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This article presents multiple results of remarkable career conversations. Such conversations not only touch and engage employees, but also impact their teams and the organization itself. Great career conversations have a ripple effect over time. The three examples demonstrate the broad benefits of such remarkable career conversations.

About the Author
Caela Farren, Ph. D.
, is President of MasteryWorks, Inc., - a leading Career Development consulting organization offering innovative solutions to large and mid-size companies, including Baylor Health Care, Brown Forman, Northrop Grumman, Bayer, Sprint, Sodexo, Sandia National Labs, and CapitalOne. MasteryWorks provides enterprise web portals, training, consulting, e-Learning, and an assessment framework for employees and managers. For more than thirty-five years, Dr. Farren has been a passionate leader around complex issues redefining the workplace. She envisioned the current workplace climate more than a dozen years ago, when she published a cornerstone compendium on career development, “Who’s Running Your Career: Creating Stable Work in Unstable Times” (Bard Press, 1997). Through MasteryWorks, Inc., she oversees solutions that create the foundation for impact-filled “career conversations” - centered on increased contribution, performance, and fit. Her strategic approach consistently delivers on employee engagement and retention goals for her clients.

Contact Tom Karl, Executive Vice President for more information - or (703) 256-5712.

in the Remarkable People series

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Broad Benefits of Remarkable Career Conversations
by Caela Farren, Ph.D., MasteryWorks, Inc.

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”
—Peter F. Drucker


37% of the nearly 700 workers studied never had career conversations with their managers.Introduction
HR experts often see a gap between theory and practice. For example, if career conversations are critically important to career development, then why aren’t we seeing more of them? In 2010, Right Management reported in Advancing Career, Driving Results that 37% of the nearly 700 workers studied never had career conversations with their managers. Another third of their sample reported only one career conversation annually and then only as part of annual performance reviews. These results followed exit interviews of a 2010 Blessing White study of 2,500 people. The study confirmed that poor managerial skills, lack of robust manager contact, and lack of career opportunities pushed the best people out the doors and into the arms of competitors. Has your organization devalued career conversations believing workers prize their jobs more than their careers in this economy?

Results: Immediate and Cumulative
Measuring results of both casual and formal career conversations is sometimes immediately apparent. For example, after asking each employee to share his or her most important personal and professional goals, at a weekly staff meeting, one of our newest employees mentioned her enthusiasm for improving her Spanish language skills and practicing scuba diving. This produced an offer from a corporate client to have the new employee spend a month in Puerto Rico implementing a new software package for them, all expenses and salary paid by the client, while giving her the opportunity to accomplish both of her personal goals. The results of this career conversation was cumulative, spilling over into benefits not only for the individual, but the team and organization as well.

Individual Benefits - Her loyalty and dedication to our organization skyrocketed. We witnessed increased employee engagement, enhanced employee loyalty, cross- cultural learning, improved employee performance and motivation;

Team Benefits - a positive belief in the magic of career conversations by our staff and a willingness to share professional and personal aspirations with the entire team; and

Organization Benefits – built a great reputation for partnership and excellence with our client, resulting in many years of substantial consulting projects.

Here are a few hypothetical examples of measuring the benefits of career conversations, not only for the individual, but also for the team and organization.

Example 1 - Appreciating Unique Talents of an Employee
Our first key career conversation focuses on identifying and recognizing an employee’s unique talents skills and abilities, personality traits and passions to make career choices that fit organizational needs.

Situation: An HR professional is called upon to engage in months of personnel-related work based upon an organizational downsizing strategy and doesn’t feel valued for her passion and talent for organizational development and career development coaching.

Conversations: Her manager engages the HR professional in a series of discussions about the kinds of people needed for the future and why the company is reducing the numbers of certain professionals based on changes in the organization’s strategy and strategic needs. In a series of conversations, her manager explains the changing strategic goals of the organization and the need for her skills in the future, once they’ve realigned the company workforce based on the new strategies. Their conversations encouraged her to use her unique ability to explain the company’s new philosophy to departing individuals and to stabilize morale of the remaining personnel. She saw that her career and organizational development skills would be needed to select new employees that fit the future needs of the organization.

Results for the Employee: She left the conversations feeling valued, respected, and needed for the current and future needs of the organization. She sees that her long-term values are in “sync” with the organization and gets re-energized. She postpones decisions about leaving and then decides not to look elsewhere for a better position.

Results for the Team: The team becomes more engaged as she uses her talents and gifts to help them understand and accept the current organization strategies and their new roles in the transition.

Results for the Organization:
The re-engaged HR professional puts time and attention into the task at hand, using her career development coaching skills to prepare employees for transition, lifting their morale. The organization benefits from the retention of a valued employee at a time when her skills are extremely valuable.

Example 2 - Assessing Employee Capabilities
Let’s look at career conversations that focus on helping employees discover their capabilities, building stronger reputations, networks of support and raising team and individual performance.

An IT developer is assigned a new project where he needs to learn more about Content Management Systems (CMS). He finds others working on the team who are more skilled. He has to quickly gain knowledge and develop more mastery in the subject matter to be effective. This is a project where he can find coaching, skill development, add new resources to his network and gain critical information to build a CMS platform.

The manager engages the employee in discussions to identify the new knowledge and skills required to successfully support the selection and implementation of a new CMS. The manager clarifies the current and future organization business strategies, so that the employee understands the new skills and experience required of IT employees. Career discussions then turned to current and future projects where the employee could use his new skill set and enhance his reputation.

Results for the Employee:
The employee gained increased skill, knowledge and abilities in critical IT areas. Through his research and networking skills, he helped build a foundation to implement and manage a new platform. He built a stronger, deeper and more relevant network of support for his present assignment and future projects. His reputation strengthened and he aligned his job and profession with the new company strategic business interests.

Results for the Team: Retention levels of team members began to sink as he avoided taking an active role to develop CMS know-how. However, by partnering with more experienced resources and developing his networking skills, he helped complete the project on time and contributed to re-invigorating the team’s engagement and retention levels to produce a more energized IT team.

Results for the Organization: The organization benefited through deeper bench strength in the IT department while engagement levels of employees in critical strategic development departments increased after falling off.

Example 3 - Aligning Aspirations with Organization Needs
The last example deals with conversations that align aspirations of individuals with organization needs. Managers engage employees in discussions about employees’ aspirations and dreams and then look for projects, temporary assignments, on-line forums, mentors and colleagues who can hook their aspirations and passion to organization needs.

Situation: A valuable scientist was being recruited by a competitor. He was becoming more interested in the offer since his own interest and passion for the current work was eroding. There were few opportunities for him to impact the leadership and most of his ideas never saw the light of day. The organization courting him recognized his unusual capability, listened to his ideas and wanted to support his career vision and aspirations.

Conversation: Discovering the aspirations of the employee allowed the manager to link them with long term organization strategies. Listening to ideas and taking interest in the aspirations and passions of this valuable scientist was at the heart of their career conversation. Sometimes listening is all it takes to re-energize and motivate remarkable employees. Conversations expanded the manager’s knowledge of the areas that the scientist valued. The manager could then search for a wide variety of resources, projects, and colleagues that could fulfill the scientist’s highest aspiration while meeting future strategic goals.

Results for Employee: Through a series of conversations with his manager, the scientist felt valued and became re-engaged in other projects and future organization needs. He was given easy access to leaders and other critical resources to discuss his ideas. Retention levels were restored as the scientist saw his value to the organization could be linked to his aspirations.

Results for Team: The team remained committed and loyal to the scientist, but the team lost direction when the scientist disengaged because of being ignored. As the leader saw himself valued by the manager and organization, the team became confident of its role in the future of the organization. They had more energy for the projects at hand and stopped looking for better projects.

Results for the Organization: Innovation increased with bursts of creativity and ideas for new products, processes and services. There is an ensuing new sense of excitement and empowerment.


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