Two-Thirds of Managers Need Help Coaching, Developing Careers

By Aliah D. Wright Mar 18, 2015
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As talent shortages persist and employee retention becomes increasingly important, employers have an opportunity to make career development a priority by enabling their managers to coach and mentor their teams.

However, according to a new poll by global career experts Right Management, two-thirds of managers fail to actively engage in their employees’ career development.

“High-performing talent is a competitive differentiator and organizations should be doing everything they can to build the careers of their top talent to keep them engaged and on board,” said Bram Lowsky, executive vice president of Right Management.

The one-question poll revealed that only 17 percent of employees say their managers are actively engaged in their career development, while 15 percent say their managers are sometimes engaged. By far, the majority of employees—68 percent—felt their managers are not engaged in their career development.

Right Management surveyed 616 employees in the U.S. and Canada via the online poll that ran from Jan. 5 to March 3, 2015.

Developing People Key to Retention

“Job seekers from entry-level to executive are more concerned with opportunities for learning and development than any other aspect of a prospective job,” according to an article in the Harvard Business Review. And Jumpstart: HR CEO Joey V. Price told SHRM Online, “I still believe employee professional development is a key driver in employee engagement and retention because motivated employees are always looking to learn something new.

“Think about it, do people take jobs at different companies to do more of their exact same responsibilities? Not exactly. Many job seekers leave their post in search of positions that will allow them to groom new skills,” he said.

“Companies that offer paid professional development and college tuition programs will keep motivated employees longer than those that don’t,” he added. “However, if you don't offer these programs, you should speak to your high-performing employees to assess which skills they would like to groom. Find a way for them to do so in your organization or they will seek the opportunity someplace else.”

Price, based in the Washington, D.C., area, offered these tips for managers on how to coach employees:

  • Have open conversations with your employees about their growth goals. These may or may not directly benefit your company, but you need to figure out how to leverage them or risk your employees walking away.
  • Set aside opportunities for mentorship within your organization. Junior-level employees can benefit from this kind of relationship and can see it as an additional incentive for working at your organization.
  • Don’t be surprised if your employees feel called to work on a task somewhere outside of their job description. You might find that you have an HR generalist who enjoys writing or a programmer who wishes he were in business development. Find ways to incorporate elements of those passions or risk a lower-engaged employee.
On its website, the University of California, Berkeley’s HR department lists steps HR professionals can take to help employees with their professional and career development:

  • Provide opportunities to develop knowledge, skills, tools, resources and abilities to succeed at work.
  • Provide on-the-job training and coaching.
  • Provide feedback on goals and performance.
  • Ask about and support employees’ career development goals.
  • Help employees write an individual development plan listing how they intend to meet those goals.

“Although the primary responsibility for an individual’s development rests with the individual, the supervisor/manager has an important role in encouraging, supporting, providing resources and removing obstacles for their development,” the university states on its website. After an employee has received training, “it is important to follow up and ensure that he has an opportunity to put the training to good use quickly before the new knowledge and/or skills become a distant memory.”

Added Lowsky: “A culture of career development begins with giving managers the skills they need to have career conversations with their employees on an ongoing basis. Individuals are more likely to stay when they have good leaders that understand their career goals and want to help them achieve them.”

Aliah D. Wright is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

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