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Career Discussions with Managers are [Still] Taking a Back Seat

April 21, 2010

April 20, 2010 – For the last two years I have been working with a client on various projects and one project that is getting more of my attention lately is taking their mentor program to the next level.  To provide some background, my client has been pairing new hires with mentors for years which put them ahead of most companies.  To complement the mentor program they even rolled out a company-wide buddy program late last year to pair younger new hires (typically those under 30) with a buddy.  The buddy serves as their “first friend” – the go-to person for simple questions that you don’t want to bother your new boss with. 

As they revamp the mentor program to include refresher training for mentors, training for mentees on how to own their career, and creating an online toolkit available to all, I am struck by new research from Right Management about the failure of employees to discuss their careers with their managers. 

Thirty-seven percent of workers never engage in career discussions with their managers, according to a survey of nearly 700 employees by Right Management. On top of that an additional 30% only discuss their careers once a year, which would lead one to assume it happens during the yearly performance review (which is the wrong time to do it but that is for another blog post). 

I am a big believer in employees owning their own career but the reality is sometimes you are so overworked it the lowest priority on your ‘to do’ list or you aren’t sure how to approach the conversation with your boss or even worse, the company doesn’t foster an environment where the conversations are welcomed and encouraged. 

According to Right Management’s press release, Melvin Scales, Senior Vice President of Global Solutions for Right Management observed that “individuals need to take responsibility for managing their own career. Unfortunately, many are not equipped with the information or opportunity to have meaningful career discussions with their managers.”

If it seems unlikely that managers will be able to take on the additional responsibility of initiating and making time to discuss an employee’s career development one option to consider is implementing a mentor or career advisor program. 

Research has shown that most employees, regardless of age, want to have an understanding of where they are headed whether they have 5 or 25 years to go in their career.  Understanding this need but being sensitive to managers who are overworked or – let’s be honest – wouldn’t be the right person to engage in this type of discussion, a mentor or career advisor program may be a solution.  Keep in mind research released last year from Adecco states 76% of American works are not satisfied about future career growth opportunities at their company.  That could be because they don’t see any growth or maybe they haven’t been exposed to someone who has taken an interest in their career.  Mentors can play a key role in the development of talent and ultimately the retention of talent. 

Creating an environment to discuss career growth and development opportunities allows for employees to be more engaged in their work and the company, leads to greater productivity and an increase in the bottom line.

 What are your thoughts?  Do you have meaningful conversations with your boss or a mentor about where you are headed?

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