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Career Conversations: how do you keep talent engaged?

Career Conversations: A Critical Talent Management Tool


Here we discuss the importance of line managers investing time and effort in career conversations with their people in order to ensure a successful future for both the individual and the company.


Modern business culture has changed in recent times. Alongside technological advancements there has been a shift in focus when it comes to identifying new talent. Rather than looking for those with the highest IQ and qualifications, organisations are looking for high potential indicators such as a consistent drive for excellent results, a catalytic learning ability and excellent relationship building skills.


Within our ‘hypercompetitive world’ many businesses now place greater emphasis on attracting new talent demonstrating these factors and using tools such as the nine box grid to calibrate their talent pipeline. However, all too often inadequate support is put in place to ensure retention and sustain engagement.


Directors and line managers within organisations often focus so much on satisfying customers and investors that they lose the art of organically developing talent, leading to an “exodus”. When people feel neglected, talented, high potential people will exercise choice and leave, bringing vital knowledge and skills with them; leaving empty desks that will be difficult or costly to replace.


It is for this reason that the ability of the line manager to have career conversations is crucial for modern businesses and organisations. High potential programmes, coaching and mentoring all have their place and they are one of the key services that Opes provides.


However, our experience and research tells us that a critical success factor in keeping the “talent hemorrhage” at bay is equipping line managers to have a constructive, developmental conversation with talented individuals. For example, Google’s people analytics department examined data from thousands of employee surveys and performance reviews to find out which behaviors characterize its most effective managers. Coaching topped a list that also included helping with career development. Research by Gallup has yielded similar results. Work groups in which employees report that their supervisor (or someone else at work) cares about them as a person, talks to them about their career progress, encourages their development, and provides opportunities to learn and grow have lower staff turnover, higher sales growth, better productivity, and better customer loyalty than work groups in which employees report that these developmental elements are scarce.

This type of conversation can bring life and energy to talent management processes, going beyond process and box ticking to bring a dynamic energy into the organisation. Clearly there is a skillset to be developed by some line managers in this area. However, it is also important to keep these conversations routine and straight forward. The following provides a simple agenda and approach:


1. Make the individual feel great by helping them recognise their existing strengths

2. Show a genuine interest in their career and personal aspirations

3. Help them to identify different options to maximise their personal potential

4. Create opportunities for them to stretch themselves in their current role

5. Be authentic and genuine in offering ongoing support and guidance

6. Share some of your own experience, including personal challenges and areas you are working on

7. Tell them what they need to hear, not what they would like to hear.


Opes provides a blend of assessment, coaching and powerful organisational change programmes throughout the UK and Ireland. Get in touch today for a confidential consultation






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