Today’s post-recession climate continues to pose challenges to business. Potentially one of the biggest is the shift in the employment market back in favour of the candidate. Holding onto talent once you’ve got it is crucial, as attracting that talent in the first place becomes more difficult.

Over 1,000 graduate vacancies were left unfilled last year, as businesses were ‘gazumped’ by graduates who accepted a job but then took a better offer elsewhere, unemployment in the UK economy remains at a ten-year low and more individuals are choosing self-employment –working on their own terms.

Such changes in the world of work mean that employees are voting with their feet if they don’t get what they want from their employer. And whilst salary is likely to remain top of the list in terms of reasons to join or leave an organisation, it is closely followed by the demand for greater support and opportunities for career growth and development.

Facilitating career development

Embedding a culture where career development is seen as an integral part of overall talent management has never been more important.

It has a direct impact on engagement and productivity – supporting employees to achieve their goals demonstrates that they are valued, resulting in more productive, more engaged and happier employees who will have a future vision linked to the organisation and will be motivated to continue their professional development – benefiting the company in the long run. However, this needs managers – the facilitators of career development – who are confident, competent and committed to discussing their reports’ career goals.

Worryingly then, our recent research reveals that a large number of managers are being offered little to no training, which means they are ill-equipped to hold these important conversations about their employees’ careers.

By not taking the time to actively train and equip managers with the techniques and tools for these conversations, organisations run the risk of putting themselves at the back of the line when it comes to securing and retaining the best talent. The knock-on effects of which being that the manager’s confidence in their own team-building abilities is dented and the sense of team solidarity and morale for juniors may also suffer.

Out of their depth

Additionally, our research reveals that only 37% of managers were confident that their organisation offered people manager training, with nearly a third (31%) saying they had received no training on how to conduct themselves in their new managerial position. In its most basic sense, companies are placing inexperienced people in management positions, and expecting them to understand how the role works while on the job.

This naturally adds increased pressure on those new to the position, as they are offered little guidance on the dos and don’ts. In relation to career development, it can have a serious knock on effect, as ill-equipped managers either choose not to speak to their teams about their personal development, or at best do so but badly.

The whole point of career conversations is to ensure that employees can fulfil their career aspirations within the company, aiding engagement, productivity and retention whilst creating an agile workforce capable of responding to today’s dynamic environment.

If businesses are leaving this to chance, by not training their managers on how to hold effective career conversations, they’re potentially opening Pandora’s box, setting expectations with employees that can’t be met and are gambling with their greatest asset – their employees.

The knock-on effect

This current lack of career management training not only leaves managers feeling somewhat powerless in this regard, but also leaves their direct reports feeling disgruntled and seeking career options elsewhere.

Almost two thirds (63%) of employees said that a lack of career development with their current employer could be enough to make them start looking for a new job; proving just how important these conversations are in retaining staff, and allowing managers to feel capable.

63% said that a lack of career development could be enough to make them start looking for a new job

With managers often seen as the gatekeepers of career development, making sure they know how to approach such conversations, including more difficult topics with their reports is needed now more than ever.

Currently, only one in four managers surveyed said they are confident in talking about topics such as salary (23%), delayed promotions (26%) and aspirations versus current abilities (29%) with members of their team. It’s therefore no surprise that employees are feeling weary, as their career discussions become more burdensome than motivational.

In order to ensure their employees feel empowered to be partially accountable for their own professional development and better informed about where growth opportunities lie, we recommend managers follow the tips below:

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