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You Need to Have This Talk With Your Employees Right Now PT 2

You Need to Have This Talk With Your Employees Right Now PT 2

Part 2: The Career Goals Conversation

The Work Institute’s 2018 Retention Report tells us employers will spend $680 billion on turnover-related expenses by 2020. Businesses and organizations intent on success need to pull out all the stops to address employee retention! This blog series offers three critical conversations that should figure prominently in your retention strategy.  

Let’s face it: managing people is a tough job. Managers must achieve performance goals, pay close attention to expenses and lead by example, all while explaining their strategies both up AND down the org chart. With managers spinning so many plates, you almost can’t blame them for not pursuing conversations about the future goals of their employees. Almost!  

Effective managers make time to learn the career goals of their employees, and then do whatever they reasonably can to help advance employees toward their goals. Tragically, just 38% of workers in a 2017 RAND study indicated that their employers had promising advancement prospects. Effective operations occur most frequently when the goals of the business AND the goals of the employee are in alignment. Less effective managers allow the company’s goals to eclipse the goals of their reports, which sends a clear message to employees that their development is a low priority. Those same managers are also more likely to be wrestling with a serious retention problem, which eats up their time… and the downward spiral continues…

Career goal conversations are often tucked into performance evaluation meetings. This makes sense, in the context of looking at past performance, and in planning for the future. But if you’re new to career goal conversations, there’s simply no reason to wait for the next round of evaluations. In fact, it sends a much more positive signal to your reports if the only topic of the meeting is to learn about their professional goals. Either way, here are some questions that can move you quickly past the obvious opener of asking about your employee’s career goals:

  • Are there any departments or functions within this company that interest you? 
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • What skills do you hope to acquire to help you get to that destination?
  • Do you currently have a mentor that is helping you develop your career goals?


Career conversations can be a bit scary because they start by acknowledging that the employee is a living breathing person and not a fixed asset that solves a current problem. It sounds painfully basic, but managers are juggling countless variables and because people are resilient, it’s easy to let the interests of employees slip by the wayside. Everyone remembers that manager that placed the company far above the interests of the workforce – quite the opposite of a warm and fuzzy relationship!     

The effective manager will engage in active listening during career goal conversations and take copious notes. Why? Because the information provided by employees casts a bright light on succession planning at your company. The future is no longer a shrouded mystery. Effective managers see the current and future position of each employee, and the manager’s vigorous effort to fulfill the interests of the employee builds trust at every level. And companies with high trust enjoy greater productivity, better retention, and a more positive work culture – all products of a more beneficial upward spiral in the workplace.  

Mark Brodbeck, MSW

Director of Marketing at eMentorConnect. Passionate about people intent on elevating others, and other examples of enlightened self-interest. Frank Sinatra said it best: 'It's one world, pal. We're all neighbors.'