7 June 2016 | By Ian Symes Community

Modernising career conversations

How changing your approach to employee development can boost retention and business performance

Current career development models are almost 50 years out of date – and a performance review just once a year falls drastically short of achieving what employees are looking for from their employers and managers.

In fact, our recent research, the Global Career Conversation study, found that nearly two thirds (60 percent) of employees want more career conversations. Only 17 percent of employees have on-going talks with their managers about their careers and nearly half (46 percent) of employees in the UK have never participated in a high quality career conversation with their manager.

There is a clear gap between reality and expectation. Nearly three quarters of employees state that they would be more likely to stay with their current employer if they had regular career conversations.

It is now time for business leaders to change their approach and start proving that they’re serious about nurturing the “career for me” expectation that the next wave of talent demands. And there are a number of ways business leaders can facilitate modern career conversations and reap the benefits that come with them:


Businesses leaders need to look at how often managers are having conversations with their employees. The fundamental challenge to this is that many managers are unequipped to take action and drive the change required. Worse still, many managers fear having meaningful career conversations with their staff as they worry that they cannot meet expectations such as promotions or training investment.

Business leaders should encourage managers to instead see this dialogue as an opportunity to identify areas that employees want to improve in and outline a plan that will benefit both parties. Providing training for managers on the right questions to ask, the importance of an honest and open conversation and how best to approach these situations is key.

Agree on SMART goals

Through regular discussions managers and employees should work together to identify and define SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely) goals. Agreeing on goals will help build engagement with employees who are looking for guidance and advice on how they can reach their ambitions.

Additionally, SMART goals will help make employees aware of their progress as well as motivating them. As individuals progress through their career, these goals will change. Therefore it’s important that both employees and managers catch up regularly to discuss progression.

Keep the conversation ongoing

Undertaking regular conversations will not only help managers to meet employees’ demands to discuss their career progression, but it will also benefit the wider organisation. Our research found that 76 per cent of employees would feel more engaged and 75 per cent would be happier in the work they do if they had more career conversations.

These findings highlight how regular conversations can ultimately have a wider impact on an organisation’s retention rates. By taking a proactive approach to keeping conversations going, business leaders will find their staff will be more productive and engaged in the work they do.

Adopting a modern approach is a choice business leaders must make in their talent management strategy in order to gain both short-term and long-term benefits. However, if business leaders continue to fail to take action, the exit door will continue to become even draughtier as more employees leave and business performance and profits undoubtedly suffer as a result.