Look at Career Development

Engaging in discussions around career development, and highlighting career options, will help you to retain valued workers as they will not only feel more engaged, but will recognize the potential to grow their career within your organization. It is important to be realistic in these discussions, but also be open-minded to career paths that may see the individual “grow” beyond their current role, or potentially out of your organization.


Your decisions around promotions and transfers impact the success of your business. Understanding your employees’ career goals is a key factor in making these decisions. It is important to match your employee’s interests and aspirations to the needs of the organization and if you don’t know what these are, you won’t be able to do this effectively.

In deciding how you want to handle promotions in your organization, you should consider the following components:

  • How much will seniority be a deciding factor versus competency?
  • How are you measuring competency in performance management?
  • Do you want to provide both horizontal and vertical career paths?
  • Do you want to develop a formal or informal process?

In many smaller organizations, the decisions may be more on the informal, ad hoc end of the spectrum. However, you still need to ensure that the decision is transparent and clearly communicated to all. Promotions should not be something that employees hear about “through the grapevine.”


Ensure that your performance management process incorporates career development discussions. You want to provide learning opportunities that not only close performance gaps, but also address your employees’ longer term career goals. Some of the barriers that prevent managers from talking to employees about their overall careers include:

  • No one knows what the future holds
  • Now is not the right time
  • I would not know what to say
  • We have just re-organized
  • I cannot help / I have nothing to offer them
  • I don’t know what is available outside my area
  • Why should I – no one helps me!

Your employees do not expect you to have all the answers; simply taking the time to listen is important in itself.  Also remember these guidelines when you are engaging in career discussions.

  • Explore individual’s overall expectations about career growth, both short and long term
  • Explore multiple development options including enrichment in current job; vertical promotions; lateral moves or realignment to a smaller scope in response to work -life considerations
  • Test your own assumptions about the candidate’s interests


Questions you can ask to get the conversation going:

  • What are some important career and professional development issues for you now?
  • What are your short and long-term expectations about career growth?
  • What is important to you in terms of work?
  • How are you defining “success”?
  • What strengths are you using most in your job?
  • How do you think your co-workers see you?
  • What do you love doing?
  • What skills do you need to develop to move forward toward your career objectives?
  • What skill do you have that we are not making use of in your current role?
  • How long do you see yourself operating at your present level?
  • Do you want to move into any other department or function of interest, or progress in a different direction?  If so, what areas and why?
  • How do you see yourself fitting into any recent organizational changes?


The HR Council recommended looking at these two questions in developing a Career Development/Learning Plan:

  • What goals do you want to achieve in your career?
  • Which of these development goals are mutually beneficial to you and your organization?

The Council recommends a four step approach to work through with employees, including links to self-assessment tools that they can use in advance of the discussion with you or another manager within your organization.

  • Step 1 – Self-assessment– The employee identifies his or her skills, abilities, values, strengths and weaknesses. Click  here for some tools they can use.
  • Step 2 – Assess your current position and your work environment– The employee does an assessment of the requirements of his or her position at the present time and how the requirements of the position and/or organization may change.
  • Step 3 – Identify development activities – Identify the best ways to achieve your development goals.
  • Step 4 – Put your plan in action.


It is also important to hold these discussions throughout the year and not just as part of more formal performance assessments.  Remember to think beyond the typical career path. Career growth is less linear today and there are many paths from which to choose. Listen carefully to what your team member is saying about their dreams and goals. Then partner with them to come up with ways to accomplish that next move for them.


Individual Development Plan

(HR Toolkit)