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Debunking career development conversations myths

When done right, career development conversations can be a powerful tool that boosts the overall employee experience. However, some misconceptions may prevent your organisation from harnessing the full power of this key driver. Below, we’ve untangled 6 common myths associated with career development sessions.


    of European employees are more aware of their careers and what they’re looking for in a job or employer, according to research by SD Worx. More and more candidates will only consider employment with a company if it provides career development as a basic component of its culture.

      Rethinking career development in a fast-changing world

      Career development is sometimes associated with formal processes involving tight deadlines and long checklists, while it should be all about the human act of conversation and helping your employees grow. Whether through an on-the-fly approach or an individual development planning meeting, what matters most to employees is the quality of the conversation. It’s how they decide to stay or disengage.

      So, if it really is as simple as just speaking to people, why isn’t the career development process always up to par? Let’s debunk some common myths that may convolute the quality and success of the career development conversations within your organisation.

        Myth #1 – Career development sessions require hours managers simply can’t afford

        You’ll never have enough time – it’s a fact of life. But let’s get real: conversations are already happening throughout the day.

        Effective development conversations don’t always have to take place in a particular setting, follow a unique set of questions, or get documented in a specific way. Don’t wait for the next retreat, offsite, or performance review to give your people the development feedback they need. Instead, help them grow through the daily interaction you already have.

          Myth #2 – Career development conversations are only for senior profiles or high potentials

          There’s more to a career development review than identifying the top and bottom performers. Investing in senior profiles makes good business sense. But most of the time, these employees represent a minor part of your workforce. What about the majority of your staff, responsible for executing most of the work? Imagine what even a little investment in their growth could yield.

          Employees who feel heard – detecting that their organisation has a genuine interest in their careers – are more likely to remain loyal in the long term and perform better while being less likely to seek employment elsewhere.

            Myth #3 – Everybody wants to move up or get a raise

            For many people, career development isn’t just about getting more or better things. In addition to pay, various other factors ensure workers maintain and improve their productivity and performance levels – such as training and development opportunities, flexible working arrangements, feedback on performance, guidance and coaching on areas that need improvement, etc.

            According to a survey by SD Worx, 27.3% of European employees prefer flexibility to promotions and titles and, yes, even a higher paycheck. In other words, it’s essential to discover what exactly drives your people and adapt career development conversations and plans accordingly.

              Myth #4 – Career development conversations are the sole responsibility of HR teams

              That’s only half the story. Your HR team can support you by helping make training available and coordinating growth opportunities. But as a leader or manager, you have a unique role to play in helping your people grow. Strong leaders foster engagement and motivation among their staff – encouraging them on their career development path. What’s more, nothing helps boost your employees’ morale than seeing their leader or manager take an active role in their growth trajectory.

                Myth #5 – Employees are in charge of their own career development

                True: as an employer or manager, you’re not in charge of your employees’ career advancement. Even still, taking responsibility in this regard helps not just your employees but your business as well. For instance, you can enhance your internal mobility strategy by providing learning opportunities in line with your organisation’s goals and challenges. Put differently, you needn’t always look for new, external talent to fill knowledge or capacity gaps. Instead, you can develop the talent you need from within by providing clear and ambitious career paths and talking about them consistently.

                  Myth #6 – It’s only about past performances

                  In some organisations, career development conversations tend to revolve around the past: what went well and what did not? But past accomplishments or setbacks are only a small part of a much bigger picture. A career development meeting provides the perfect opportunity for more meaningful and in-depth conversations about future expectations, growth potential, positive and constructive feedback, and pathways to enhanced strengths and skills.

                    Making career development conversations a priority

                    So, how do you avoid getting caught up in myths such as these? The answer is deceivingly simply: talk and act. Be sure to supplement career development conversations with well-thought-out career development action plans:

                    • Engage in meaningful conversations with your employees by identifying their specific career milestones and goals, the new skills they would like to develop, and what they need to get there.
                    • Translate your employees’ observations and input into concrete learning activities such as conferences, networking events, small group training, one-on-one coaching, online courses, e-learning books, reading materials, etc.
                    • Determine how you’ll track and assess your employees’ progress objectively – and follow up on their progress through regular, informal conversations.

                    In return, you’ll not only see your employees grow, but you’re also bound to boost employee engagement, strengthen your company culture, and keep talent on board in the long run. In addition, giving your teams career development opportunities can help them thrive and be ready for future challenges.

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                        Nazia Keenoo

                        Nazia Keenoo