I was recently training a group of managers to hold effective career conversations with their employees. The workshop went well and the feedback was extremely positive. But in the pub after the workshop, one of the managers said “I enjoyed the workshop and I like the career conversation framework you shared with us. But, at the end of the day, I don’t think its my responsibility to help an employee manage their career. Its up to them!”

Really?  I can’t help but disagree. That isn’t to say that I believe in the historical view that personal development and career management are what an organisation does for an employee rather than them being ultimately responsible for it. 
In reality, of course individuals own their careers, and certainly their own attitudes and aspirations. 
But, if organisations want to engage and retain those proactive, career-focussed individuals they need to consciously create a supportive organisational culture that allows them to develop their career within the organisation rather than by applying for a new job elsewhere. 
In my experience, effective career management involves a three-way partnership between the employee, the line manager and HR. 
The employee needs to take the lead, identifying his or her career aspirations/preferences and carrying out a self assessment of strengths and development needs in light of those aspirations. They then need to work with their line manager and HR to agree the development that will be required and dovetail these aspirations, where possible, into the opportunities available within the organisation. 
Specifically, employees need to:
  1. Complete a self-assessment of their strengths, development needs, career aspirations and preferences;
  2. Determine their long-term career goals;
  3. Accept short-term trade-offs for longer-term benefits;
  4. Build the right connections and relationships to achieve their career goals;
  5. Request feedback on their skills and performance;
  6. Gain agreement to specific development actions;
  7. Implement their Individual Development Plan (IDP);
  8. Approach their manager to request a career conversation if needed;
  9. Continuously find situations that will help their personal development;
  10. Watch out for opportunities that are in line with their career goals. 

The line manager is a key relationship in managing an employee’s career since they are someone the employee has regular contact with and has an ongoing relationship with. Ideally, the manager will hold regular career conversations to help the employee think through their career plans and also enable the manager to stay in touch with the employee’s development and career aspirations. This will allow them to manage the employee’s expectations, support their development and feed any aspirations into any succession planning/talent review processes. 

Specifically, managers need to:
  1. Manage employee’s expectations realistically;
  2. Provide information on the business direction and possibilities;
  3. Provide guidance on alignment of the employee’s career aspirations with the business needs;
  4. Ensure employee’s career aspirations are fed into any succession planning and talent review processes;
  5. Provide coaching, mentoring and support;
  6. Provide opportunity to gain work experiences relevant to their career development plan;
  7. Support the employee in implementing their Individual Development Plan (IDP);
  8. Help the employee understand their strengths and areas for development;
  9. Introduce the employee to valuable people within own network;
  10. Offer the employee the opportunity to have regular career conversations.

Ideally, HR’s role is one of actively supporting and facilitating career management activities, focussing on both the employee and manager. That means providing advice to help each party play their role, providing access to relevant resources, such as training and coaching where applicable and facilitating moves between departments and functions when required.

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