career! It is assumed that we will develop internal direction. But that is also a process.
Encourage these employees to take ownership of their career, rather than wait for the manager to take initiative or for their career to happen. They need to get to know themselves, manage their reputation, understand what skills will be required in future , and decide what and how they need to develop.
Are you a development manager?
Different staff will need varying time commitments to support their career development. Start by talking to them in one-on-one conversations, understand which profile they fit into, and set them off in the right direction. Your attention to their career development will not only develop team capabilities and build the talent needed to power future growth for your organization; it will also earn you the reputation of being a great manager. You become a talent magnet. Talented employees gravitate to development managers because they want be nurtured, challenged and supported. So what kind of manager do you want to be known as?
The purpose of Flame Centre is to unleash possibilities and potential of people and organizations through partnerships. Flame Centre works with organizations to engage, retain and develop their people.