The career conversation needs a dose of truth


Here’s one unsurprising reality about work and careers. People are in staying jobs for less than 5 years on average.

“The concept of a career is being shaken to its core. Employees now enjoy the prospect of 60-year careers. Leading companies are moving to overhaul their career models and L&D infrastructure for the digital age….” – Bersin

When it comes to development, our research shows that employees want development for life, not just the traditional career ladder. The prospect of climbing the ladder to make it to Partner (or the top of the hierarchy) and tenure-based rewards are no longer as juicy a ‘carrot’ as before.

Not everyone will agree that organisations have a responsibility to support employees beyond the internal ladder and skills needed for the role. But encouragingly, through GroHappy, we’ve met many organisations that do believe this.

it’s not just because they want to give employees what they want, it’s because they know it makes business sense to provide an employee experience that enables their people to be the best they can be.

This all sounds great in theory. But why is it hard? 

It’s hard because it relies on something that’s often missing in career conversations…honesty. Without honesty, an employer can’t easily provide a meaningful development experience.

From speaking to business leaders and employees over the last 18 months, we’ve identified the following hurdles to an honest conversation: Fear, check-box processes & a lack of coaching skills in the business.

Let’s start with fear. Our research shows that many people don’t feel able to share their broader career aspirations at work – particularly those working in large corporates. Why? They fear that they’ll be overlooked for development opportunities if they don’t show 100% commitment to moving up the ladder.

The process needs to catch up. A check-box exercise doesn’t encourage rich exploration of goals and are often constrained by in-year targets, And a skewed focus on the most recent project, results or feedback.

But more crucially, many managers aren’t always equipped with the skills to have coaching-style conversations and often default to the relative safety of following what’s needed for the process.

And how can this feel for an employee?

Our research in 2016 highlighted some scary stats for employees working in professional services. 75% felt they weren’t living up to their potential. Over half were learning skills that didn’t matter to them. More than 60% were unhappy or lacked clarity in the direction they were headed. They felt ‘lost’.

It’s widely recognised that the most powerfully motivating condition people experience at work is making progress at something that is personally meaningful to them. Growth goals must mean something to be truly valuable

There’s no silver bullet, but I believe an organisation’s ability to understand how their employees are looking to grow and then support them on this journey is a good start.

So what are some leading companies doing?

Here are some examples of what pioneering companies that know ‘development for life’ is more than just a phrase are doing:

  • A marketing agency gives a day a month with budget for employees to develop in any area of their choice
  • A mid-size consulting business provides a £300 budget for any learning experience an employee wants – from business courses to woodwork
  • A large social media company aims for at least 20% of people changing roles each year, ideally internally.
  • Countless businesses that recognise quality conversations are not a given and are investing in building coaching skills in their Managers
  • Internal search teams to help people move to new roles in other organisations
If you want to hear more about our learnings through GroHappy, please do get in touch
Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial