Beverly Kaye

Employee Engagement is a Two-Way Street

 Who owns the Employee Engagement Equation?

Reports and surveys and studies continue to cite employee engagement as fundamental to maximizing performance and to achieving organizational goals. Training programs prepare managers to reach out to team members and ask questions to better understand what employees need and want from their work and from the environment. Managers are instrumental in creating and maintaining the space in which work happens. Nothing grows without careful attention to the surrounding atmosphere. So, yes, managers own a piece of the employee engagement equation.

But what about the employee? Most of us are employees – even a sole proprietor reporting only to himself or the small business owner sharing her home office with her dog – they are both employed to do something, to create something, to achieve something. What piece of the employee engagement equation does he own? Does she own? What piece of employee engagement do you and I own? And if we own it, what can we do about it?

An organization in its simplest form is merely a group of people – of employees – who come together to do something. An organization is comprised of individuals working toward a common goal – to create a product, to deliver a service, or to accomplish a task. Employee engagement – the combination of the engagement levels of each one of us impacts our group’s ability to achieve whatever goals are set. When engagement of the individuals in the group is lagging or missing in some way it negatively impacts the combined efforts of the entire group. Each and every one of us owns some piece of this thing called engagement if we want to achieve something as a part of a larger team as well as individually. There are not a lot of people who yearn to be a part of a failing effort. So what can be done? What can individuals do, to impact the employee engagement levels in the group?

First, how about starting with my own engagement level? I can take a close look at what’s working for me and what’s not. Asking myself the question – When am I performing at my peak? What’s happening then? What does it look like? What am I doing? What’s going on around me? – can give me a clearer picture of my own employee engagement conditions. A colleague shared with me that she learned that starting her morning routine listening to a business podcast puts her in the right frame of mind to dive in when she sits down at her desk. A young professional I know is careful to create spaces on his daily calendar to exchange ideas and have a conversation with his teammates because he has learned that peer interaction is essential to his level of employee engagement. A friend who recently began working from his home office struggled with how to get into the “office mode” until he discovered that walking two blocks to his favorite coffee shop then returning to “the office” was what worked for him to set the stage for his day. Unless we do some reflection on what works for us, we may be missing some really simple things that can make a difference.

Second, when I find that something is missing or not quite right – something that could make my own engagement even better – I can talk about it, ask about it. Is there something a manager or a colleague could do to help? Often a simple change can make a very big difference. A manager in a recent program shared that he narrowly avoided losing a top performer because he didn’t realize how concerned the employee was about some upcoming changes in direction. Fortunately for the manager and for the individual, a candid conversation was all it took for the employee to feel more engaged in the organization’s future and for the manager to get a better understanding of this individual’s engagement level.

Of course, it’s possible that the one thing that’s needed might not be feasible at the moment – maybe the manager can’t make a change in the schedule to better match my needs right now, or there’s not a role at the moment in a particular project I wanted to be a part of – but at least I’ve made known that something is important to me, and put it on the radar screen so it might work out in the future.

The answer then is that the employee engagement equation is owned by employees – by each one of us – as well as by managers – and can be an equation with powerful and positive results!


  Wendy Tan   Aug 24, 2018   Engagement   Comments Off on Employee Engagement is a Two-Way Street   Read More

3 Ways To Ensure Your MVPs have a Mobility Mindset

You’ve probably heard that old management saying, “We need the right person, in the right role, at the right time.” We need to modernize that saying to, “What if there were more right places?”

It’s an interesting question and a necessary one in today’s business environment. Think about it. The career ladder, with its finite number of promotion positions available, would cease to be an obstacle when it comes to satisfying top talent with great skills, tons of ambition and no place to use them.

By identifying more “right” career places, talent leaders can create a development culture where everyone has growth opportunities in different sequences tailored to individual preferences, abilities, timing, and tastes. We just need to adjust our vision to see beyond the traditional career ladder and take advantage of its adjacent possibilities. That requires a mobility mindset, not just for an organization’s talent leaders, but for talent as well.

  1. Ensure talent know they are in control of how they define career success.

    Employees have to be willing to assess what success means to them personally and professionally, to take responsibility for their futures. They have to ask themselves, “What do I want from a company by way of development, career advancement, and general growth?” They have to be willing to ask for feedback – and listen, even when what they hear isn’t all good. Essentially, they have to be willing to do the work. Employees have to not only dig out these truths, they have to get up the nerve – and feel free – to ask their managers to help them realize their career goals.

  2. Managers have to shift their mindset from day-to-day operations to provide strategic talent development support.

    Providing stretch assignments can’t be seen as “extra work.” Coaching, mentoring, preparing individuals to learn, these activities must become part and parcel of the manager’s regular lexicon. Development has to be a key underpinning for everything that happens on the job. The support role is a big one. It requires that managers debrief with employees after stretch assignments to make sure the learning sticks and ideally cascades throughout the organization. On the job, learning stops being solely a task for the learning function and becomes a key step to advance business growth and employee satisfaction that managers never want to miss. Further, managers have to keep a keen eye out for growth opportunities to share with talented direct reports. may have to ask some tough questions and listen to some not so pleasant answers, be willing to endure uncomfortable conversations in the name of talent development, retention, and growth.

  3. Organizations have a substantive role to play in establishing a mobility mindset.

    While employees are owning their career futures and managers are looking for growth opportunities to share, the organization at large has to create a continuous development culture that will enable an employee and a manager’s mobility mindset. The HR function, senior leadership, and other stakeholders have to provide access to systems and tools that employees can easily use to find out what development opportunities are available and how they can apply for them. That might mean setting up the suitable communication vehicles to promote mentoring programs or formal stretch assignments. It could mean celebrating lateral moves as well as promotions “up” the career ladder. Or, it could mean rewarding talent leaders who share talent across departments or functions.

At the end of the day, career mobility has to be an essential part of an organization’s talent management strategy. That mindset has to flow through different – perhaps even all – areas of the business.

Promoting flexibility, agility, skill acquisition and lateral, internal career moves that provide a rich mix of experiences is a journey. But it’s a journey top talent is eager to go on, and one that top organizations are equally eager to make happen.

This article is written by Lindy Williams from Career Systems International. 


  Wendy Tan   Oct 04, 2017   Career Development   Comments Off on 3 Ways To Ensure Your MVPs have a Mobility Mindset   Read More

Up is not the Only Way: Career Paths to Patterns

Planning a career has always required some fundamental skills coupled with the willingness to devote time and energy to defining a personal view of success. All of that remains the same for today’s careerists. However, navigating a career in today’s workplaces also required a different way of thinking.

The turbulent workplace of the past decade has transformed traditional career paths from orderly routes with predetermined destinations into flexible collections of experiences designed to acquire skills that build resilience and offer continuous growth.

Savvy careerist knows to prepare for twists and turns and to expect the unexpected. The nonsavvy risk becoming frustrated when the unexpected occurs and too often fail to see the opportunities that can emerge from change.

A History of Career Paths

Career paths emerged in response to employees’ need for assistance in navigating through increasingly complex workplaces. New functions appeared, existing units merged and strategic focus shifted. Employees were finding it more difficult to identify viable routes to success.

Moreover, organizations invested time, energy and funds in formalizing logical paths based on a combination of organizational history and anticipated business direction. Paths were often prescriptive and came with an implied promise.

Employees translated that to mean successful completion of a series of steps, positions and coursework would result in arriving at the last stop on the path – a job. After all, that’s what a path does: It leads you to a predetermined destination.

“Are paths still useful? Yes – but a career path alone may not get individuals where they want and need to go.”

Paths were intended to be guidelines for career management, but they came with some unintended side effects. Paths led some employees to adopt a “check the box” approach to career planning. The upward progression that defined most paths endorsed vertical, promotional moves as the career option of choice. The careerist who aspired to a nontraditional career experience could feel uninspired and disengaged with the development process.

Career paths have not disappeared. In fact, they’re everywhere. A simple search of “career paths” will produce hundreds of links offering everything from a series of highly specialized roles to a sequence of gradually expanding leadership jobs.

So are paths still useful? Yes, but a career path alone may not get individuals where they want and need to go.

Today’s workplace is more complicated. Employees sit time zones away from managers. Matrixed reporting relationships increase the size and variety of career audiences.

Project-based assignments offer unique and stand-alone experiences. Rotational programs and temporary assignments are plentiful and offer a wide range of growth opportunities. Organizational redesigns demand flexible career planning and pliable options.

Careers are still a series of experiences, roles, assignments, and jobs. However, it is impossible to anticipate all the twists and turns that a modern career will take. A career that extends into 2025 and beyond will most likely be a combination of segments extracted from traditional paths, planned and unplanned stops, meaningful side trips and perhaps a few leaps of faith.

The savvy careerist examines the ever-changing landscape and builds a pattern. A career pattern, not completely unplanned but certainly flexible, prepares the careerist to not just weather the occasional roadblock or detour but also to thrive on the changing landscapes and unexpected challenges.

Paths are fixed. Patterns are fluid. Paths were based on what was done before by others. Patterns are for employees to design. Patterns leave something to the imagination. Just as two career journeys will not be identical, neither will two patterns be a replica of one another.

To understand the career pattern approach, envision a kaleidoscope. When you look through the lens of a kaleidoscope, you see a pattern of shapes and colors. If you twist the outer cylinder even slightly, the pattern changes. A new combination of shapes and colors appears. Today’s careers are similar. Organizations evolve, industries shift and professions change focus. The careers that emerge either flex or become obsolete.

Flexible Career Patterns

Imagine driving along a curvy country road, and around a bend, the road is blocked with a barricade and sign reading, “Road Closed.” A natural reaction is probably to search the side of the road for a detour sing and arrow. Or perhaps grab the phone to search for options from a GPS app.

A career pattern can offer options – detour signs – when a career experience is blocked or has disappeared. If the international assignment was awarded to someone else, then what equally enticing experiences are included in the career pattern that could be pursued instead for now? What learning was expected from the experience that could be obtained doing something else?

Employees may choose to change direction, or a change may choose them. When changes occur, a career pattern offers alternatives. Change may be an opportunity to redirect or rearrange the order of the planned experiences. Career patterns can be as detailed or as general as their owners – the employees – desire them to be.

