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Whose job is it?

Career development – those nasty two words that when translated by managers mean, “What are you going to do for me?” I have been having many of these types of conversations with our managers over the past month or so as our organization ramps up its annual performance appraisal process. I have found that far too many managers have taken on the onerous task of identifying a career development plan for their employees and actioning each and every step of it along the way. Multiply that by 10 or 20 direct reports and you have one exhausted and overworked manager! At the other extreme, I have seen managers who wipe their hands of the process and simply view career development as approving an employee’s training request. I would suggest that both these approaches on this are wrong.

Career development is also not to be mistaken with job development. I have always held the position that developing an employee so that they can be competent and execute the core duties/responsibilities of their current role is the manager’s top priority. The manager needs to be directly involved with setting goals and objectives with the employee, coaching and developing them, providing training and development where required and removing obstacles to the employee’s success. In other words, in order to properly evaluate the employee’s job performance, all these activities need to take place and adjustments need to be made as required. In this realm, the manager “owns” the majority of these functions while leading and developing their employee.

Once the manager has the employee performing at that, “meets expectations” level, they can then work together on career development. Here the ownership spectrum shifts. The employee needs to own and drive this process. The manager is focused on ensuring that the employee has the knowledge, skills and abilities to do their current job. The employee needs to take the lead on identifying where they want to go with their career. This is not to say the manager doesn’t play a role in this – they certainly do – but it is not up to the manager to identify a bunch of out of role/scope assignments and training for the employee in the hopes it creates a sense of job satisfaction/engagement. Managers and their employees need to engage in these conversations during coaching sessions and formally during appraisal time. The employee needs to be prepared to discuss their career, where they want to go, what they want to learn and be involved with. The manager’s role is to listen, identify ways to support the employee and remove obstacles to their development…but make no mistake; the employee owns this part of the process. Yes, managers do have a responsibility to ensure that they have identified their logical successors and through a structured talent management process (hopefully) have ways to develop and support these folks, but the employee needs to play the “lead” role in their career development.

The managers I have advised on this have all breathed a sigh of relief; however, then reality hit when I reinforced the fact that they still own parts of this career development model AND the fact that they are directly responsible for working with their folks to make sure they can do their current job properly – and that involves coaching and being a leader. The career development discussions come next when you working with that employee on helping them broaden their skill sets, prepare them for future roles outside your department and helping to continue to engage them organizationally. This is something that all members of the organization have a responsibility in doing – identifying and engaging talent across the enterprise. The golden rule being that while and employee may currently work for you in your department, we (managers) all work in the best interests of the broader organization. Therefore: job development for current role/dept……career development for the organization. What do you think? Do employees “own” their career development path? What has worked for you? I welcome your thoughts and feedback.

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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