Too Little Too Late…

3 Minute Read

Recently, a client had a key employee resign unexpectedly, and they were left scratching their heads wondering what went wrong. They had big plans for this employee in the future.  In fact, they had discussed this during many of our leadership team group sessions.  When the employee put in his resignation, it felt a bit like a punch in the gut. The leadership team felt that they had invested so much time into this employee. They asked us to conduct an exit interview in hopes of learning from the situation, so they don’t repeat the same mistakes.

During the exit interview, the employee reported that he felt like he had plateaued in his current role. And he wasn’t sure what career path the company had in mind for him. It made our hearts sink a little because we heard the leaders of the organization discuss the plans for his future. But they quickly discovered that they never clearly laid out that plan to the most important person: THE EMPLOYEE!

employee's career path

Don’t wait until after you receive a resignation letter to discover that you missed a chance to discuss an employee’s career path.

 

Leaders are convinced that they have clearly articulated future plans and career paths for their employees. Yet, employees are left with questions and uncertainty. What are leaders doing wrong? After observing this happen too frequently, we have a few suggestions on what leaders can do differently to avoid losing top talent and key employees.

Start the conversation

You may feel that you have it covered because you discussed an employee’s career path during their last annual performance review or goal setting. Waiting to have the conversation once a year simply isn’t enough. But you need to start somewhere. So, in your next one-to-one meeting, ask open-ended questions such as: What are your career aspirations? How would you like to grow within the organization? Some may want promotional opportunities; others may not. Some employees want to learn new skills or take on more responsibility without being a manager. Some may want to be the next top executive. Either way, you don’t know until you ask.

Avoid general terms or statements

Statements such as, “I think you have a lot of potential,” or “Your future looks bright at this company,” can be misleading and may create more questions than answers about one’s future. You know what you mean by these statements, but the person you are speaking to doesn’t. A real career path provides meaningful steps that an employee can take. With your support, they can be prepared for future opportunities.

Think outside the box

Challenge the traditional mindset that a defined career path means going from individual contributor to lead to supervisor to manager to executive. Most people’s careers don’t follow that direct path. There are many detours along the way. These detours can have a powerful impact on someone’s overall capability to lead at a higher level. A career path should involve learning other areas of the business. Getting exposure to different levels of the leadership team. Working on cross-functional teams, and/or outside training or conferences for professional growth.

Keep talking!

Continue to check in with employees on a regular basis regarding the plan you and your employee created. Find out what is going well, what their challenges are, and how you can continue to support them.

Don’t wait until after you receive a resignation letter to discover that you missed a chance to discuss an employee’s career path and their specific steps to grow. Begin the conversation today!

For more on employee career paths check out this video!

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