The Pattern Partnership

Managers have always had a key role in career development. That role is as important today as it ever was, but the manner in which this role plays out in a career pattern is different. Managers will need to accelerate the new shift in the following ways:

Let go of control. The message that employees own their careers has been repeated often. Ownership comes with a responsibility to put forth the effort and energy to continue to grow. But ownership also builds an expectation that the individual will have some control.

Allow for flexible timelines. In today’s organization, it is folly to ask employees: “Where do you want to be in five years?” The rate of change in some industries makes predicting what roles will be available or appealing even next year an impossible task.

“Patterns are for employees to design. Just as two career journeys will not be identical, neither will two patterns be a replica of one another.”

It is up to employees to decide whether they want to plan for the next year or the next month. The savvy careerist examines options and set expectations based on “What’s now?” as well as “What’s next?” Managers and organizations need to allow that latitude.

Think experiences, not position. If careers are made up of experiences, then planning for a career is not a matter of drafting a list of potential future positions. When employees focus on the kinds of experiences they want from a career vs. the job, title, or position, they open up a wide variety of possibilities.

Replace the question, “What role do you want to pursue?” with “What experiences will result in a career that you would find rewarding and meaningful?” Do employees want to lead people, start up a new unit, manage a group project or take on an assignment outside the current country of residence? Here’s where those traditional career paths can help.

Think of them as a travelogue. Look for what fits. Study them and sear for ideas and options. There may be experiences described in a path that an employee will want to incorporate into the new career pattern.

Move from promises to purpose. The implied promises of a path – complete these steps and you will get that position – set motion some unrealistic expectations and can initiate or feed an entitlement culture. When employees identify the experiences they hope to include in their careers, the next important step is to put the experiences to the test.

Ask them to write the experiences they hope to have on flash cards and identify a purpose for each one. Ask questions like, “What will you learn or gain from the experience?” or “How will each experience prepare you for the future or for the next experience?” Patterns with purpose are enticing and will include experiences they can’t avoid.

Focus on possibilities, not predictions. Paths provided predictability even though they were never meant to. Patterns provide possibilities and options. Paths are fixed. Patterns are fluid. Careerists who create patterns have options when the change occurs.

Encourage employees to keep career patterns fresh and relevant. If an experience in the pattern is no longer enticing or important, it may be time to replace that experience with another that will provide a greater opportunity to learn. Help them consider which experiences come before others and which ones provide skill-building that can be used as they move through the pattern.

Share stories. Experience is said to be the best teacher, but even the most comprehensive career pattern can’t offer every experience. Employees learn from the career experiences of others, and a great place to start is with a story.

Share stories from successes and mistakes and ones that reveal major turning points, lessons, and inspirations. Managers should share stories that talk about a job that forced new thinking. Encourage employees to ask leaders about their career journeys. The stories they hear will reveal a wide variety of routes. Rarely is a career a straight, uninterrupted series of ladderlike steps.

Owner’s Role: the Employee

Like a kaleidoscope, the beauty of a career pattern is in the eye of the beholder. Career patterns are owned, managed and nurtured by the employee. Only the owner knows what personal professional success will look like for them. Only the owner knows how much or how little they plan to commit to achieving their success. And only the owner can make a pattern come to life.

Creating a career pattern starts with coming up with answers in three areas:

  1. Experiences: What experiences do I want to have during my career? Who can I watch? Who can I talk to? Who has had a career I want? How can I do that?
  2. Purpose: What will I learn or gain through each experience? How will what I learn, serve me in the future?
  3. Plan: How will I move between the experiences? How can my experiences build? What should come first?

Paths needed managing. Patterns need to be managed, too. As Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu’s said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

Employees must decide where to begin and then look for routes to take to bridge from experiences to experience.

Here are 6 tips for managing a career pattern:

  1. Redirect: If the hoped-for experience is not available right now or the timing is just not right, redirect to an alternative experience immediately. Don’t waste time stewing over it – find experiences that have a similar purpose.
  2. Refine: Often something is learned from an experience that was not expected. Examine how accidental learning might refine or reshape one or more future opportunities. Patterns can be refined to fit and tailored to leverage new knowledge.
  3. Recycle or Replace: Sometimes an experience that seemed meaningful and full of opportunities yesterday becomes less important. Recycle it. Toss it out. Replace it with an experience that is more relevant or inviting.
  4. Refresh: Pursuing experiences that are no longer enticing results in an unproductive pattern. Patterns should be refreshed regularly to see if they still inspire commitment. Tying a pattern refresh to something easily remembered – maybe when clocks are reset for daylight savings or even a birthday – can ensure a refresh occurs.
  5. Rearrange: Several factors influence the sequence in which experiences are pursued. The first is drive, commitment, and choices. The order in which pattern experiences happen needs to make sense for the owner. Second, careers will not happen in a vacuum. Outside forces often determine what opportunities are available and when. The savvy careerist stays in tune with what’s happening in the organization and industry. If a change or shift occurs that places an experienced front and center, it is important to not allow the opportunity to pass. Rearranging the pattern to take advantage of the timing can make all the difference.
  6. Rejoice: Celebrating the success – the experiences that turn out to be awesome, and even the occasional stumble, the experience that teaches so much – makes the pattern a rich resource of energy and accomplishment.

