Enabling talent mobility within your organisation has emerged as a powerful solution to two potentially disruptive talent trends.
First, there’s the ongoing talent shortage for key roles with no end in sight. This makes it more important than ever to retain and tap the full potential of the people you already have on the team.
At the same time, employee expectations related to career progression and development continue to rise. They are often cited as a reason why they would consider leaving for another job.
Individuals want more development opportunities, and employers need to keep and invite greater contributions from their current employees. This is what talent mobility programs are designed to accomplish.
But as many organisations have discovered, even when you make finding, exploring and taking advantage of new opportunities internally easier and more available through talent mobility, it isn’t a field of dreams.
Just because you build it doesn’t mean they will show up to use it.
What gets in the way of talent mobility?
Making internal opportunities for career growth and exploration more available to employees is a critical step, but it’s often not enough.
To ensure that you get the most out of your talent mobility investments, you must ensure that the following two conditions exist.
1) Managers are both motivated and equipped to support talent mobility
The reality for many employees is that their manager is not incentivised to encourage them to explore other opportunities. For talent mobility to work, you must ensure the manager is rewarded for and supported in helping employees progress beyond their teams.
Even when managers are motivated to support employee growth, they often lack the skills and tools to guide employees on that journey. It’s vital that managers be trained in how to have skillful career conversations with employees.
2) Employees feel supported and empowered to explore career opportunities internally
It’s easy to assume that, when given the opportunity for career growth, employees know what to do with it. It’s one thing to know you want to progress in your career and quite another to know what that requires.
There are a lot of ways that organisations can support career development and progression through technology and programs, but the highest impact comes from managers having ongoing, supportive conversations about career development with their people.
Career conversations are the key
At the heart of unlocking the potential in talent mobility programs to retain and develop your people is equipping your leaders to have high-impact career conversations.
The trick is not over-complicating or over-engineering what you ask of leaders. Rather than making it a once-a-year, high-stakes single conversation about career goals and development plans, it should feel more like an ongoing conversation with the employee.
To do this, teach managers how to have a series of ongoing check-in conversations with the employee about their career progression.
A career check-in conversation is like any other conversation between a manager and an employee. It should be a simple, lightweight conversation to learn what’s really going on with the employee and how to support them better.
The check-in is the tool you use to have the conversations that matter with your people. In this case, the one about career and development.
How to have an effective career check-in conversation
When you equip managers with the skills to have effective check-in conversations, you transform the impact they have on their people. It is the most important tool in a leader’s toolkit. This is why the management philosophy I teach is called "The Check-In Method"™.
There are four steps to any effective check-in conversation.
Step 1: Ask a great question
A great question is one whose answer demands a follow-up question. This is where more check-in conversations go awry.
Instead of asking a great question, we ask things like “How are you?” or “How are things going?” In response, you are likely to hear responses like “fine,” “good” or “busy” — the non-response responses.
These one-word answers are hardly something that demands a follow-up. On the contrary, a great question solicits a response that begs for a follow-up.
My favourite general check-in question is, “How are you, on a scale from 1 to 10?” When someone responds, e.g., “I’m probably a five today," it would feel awkward not to ask a follow-up question like, “Okay, tell me more about what a five looks like for you.”
There is a wide range of great questions you can use. This is just one example. For career check-ins, here are a few examples of great questions you can use to get started:
- How satisfied are you with your career progression, on a scale from 1 to 10?
- What skills or talents would you love to use at work but haven’t had the chance yet?
- When you think about (insert timeframe) from now, what would you consider successful growth in your career?
- What about your job today gets you most excited or energised?
Step 2: Ask the follow-up question(s)
Yes, this one should feel obvious. If you ask a great question, you have to ask the follow-up question, or you miss the entire opportunity in the check-in.
The key here is simply to be curious. When you ask a great question, you open the door to a meaningful conversation. How meaningful it ends up being will depend on how curious and invested you are in asking follow-up questions.
Step 3: Really listen
After you ask the follow-up, this is where the employee has the opportunity to step into a conversation with you that matters. Regardless of how much they decide to share, you need to really listen.
Pay attention to not just what they share but how they share it. Do they seem energised, anxious or distracted? What do you notice about what they aren’t saying?
In an effective check-in conversation of any type, the employee should do the vast majority of the talking. The role of the leader is to ask follow-up questions and listen intently to hear and notice what’s being communicated.
Step 4: Provide support and encouragement
At the end of a successful check-in conversation is the opportunity to provide support and encouragement. Depending on the nature of the conversation, what this looks like will vary.
For a career check-in conversation, it might be celebrating the individual's progress, agreeing to help find a mentor or connecting them to the tools they need to explore an area of interest.
These four simple steps are the key to effective check-in conversations. Maintaining a cadence of career check-in conversations with employees accomplishes several goals.
It demonstrates a commitment to the employees’ career growth. It gives the talent leader insights into how to best support each employee’s growth. This also empowers the employee to explore and clarify their career goals and aspirations.
To fully unlock the power of your talent mobility programs, teach your leaders how to have effective career check-in conversations.
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