I’ve written a lot about career conversations over the years. That’s no surprise really
since it’s my area of specialism. Elsewhere on the blog, you can read about Why
Career Conversations are Important, 5 Benefits of Great Career Conversations and
13 Characteristics of Effective Career Conversations. But what about the skills and
qualities that managers need to have these conversations? That’s the focus of
today’s post, I am sharing 9 skills and qualities of managers who have effective career conversations with their employees.
The Manager’s Role in Career Conversations
The manager’s role is critical in career conversations with employees. Careers are
not linear, and the employee may want to know what the next step or desired
outcome is. But they also need support to think through options and find the right
path at that time.
The manager’s role is to facilitate the conversation and provide guidance. Managers should be prepared to answer questions and provide information. They should also respect the employee’s right to make their own decisions. Managers need to ask the right questions, provide support and guidance, and identify development opportunities within the organisation.
The skills and techniques they need to have effective career conversations will help them become even more effective people managers. To put the employee in control of their careers they should:
- encourage them to build on their strengths and not to dwell on mistakes
- give honest feedback to help them reflect on their experience
- help them focus on their future ambitions and broaden their options and decision making
- offer information, support, and signposting when required
Skills and Qualities for Effective Career Conversations
The following are some of the skills and qualities that managers need to have to
have effective career conversations:
1. Respect for the Individual
Managers should respect each individual employee. They should also treat them as equals, regardless of their rank or position within the company. Managers must show real interest in the person, focusing on the needs of the employee and wanting them to succeed.
2. Sensitivity Towards Individual Needs
Being sensitive towards an individual’s needs allows managers to develop specific
strategies for each employee’s development. That can help improve performance
and build stronger relationships. The important traits are empathy, honesty,
frankness, and being non-judgemental. It also helps to be positive and enthusiastic.
3. Listening Skills
Managers need good listening skills to have effective career conversations with their employees. They also need to be able to listen carefully so that they understand what their employees are saying, instead of just hearing what they want to hear. This will allow them to understand exactly what their employees want out of their careers, which is essential if they are going to provide them with appropriate development opportunities.
4. Facilitation and Coaching Skills
Managers need to keep the person in the centre of the conversation. They should
use effective questioning techniques. These include summarising, reflection, and
active body language to show they are being attentive.
Managers need to be open-minded about what their employee has to say about what they want from their career. This does not mean that the manager will agree with everything the employee says. But it does mean that they will try to understand what the employee wants from their career and why they want it. For example, suppose the employee says they want to move into a different department because there is more room for progression there. Then the manager should try to understand why they think there is more room for advancement there as opposed to where they currently work.
6. Knowledge and Experience
Managers should know how the company’s career planning process works. They
should know what kinds of tools are available to help employees who want to
develop their careers. They should draw on their experience in the organisation. It
could involve explaining the organisation’s structure and processes. Or it could mean sharing knowledge about the organisation’s strategy and vision.
7. Feedback Skills
Managers should be honest and give frank, constructive feedback to stretch people outside of their comfort zone. They will gain insights that will help them identify their strengths and make progress.
Managers should not be afraid to have these conversations. They should know that they can handle them professionally, tactfully and with empathy. Managers also need to be confident in their own vision for the company or project. Then they can articulate why certain skills are important without making people feel like there’s only one way forward for them.
The manager should be proactive about thinking about ways that he or she can help each employee find the right opportunity at work. This may mean helping them find other opportunities within their own department that could use their skills or talents more fully than they currently do. It may even mean helping them find a new role outside.
These skills and qualities will help managers have successful career conversations
with employees. When they can have these conversations effectively, they will be
able to guide employees in the right direction. They will be able to help them develop their skills and improve their performance.
How can we help? Our Confident Career Conversations Workshop for Managers provides them with the practical skills and tools to have meaningful career conversations.