The workplace landscape is changing so quickly that no sooner do we map it than our map is out of date Savvy careerists – individuals who commit to designing, pursuing and living career patterns that are their own – and managers who encourage and guide them are leading the way in this new approach to careers.

This article is written by Beverly Kaye and Lindy Williams on

  Wendy Tan   Jul 03, 2017   Career Development   Comments Off on Up is not the Only Way: Career Paths to Patterns   Read More

It’s Time to Prioritize Career Development

Given the nature of today’s workplace, there are a number of things pulling at business leaders’ attention on any given day. Instantaneous access to information coupled with pressure to consistently meet the ever-escalating expectations of customers and shareholders offers fuel countless priorities and to-dos every day.

But there’s one priority that might serve leaders better than any other and drive sustainable business results: career development.

Whereas in the past career development was frequently relegated to “nice-to-do” or “when you get around to it,” today it’s increasingly being viewed as a necessity. Study upon study links to career and talent development to valued business metrics, leading indicators, and positive overall outcomes.

Despite the quantifiable connection between a focus on career development and what matters most to organizations, too few managers and leaders focus on career development. A recent pulse survey we conducted found that half of the respondents felt that their managers are disinterested in their career development.

How would the employees in your organization rate managers overall? How would your employees rate you?

At the same time, this pulse survey also offers a hopeful message. Twenty-five percent of the respondents expressed their satisfaction and pleasure, indicating that their managers fall on the “prioritized” end of the continuum and act as active partners, supporters, and champions of career development.

Being able to learn, grow, expand capacity and work toward career goals is of vital importance to most individuals. It’s also of vital importance to organizations interested in exceeding customer demands, continuously improving products and services, and delivering shareholder value. Leaders who prioritize and put energy into career development find they are better able to deliver on both the business and human outcomes.

These leaders think and behave a little differently than others, putting daily behaviors and habits into practice that any leader can adopt. Try one or more of these priorities to demonstrate your commitment to the development of those around you.

Priority 1: Assume that everyone has the potential to learn and grow. 

Leaders who drive career development live by an abiding belief that every individual is valuable and capable of developing their skills and abilities further. This belief plays out in countless ways every day, conveying and inspiring greater confidence in others. Under these conditions, employees are willing to commit to learning, take risks, entertain instructive failure, and make enormous development strides in the process.

Priority 2: Focus on an opportunity-filled future.

Leaders who prioritize career development know how to generate enthusiasm, energy and a sense of hope by helping others envision the possibilities that might lie ahead. For employees, the future feels bright in the presence of these leaders because they consistently anticipate ways to connect what employees need to learn or experience with ever-changing workplace conditions. Because these leaders coach their employees to always be pursuing multiple, flexible scenarios, plenty of chances to learn and advance will always be available along some of the possible paths being pursued.

Priority 3: Cultivate peripheral vision.

Leaders committed to employee development are able to enjoy this confidence in the future in part because they are constantly scanning the environment. They keep their eyes on and continuously refine their understanding of the big picture. They remain hyper vigilant to the factors that affect the business, the organizational culture and future opportunities, and they teach those around them to do the same. This focus forward and toward the future allows employees to make decisions today that will serve them well in the uncertainty of tomorrow.

“Being able to learn, grow, expand capacity and work toward career goals is of vital importance to most individuals.”

Priority 4: Generously share information.

Hoarders of information typically make terrible developers of people. Think about the managers under whose leadership you’ve grown the most. They likely communicated a lot. These individuals probably believed in the value of transparency; they knew that with the right information, employees could make the best possible decisions, both for the business and their own careers.

Employees are hungry for candid, forthright information about things that affect them. They don’t want managers to tell them what they want to hear; they want what they need to hear — even if it’s unpleasant or scary.

And sharing big picture information about the organization, its strategies, where it’s headed and the challenges anticipated along the way will not only help people perform better but also give them crucial information about where they can add value and where opportunities might lie.

Priority 5: Dwell on strengths, talents, and capabilities.

Powerful developers of people don’t frame the effort in terms of fixing problems, shoring up weak‐ nesses or unraveling vulnerabilities. They know that the shortest and surest way forward and toward one’s career goals are through their strengths and talents. Employees who are fortunate enough to report to these leaders quickly learn to focus on what they do well and find ways to further magnify those capabilities. This approach is energizing and quickly establishes a positive context for development that infuses itself into all dimensions of work life, triggering an upward spiral of enthusiasm, engagement, and results.

Priority 6: Treat career development as a daily part of the leadership role.

Managers who prioritize career development understand that it’s not a human resources function — it’s a leadership function. They don’t see it as the annual exercise of checking boxes but rather as the daily exercise of checking in with others.

Research has shown that the more frequently managers meet with those who report to them, the more engaged team members will be. In customer service, it’s long been understood that every customer contact is an opportunity to build the emotional connection between the customer and service provider. The same holds true for managers and their employees. More positive points of contact build rapport, trust, engagement, and commitment.

