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Lack of career development tempting nearly two-thirds to leave employer

Research reveals untrained managers ill-equipped to hold career conversations.

Managers are ill-equipped to have career conversations with their direct reports, with nearly a third (31%) saying their organisation doesn’t provide people management training for managers according to research launched today by Penna, the global people management business.

When asked how satisfied they are with the level of career development they are receiving, employees gave a measly five out of ten for their current organisations. And its little wonder, given that only around one in four managers surveyed said they are confident in talking about difficult career conversation topics such as salary (23%), delayed promotions (26%) and aspirations versus current abilities (29%) with members of their team.

It’s a serious business issue, as nearly two thirds (63%) of employees said that a lack of career development with their current employer would very much - or possibly - be enough to make them start looking for a new job. Unsurprising perhaps when you consider that more than a third of managers (36%) even admitted to not knowing what their direct reports’ career goals over the next 12 months are. 

Perceptions about the frequency and formats of careers conversations also differ between managers and employees.  57% of managers said they talked to direct reports about their professional goals and long-term aspirations at least a few times a month - directly contrasting with 50% of employees who said that, at best, this happens just a few times a year. It’s clear that managers feel as though they are putting in the effort to have regular career conversations with direct reports, but employees aren’t recognising them as such. 

The two parties were in agreement over particular skill sets however, with 67% of managers and 55% employees saying their line manager “listens” during career conversations and “helped them reflect on their performance in their current role” (54% and 50% respectively).

Commenting on the research Bev White, managing director of Penna Career Services said, “Having an effective career conversation with direct reports is an acquired skill and given the sometimes sensitive nature of topics covered, it needs careful and considered planning and handling. Expecting managers to be able to do this, with little or no training, is not only feeding them to the lions - but employees are likely to feel disgruntled as a result of poor conversations about their career.”

The research also revealed that career conversations are seldom tracked or fed into succession plans, with a third (33%) of managers admitting that their organisation doesn’t have a formal process for recording and tracking the long-term career goals of its employees and 23% said information gathered doesn’t get fed into succession planning.

Bev added: “It is a waste of time having career conversations, if nothing is going to be done with the information gleaned from it. The whole point of career conversations is to ensure that employees can fulfil their career aspirations within the company, aiding engagement, productivity and retention. If businesses are leaving this to chance, by not training their managers on how to hold effective career conversations or recording data when they do, 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.”

Manager tips for how to hold effective career conversations:

1. Prepare: Spend time thinking about your direct reports’ current performance and their future abilities, along with options for development. Come armed with possible topics for discussion
2. Set up your stall: Agree on objectives and re-iterate confidentiality to build trust
3. Let them lead: It’s their career after all, so let them speak. Use open questions to encourage dialogue – such as “what would you like to discuss today?”
4. Agree an action plan: Set objectives and next steps
5. Follow up: Put regular catch ups in place to check on progress and to offer additional support to implement plans