Career Development Discussions You Need to Have With Your Employees


With employee disengagement over 60% of the workforce and many Millennial employees already looking for their next employer, career development discussions have become a critical tool in attracting, developing, focusing, and retaining talented people.


This is Part 1 of a 2-part series. In this installment we’ll explore career development discussions from a supervisor’s perspective.

Career development discussion defined: a discussion between a supervisor and his or her direct report, for the purpose of helping him or her develop to his or her optimal capability over time.

Career development discussions are not new, though they are viewed as increasingly more important among best practices across all employment sectors for developing and retaining talented people. The biggest challenge is that many managers do not know how and where to start in having an effective career development discussions on a regular basis.


Why Career Development Discussions Benefit Supervisors

There are two key reasons why you should hold regular career development meetings your direct reports:

1. Regularly scheduled career development discussions increase employee engagement. Consider the following employee engagement stats gathered from Gallup, Deloitte, SHRM, Buckingham and others showing the impact of employee engagement in the workplace. These make a compelling case to support supervisors investing the time in career development discussions with employees.



2. Career development discussions are one of the most effective tools supervisors can use to develop and retain talent. Robert Half, legendary founder of the $5.5B recruiting conglomerate that bears his name, is oft quoted as saying, “Talent is rare. Rarer still is the ability to spot talent.” I amend his quote to include, “And the rarest talent of all is the ability to develop talent, for with it you will be the most sought after and employable talent there is.” If you can develop talent, you’ll be sought after for the rest of your life!


How to Have an Effective Career Development Discussion with Your Employee

In order to have an effective career development discussion, you’ll need some structure. A supervisor’s role is to encourage his or her employees to develop their career plans, while serving as both a thinking partner and an accountability partner. Each employee OWNS his or her own career development plan.


Stage 1: Planning for the First Discussion

  • Schedule the discussion and invite the employee to the meeting.
  • Consider where the employee is in his or her career (developing, strong performer, or outstanding performer). Be prepared to discuss this.
  • Develop your initial questions to guide the discussion according to what is appropriate for the employee.
  • Develop a meeting agenda which you’ll propose to start the meeting.

Stage 2: Initiating the First Discussion

  • Propose the initial meeting discussion agenda, expectations and objectives.
  • Ask the employee to share his or her career aspirations.
  • Communicate that the employee owns his or her career development plan and that your role is to act as a thinking partner and encourager.
  • Express your desire to have regular career development discussions.
  • Ask the questions you developed earlier to help your employee explore where he or she is and where he or she might want to go.
  • Identify any work that might be done by the employee and the manager and agree on desired outcomes/objectives, and see if your employee agrees.

Stage 3: Concluding the Discussion

  • Ask the employee when he or she would like to schedule the next discussion, then schedule it with a meeting request.
  • Suggest that all future meeting agendas have items from both of you.
  • Summarize what actions are to be taken (and by whom) between now and the next discussion.

Stage 4: Encourage Between Career Development Discussions

  • As you better understand the employee’s career goals, provide regular feedback and coaching in ways that leverage his or her career aspirations.
  • Pass along any resources you encounter that might help the employee reach his or her goals.
  • Call for agenda items for the next scheduled meeting about a week out.

Repeat stages 2-3-4 in cycle and deepen the quality of your meetings over time.

In Part 2 of this series we’ll approach career development discussions from the employee’s perspective.


Bottom Line

Career development discussions are a best practice used by leaders and managers to develop their people. ?

Author’s note: this article was in part excerpted from my Leading Through People series, LTP-17 Holding Effective Career Development Discussions.

I love working with people and organizations who want to improve their effectiveness! Here are several outstanding resources that can help you and your organization to go to the next level:

I work with some of the world’s top employers by helping them get the most out of their talented people. My company’s extensive leadership development course catalog provides effective skills-building for everyone in the organization, from the new / developing leader to the seasoned C-level executive. My company’s coaching programs produce significant results in compressed periods of time. I also help job seekers, higher ed, and employment services connect people to better jobs faster. My company’s acclaimed career development tools help people navigate the ever-changing landscape of conducting a successful job search. To find out more, please visit us at, email us at, or call us at 215-942-0982.


Latest Leadership Posts


You Got a Job Offer! Now What? Continue Reading


Counterintuitive Life-Changing Principles, Part 5 Continue Reading


The Seven Essential Soft Skills of Highly Effective Salespeople Continue Reading