Formal, scheduled connections like one-on-ones, performance appraisals, and individual development planning sessions are just a small part of the conversational repertoire. These leaders recognize and seize small moments within the context of daily work to connect, offer feedback, acknowledge the effort, praise results, explore learning, or just ask how things are going. These conversations are spontaneous, ad-hoc, unplanned and tremendously powerful in terms of institutionalizing career development.

Priority 7: View talent as an enterprisewide resource.

Our field research suggests that one of the key factors keeping managers from engaging in career development is that they are concerned about developing people only to see them leave for a better opportunity. A 2015 survey from advisory and technology firm CEB backs this up. Nearly 60 percent of the human resources executives who responded paint a dismal snapshot of managerial generosity, indicating that managers in their organizations don’t share talent.

Leaders who prioritize career development see things differently. They recognize that as skills and experience increase, employees might need challenges that are no longer available in their current roles. As a result, these leaders help find other opportunities — even if it means losing a key player. They realize that developing individuals raises the bar for the entire group. They also realize that the reputation they develop for helping others grow makes them a talent magnet, able to attract a steady stream of capable individuals.

Priority 8: Use the value of peer-to-peer support.

Leaders know that they can’t — and shouldn’t — do it all. They realize that each of their own direct reports has not only the skills and abilities to apply to their jobs but also the coaching and counsel to offer each another. They take advantage of this.

Others’ input benefits personal and professional growth in most areas. As a result, employees who can seek and offer feedback freely and effectively experience accelerated development. In the process, they also master a core supervisory skill that may prepare them for a future role.

Prioritizing career development is a good thing for leaders at every level — because it creates the conditions for people and organizations to thrive.

Besides, of all the things to prioritize, shouldn’t the growth of employees be at the top of a leader’s list?

“Leaders who prioritize and put energy into career development find they are better able to deliver on both the business and human outcomes.”

This is written by Julie Winkle Giulioni and Beverly Kaye, on http://www.

  Wendy Tan   Jul 03, 2017   Engagement   Comments Off on It’s Time to Prioritize Career Development   Read More

Please Invade My Space

Picture a typical day at work. A manager leaves his office and heads to the cafeteria on the other side of the building. On the way, he passes Emma from the call center. He also makes his way past Lin, who works in the mail room, and the brushes by one of his team lead, Roy. The manager gets to the cafeteria, picks up a sandwich from the cooler and pays Pat at the register.

Who did he see along the way? It wasn’t Emma, Lin, Roy, and Pat. He saw no one. He only saw the screen on his smartphone, and he responded to an email from Roy. Yes, the same Roy he just passed in the hall. Seem crazy? It shouldn’t. It’s just another day at the office.

Why Talk When You Can Text?

With the emergence of email, Twitter, smartphones, instant messages and other technology-based communication devices, the art of making eye contact and even the simple act of saying hello in the workplace is becoming folklore for workplace blogs. Years from now, archeologists may write articles about how and when the art of a one-on-one conversation become obsolete. True, these advancements may make it easier to communicate faster and with more people at once, but it doesn’t always make it better, and it isn’t necessarily helping leaders engage and retain their employees.

Physician and writer Deepak Chopra talks about the link between well-being and a manager’s style. He suggests that if a manager criticises an employee, there is a 20% chance the employee will be actively disengaged. In contrast, when a manager ignores and employee, the chance of being actively disengaged jumps to 40%. In short, employees would rather be criticized by their managers than ignored. Research by Career Systems International confirms the importance of the employee-manager relationship. In a study with more that 17,00 respondents, a supportive manager and great boss rank in the top 5 reasons employees stay and remain engaged at work.

A number of assumptions may be stopping leaders from having meaningful, face-to-face conversations:

  1. “My employee know my door is always open and they can come to me anytime.”
  2. “If they need something, they’ll ask.”
  3. “No one has time for chitchat.”
  4. “It’s a lot more efficient for me to communicate this way, and my employees prefer it.”

Rather than make assumptions, talent leaders would be better served to mandate leader-direct report engagement. For instance, a senior leader at a manufacturing facility could institute the “eight-foot rule” requiring all leaders to engage their employees in conversation anytime they come withing eight feet of each other. Managers won’t start walking around the building with a tape measure, but they will start looking people in the eye, saying hello and even stopping in the halls for quick conversations. The changes aren’t monumental, but they are noticeable.

Contrast this scenario with a manager at an aerospace company who chooses to attend his staff meeting via telecom. No big deal, right? In today’s virtual world, it’s not uncommon to talk with one’s team via phone. In this case, it was a big deal. The team meeting is 20 steps away from the manager’s office, yet he chooses to dial in on the conference line. If he’s not dialing in, he’s instant message tasks, questions, and updates.

Employees would rather work for the manager who notices an employee in the office and says, “Good morning,” not the manager who stays in the office keeping in touch by phone and instant messaging when he sits just down the hall. Employees want to have face-to-face conversations with their boss. When, where, what, and how often may vary, but relationships are built through conversations, and employees want a relationship with their boss.

Get Up and Start Talking

Research firm the Radicati Group’s Email Statistic Report for 2011-2015 reports the average corporate user sends and receives 105 emails a day. The good news is that the rate of daily emails is slowing down. The bad news is that email is being replaced by instant messaging (IM) and social networks.

