Career Development Is Not “Something Else To Do”

Thursday, April 25, 2013

One of the most frequently asked questions I get from senior leaders is about how to embed career development in their company culture – the exact question is usually, “how do we get our managers to focus and spend time on their employees’ career development? They are already so busy and do not need any more to do”. I have two answers to this question – both usually work well, once these things become customary in your organization.

First, ensure the workforce understands who “owns” career development. Although managers have a responsibility to support the growth of their employees’ development, it’s the employee who has ownership of his or her own career growth. Whether they work at your organization or somewhere else, they are the owners of their career and they also determine whether or not they want their career to grow. It’s best to ensure they understand these responsibilities. In addition, you want to be sure they have enough information on what it means to “grow” or “develop” their career inside your company since career development takes on different meanings depending on the size and type of organization. Ensuring that everyone understands who owns career development takes some of the burden off the managers because although they are responsible for supporting their employees’ development, they cannot ever force an employee to develop his or her career.

The second way to more easily embed career development in your culture is to make it a normal part of what managers and employees review and discuss. If having a career conversation is something additional for managers to do with their employees, they will resist it because they are too busy; however, if you encourage them (and their employees) to discuss career goals, objectives and aspirations as part of their normal one-on-one conversations, it no longer is something else to do but simply part of what they are already doing. By making career development a normal part of what everyone does, there is less resistance and more acceptance of it. Eventually, it becomes routine, which is a clear indicator that it’s beginning to get embedded in your culture.

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