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Conducting Effective Career Aspiration Discussions with Employees

by Andria L. Corso

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Published on this site: March 20th, 2010 - See more articles from this month

One of the key steps to having impactful talent management and development solutions is to ensure that the talent within the organization is aware of what is being done to manage and develop them; as well, it is vital that company leaders are aware of the employee's individual career aspirations. This can be accomplished through a Career Aspiration discussion. This should be a formal and focused conversation that occurs between a leader and an employee that centers on the employee's career aspirations as well as the potential growth that is available for that employee within the organization.

In order to make this conversation most productive and impactful, there are some key questions that leaders should ask the employee as well as ask themselves.

To prepare for the conversation, leaders should first pose the following questions to themselves and be prepared to share this information with the employee during the conversation.

  1. What do I see as this person's ultimate potential?

    The response should focus on the highest level that you, the leader, believes the employee can reach inside the company and the indicators (drive, willingness, performance) that you have seen which demonstrate that the employee can get there.

  2. What do I think the employee needs to do to get there?

    This response should focus on the additional training (perhaps leadership training or specific skills training) or development (maybe an expanded leadership role or a role in a different function inside the company) that the employee will need to advance to this ultimate potential.

  3. What do I feel are the employee's key strengths?

    This answer should highlight the strengths that the employee brings to the table and should continue to leverage throughout his or her career.

  4. What do I know are this employee's immediate key developmental needs?

    This response is about the shorter-term development goals as opposed to what was referred to in question two. This might be something such as "needs additional senior level exposure" so others inside the company get to know this individual, or "needs presentation skills training".

  5. What do I see as this person's next assignment?

    The response here should focus on realistic next assignment and the timing of when it is likely to happen.

When sitting down with the employee to have the conversation, it should be time that is uninterrupted and set-aside specifically for that person. It is important for the conversation to be interactive so, as leaders pose questions to their employees, they should refer to their own self-questions and interject their thoughts throughout the discussion to keep it interactive.

The following questions are recommended to ask employees during the discussion.

Questions for employee:

  1. What are your short-term career aspirations? (I.e., next assignment: 2-5 yrs)

  2. What are your longer-term career aspirations? (I.e., ultimate career goal - level of position)

  3. Do you know what it takes to get there?

  4. Are you willing to do what it takes to reach that position?

  5. What do you feel are your key strengths?

  6. What do your feel are your key development areas?

  7. What steps and actions are you willing to take in the next 12 months to grow in these areas?

  8. What would you like to do as a next assignment?

These conversations should be documented and conducted on an annual basis, at a minimum. Some organizations conduct them with employees every six months, which is also effective however, annually is the minimum recommendation. Conducting these discussions is a vital step in ensuring that organizations have impactful talent management and development practices in place. Career aspiration discussions not only let employees know where they stand, but gives them a say in their development. Additionally, these types of discussions ensure that leaders are differentiating their resources and appropriately developing the employees who have the strongest desire and potential to reach the most senior level positions in the company. It also enables the appropriate development of those who prefer not to excel to the highest levels but are the true technical subject matter experts. Developing the talent in a differentiated manner gives companies the best return on their dollar.

Andria L. Corso is an Executive Coach and Human Resources leader who works with clients to develop leadership skills and talent strategies that align with business strategy and drive results. She is the principal owner of C3-Corso Coaching and Consulting, a premier executive coaching and strategic HR consulting firm specializing in the design of customized coaching and performance excellence programs for companies looking to increase employee engagement and deliver outstanding results. Visit http://www.andriacorso.com/ for more information on how C3 can help you or your company.

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