In 2011, the number of IM accounts reached approximately 2.6 billion and worldwide social networking accounts hit some 2.4 billion. Smartphones keep folks in touch as well, with billions of global wireless users. With the ease of use and access to all this communication technology,  it’s understandable that leaders are using it to keep in touch with employees. It’s fast, efficient and accessible. It’s also can be a cop out. Technology doesn’t always deliver what employees want and need from their leaders. They want communication and information, but they also want to know they matter.

Getting up and starting to talk isn’t hard, but in today’s technology-based work environment, it does have to be purposeful. Managers need to leave their offices and leave smartphones behind. For instance, they can plan weekly face time with their employees by putting in on their calendars and sticking to it. Or, set and “out of office” message on email, and get up and get out with the sole purpose of making face-to-face contact with employees.

Despite myriad available development options, it’s not uncommon for leaders not to know what to say during face-to-face interactions. The following are all popular sentiments leaders use to avoid in-person communique: “What will I say? What if they ask for something I can’t give? I’m just not comfortable in one-on-one conversations.” It can be easier to hide behind and email message, but email is rarely cited as a big retention and engagement tool. Research does confirm, however, that employees are engaged when they believe their manager cares.

Talent managers should encourage managers to be curious about their employees. When people are curious, they are eager to get information. They ask powerful questions to learn more, and managers should actively listen to the answers.

Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Questions

The key is to ask questions designed to get to know employees beyond the daily work they do. The career conversation offers this opportunity. It can help employees uncover skills, interests, and values, talking about career aspirations and goals, and learn what engages them and what doesn’t. In short, managers must ask questions and listen to responses. Consider these conversation-sparking, career-related questions:

  • What makes for a great day at work?
  • What interests must you in your current job?
  • Which parts of your job do you find the most challenging?
  • What do you excel in?
  • What do you wish you have more time to do in your work?
  • What skills do you appreciate in others that don’t come easy for you?
  • What’s working? What’s not?
  • How can I support you?

What managers can ask is limitless; It’s how they listen and how often they ask that matters most. Keep the distractions to a minimum and focus on the conversations. try the aforementioned eight-foot rule and see what happens. Don’t have time to stop for a conversation? Keep the smartphone in the pocket, make eye contact with employees in the hall and say hello.

However, all this talk about talking wouldn’t be complete without a word of caution. Not every employee wants the same thing. For some, invading their space may be equal to declaring battle. Engaging every employee in conversation takes finesse and a little bit of investigative work. For some employees, regular face-to-face communication may be every six months. Other wants a daily hello. Managers would be well advised to talk with their employees and get a sense of just how much conversation they want by asking:

  • What is your preferred method of communication?
  • How do you like to receive feedback or work through issues?
  • When would you prefer a face-to-face conversation versus an email?
  • When we do get together to talk, what are some topics you would like to cover?

“Technology doesn’t always deliver what employees want and need from their leaders. They want communication and information, but they also want to know they matter.”

Make no assumptions – ask- and understand that what works for one employee may not work for others. Managers with geographically dispersed direct reports will have to make an extra effort to align employee expectations with the reality of time and distance separating them.

According to Radicati Group, there will be more than 1.2 billion wireless email users by year’s end in 2015. Reliance on technology-based communication platforms will continue to grow, with many positive results. The value of face-to-face conversations won’t diminish during that time; it will become more important as employees and managers week ways to connect and engage at work.

This article was written by Beverly Crowell, the VP of strategic client services for Career Systems International, on


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  Wendy Tan   Jul 03, 2017   Engagement   Comments Off on Please Invade My Space   Read More

Why is it important to develop your employees?

It wasn’t long ago that career development was a workplace nice-to-do. Now, it’s no longer even a need-to-do, but a “non-negotiable survival strategy” for employers.

The perk is growing in popularity and importance because it’s essential in driving employee engagement, Julie Winkle Giulioni, co-founder and principal of consulting and instructional design firm DesignArounds, said this week at the Society for Human Resource Management’s annual conference in New Orleans.

“It’s the Swiss Army knife for managers — it’s flexible, it’s productive, it does a bunch of different jobs for you,” she said. “When people feel like they invest in their work, they are happier at work. And it develops a positive reputation that will drive other employees to your organization.”

Additionally, according to research from consulting firm Korn Ferry Hay Group, while a competitive compensation and benefits program is often a key reason that employees join an organization, a lack of career development opportunities is the No. 1 reason employees leave organizations.

Career development encompasses everything, from promotion and management opportunities, training and classes to coaching and simply providing mentorship to employees.

“It doesn’t have to be huge or onerous,” Giulioni said. Employers can start off small, she said, noting that career development needs to be practiced constantly.

“It isn’t an annual exercise of checking boxes, but an ongoing exercise of checking in with employees,” Giulioni said. “It’s like brushing your teeth — you don’t do it once or twice a year; you have to do it daily.”

Beverly Kaye, CEO of Career Systems International, which provides employee engagement programs, says it’s important for employers and employees to think about career development as a climbing wall, with multiple places to go in any direction, rather than a ladder with only so many rungs. Employers should have conversations with employees about what kind of work they want to do, what problems they want to solve and what kind of legacy they want to leave.

Kaye and Giulioni offered some tips for how to mentor employees:

1. Flag performance: Give employee details on a specific project. “Tell them, ‘I think you nailed this’ and ‘I think you need to work on this,’” Giulioni said.
2. Focus on development: “Managers can tell their employee, ‘I think it will improve your development if you try it this way instead of that way,” Giulioni said.
3. Foster performance: Ask an employee how he thinks he did on a certain project and listen. Then the manager should tell the employee how she thinks he did.
4. Celebrate achievements: Celebrate employees’ achievements and growth. Giulioni says it can be as simple as telling a worker, “I saw how much you changed from last week to this week in how you addressed the team.”


“When people feel like they invest in their work, they are happier at work. And it develops a positive reputation that will drive other employees to your organization.”


This post was written by Kathryn Mayer on


  Wendy Tan   Jul 03, 2017   Career Development   Comments Off on Why is it important to develop your employees?   Read More

Career Development: Today’s Meta-Priority

Last week, Julie Winkle Giulioni (co-author of Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go) and I spoke at the SHRM conference in New Orleans. Our session was entitled Career Development: Today’s Meta-Priority. The session was so well received, I wanted to share concepts from it in this blog.

In the past, career development was often considered a “nice-to-do” or “when you get around to it” activity. Today more and more organizations are viewing it as a necessity, as several studies link career and talent development to valued business metrics.

Leaders who prioritize career development think and act differently. They’ve incorporated ways to make career development a priority into their daily habits. Demonstrate your commitment to the development of your employees by trying one or more of these priorities.


Priority 1: Assume that everyone has the potential to learn and grow.

This mindset will inspire greater confidence in your employees.


Priority 2: Focus on an opportunity-filled future.

Realize that opportunity still knocks….it just opens different doors!


Priority 3: Cultivate peripheral vision.

Continuously refine your view of the big picture. Be aware of factors that affect your business, industry, and culture.

Priority 4: Treat career development as a daily part of the leadership role. 

Recognize and seize small moments within the context of daily work to connect with your employees.


Priority 5: View talent as an enterprise-wide resource. 

Don’t hoard talent!


This blog post was written by Beverly Kaye, Founder of Career Systems International. Posted on

  Wendy Tan   Jul 03, 2017   Career Development   Comments Off on Career Development: Today’s Meta-Priority   Read More

The Power of Pause

WOMEN REPRESENT ABOUT half of the nation’s workforce yet still make about 83 percent of men’s median wages, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. They’re also underrepresented in the c-suites and boards across nearly every industry. In other words, women are working just as hard but aren’t seeing the full benefit of their efforts.

As talent management professionals, we work with many of today’s Fortune 1,000 companies. They invite us in to help their employees take ownership of their careers. Our formula is time-tested and successful but only when it’s lived out beyond the classroom and put into practice.

Employees leave our sessions knowing what to do, but the actual doing is quite hard. And it’s a little tougher for women. Why? A woman’s focus is almost never solely in her career. She’s juggling multiple priorities, so intentionally managing her career is an easy one to push down the to-do list.

What does it mean to manage one’s career intentionally? We talk about career management in the context of five critical questions:

  1. Who am I?
  2. How do others see me?
  3. What’s changing in the world of work?
  4. What are my options?
  5. How can I achieve my goals?

Answering these self-reflection questions requires muting the noise going on outside and focusing on the inside.

For women, that means not checking their text messages and see who forgot their school lunch, holding off listening to a voice mail from an ailing parent, and not stopping everything to add a calendar reminder to pick up eggs.

But muting is necessary for a process of discovery to unfold. So, if you are a leader of women, help them press mute and concentrate on what’s going on inside the place they work: what’s happening now, what’s going to happen, and what will make them the best professional now and in the future. Then walk them down this five-step path.


What do you hold most dear, what do you do better than anyone else, and what do you really love doing? We talk about these three areas in the terms of having a good career fit.

Being able to be articulate one’s skills is critical. In much of our work, the stereotypes prove true—women have a harder time articulating their specific skills (not just “I’m good with people”) and speaking about them as if they’re owned. We have seen exceedingly skillful women unable to passionately and vehemently defend their almost innate abilities, and we often see women rating themselves lower in their skill sets.

And while women may have a harder time articulating these skills, they inherently possess many savvy behaviors that are key to navigating a successful career. They tend to score higher on their ability to listen well, collaborate, be comfortable with diversity, and build relationships through teams. In build- ing these relationships, however, women can suffer from putting their own interests last. So, while they might know what they are passionate about doing, it’s not uncommon to see the female talent to hang tough and do work they don’t enjoy for the sake of the team or peace at work.

Finally, what about values? What matters most to women? We’ve gotten a variety of answers over the past 35 years—everything from spending time with family and friends to challenging oneself intellectually.What is consistent is how women rate satisfaction with their values given their current work situation. It’s common to see female talent more dissatisfied. Perhaps this is related to their willingness to tough it out for the sake of the team, the organization, or the family. In our own experiences, we’ve put major promotions on hold to care for young children where the value of family trumps the value of a career.

One value we do see more often with women is the desire to feel appreciated and respected. It’s important to them that their tough-it-out mentality is recognized: Hey, can’t you see the sacrifices I’m making here—appreciate me!


The days of having your manager tap you on the shoulder and point you to your next job are over. Today, no one manages their career in a vacuum and no one truly works alone. Even if you work in a remote office, you’re still connected and how all these connections view you is important.

To know the opinion of others requires feedback. And, while women are generally eager for feedback, it’s not uncommon to see them ruminate on it. In fact, one of us is still talking about the feedback we received from a boss in 2005. It was accurate feedback—about pouting in a meeting—but still, stings.

Perspective from others is effective when women keep their emotions in check. We encourage them to stick to the facts and ask for specific examples when the feedback is fresh. Then step back and look for the truth within it. If you’re not sure, ask a peer or mentor. Mentors are a powerful resource; women benefit from learning from someone who’s walked a mile in their shoes.

We’re talking more to women’s groups about the power of personal branding in today’s workplace. It begins by asking the hard questions like “what’s my reputation at work” or “what do people say about me when I leave the room?” If you don’t ask, you won’t know if your brand is getting in the way of the career you want.

“Once a plan is in place and women are excited about it, our experience is that they will pursue their goals with a tenacity that’s often unmatched by others.”


Careers grow and evolve within ever-changing cultures and environments. A critical step in any career management is knowing exactly where you stand amid this changing environment and arming yourself to see opportunities where others may not.

To grow in today’s complex organizations, it’s essential to build a rich and diverse network. The key word here is diverse. We often see women looking more for networks at their own level and not higher-level networks that may help advance their careers and knowledge. Conversely, it’s not uncommon to see their male counterparts being more strategic about who they want in their network. They take the “you never know unless you ask” approach.

Managing one’s network is a conscious responsibility and the prescription for personal and business success. Know what you want, who can help and how, and what you can offer in return.


Here is where we see women in the workplace both thrive and struggle. Typically, we find that women aren’t as upward-focused as men but they do see multiple career options: Up, down, sideways, a little of each, or growing right where they are. The barrier is the either-or mentality they often take. Do they pull out all stops to get ahead or just keep their heads down and hope it all works out? The right answer is yes.

We recently spoke at a Women in Leadership Conference and career options was a highly charged topic. The women in the room openly voiced the concern about saying no to any opportunity that comes their way. By saying no, many thought they were giving into the stereotype that women don’t really want to do whatever it takes to get ahead. The fear prompts many women to say yes even when it may not be the right fit.

Leaders can support women more fully here by realizing that we employ a whole person and that whole person brings to work values, skills, interests, and perspectives that may not align with every opportunity. It’s why self- awareness is so critical. Saying yes or no should begin with who you are, not what others want you to be.


Careers happen, planned or not. You won’t achieve even the clearest, most realistic goals without commitment and focus. It’s this focus—or lack thereof— that can be a real roadblock for women. It requires putting themselves first. They can do so by reaching out to other women as mentors for guidance, form- ing career action teams where they support and hold one another accountable, or even asking for very specific development ideas from people in their career network, including their manager.

Once a plan is in place and women are excited by it, it’s our experience that they will pursue their goals with a tenacity often unmatched by others. But it starts with having the courage to press pause. Do you have what it takes?


“For women in the workplace, the key to continued growth is intentionally muting the noise.”


Written by Beverly Crowell and Beverly Kaye on Talent Quarterly, The Boss Issue.


  Wendy Tan   May 16, 2017   Article-Consulting, Career Development, Resource for Performance Conversations   Comments Off on The Power of Pause   Read More

Finding a Good Career Fit



One of the unfortunate effects of getting swamped by deadlines, inundated by emails and engulfed in an ever-changing pile of priorities is losing sight of “you”. In this wired world of work, you can lose track of what really works for you — the connection to yourself and what you need and want from work. Satisfying and successful careers are more than just jobs: careers embody your unique values, skills, and interests, as well as your personal traits and style. Self-awareness – or the lack of it – affects every choice and decision you make. You cannot plan your career without first knowing yourself.

Having control of your career requires finding a good career fit–one that offers alignment between your personal values, interests and skills and creates a fulfilling and productive work life.

The clue to achieving a career fit is to first be clear on what your interests are, which are based on a solid understanding of your current personal needs and what matters to you. When your interest and values are defined, you can safely determine the type or job you really need to reach a work/life balance.

To create a productive and fulfilling work life, it is also important that the job you choose maximizes your strengths and offers the development opportunities you need to improve those not so strong skills, as well as those new skills you will need to stay abreast of changes in your field and your organization.



Now that you know what it really means to be in control of your career, you will want to do something about your current job situation. Begin by sharing your values and interest with your boss and together find ways for you to meet them in your current position. If your boss does not have the means to make this happen, perhaps he/she can help you make the right connections within your organization that can help you.

If you want to feel good about your job, you need to take action. Stop waiting for your ideal job to come to you. Stop saying “I wish….” or “if only I could….” and take charge of your career!

Written by Katie Wacek, Career Systems International

  Wendy Tan   May 14, 2017   Career Development   Comments Off on Finding a Good Career Fit   Read More
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