The Power of the Career Development Discussion

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.

Career development discussion: a discussion between someone and his or her supervisor, 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 have recently become a rising star among best practices across all employment sectors for retaining talented people. The biggest challenge is that most managers do not know where to start in having an effective career development discussion.

Why Career Development Discussions?

Simply put, career development discussions increase employee engagement. Consider how employees feel about their supervisor holding regular career development discussions with them, as evidenced by these five responses from employees:

1. It lets me know my boss cares about me and what I’m getting out of employment here, not just what my boss can get out of me.

2. My boss is interested in my future and wants to help me reach my goals.

3. I’ll feel less engaged if I don’t have any discussions about my career progress.

4. I’d like to have them more frequently, not just once a year at employee appraisal time.

5. When my boss takes a personal interest in me, it makes me want to work harder.

In other words, career development discussions say more about a supervisor’s and employer’s commitment to the employee than just about anything else. They are seen as an investment of quality time in the employee’s future.

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 regular career development discussions with employees.


How to Have an Effective Career Development Discussion

In order to have an effective career development discussion, you’ll need to have a little bit of structure. As a rule of thumb, the employee OWNS his or her own career development plan while the manager’s role is to be both a thinking partner and an accountability partner.

Stage 1: Planning for the Discussion

  • Manager’s role: schedule the discussion; consider where the employee is in his or her career (developing, strong performer, or outstanding performer); and develop the initial questions to guide the discussion according to what is appropriate for the employee.

  • Employee’s role: assess your own performance and determine where you are (developing, strong performer, or outstanding performer); identify an initial set of objectives; and develop a few questions you’d like to ask your manager.

Stage 2: Initiating the Discussion

  • Manager’s role: 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.

  • Employee’s role: bring an open mind and a hunger to learn; be prepared to ask questions in order to fully understand your manager’s guidance; make a commitment to implement specific strategies and actions; and take ownership of your own career development.

Bottom Line

Career development discussions are a best practice used by leaders and managers to develop their people. They are also an employee best practice when the employee takes ownership of his or her own career development.

This article was excerpted from Conducting Effective Career Development Discussions, the newest offering in Boyer Management Group’s Leading Through People curriculum.

We help job seekers, higher ed, and employment services connect people to better jobs faster. Our acclaimed career development tools, the Job Search Readiness Assessment for experienced professionals/skilled workers and Graduate Employment Preparedness Assessment for students/recent grads both assess and explain over 3,000 career and job search best practices. We also work with some of the world’s top employers by helping them get the most out of their talented people. Our 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. Our coaching programs produce significant results in compressed periods of time. To find out more, please visit us at, email us at, or call us at 215-942-0982.


Latest Leadership Posts


Counterintuitive Life-Changing Principles, Part 4 Continue Reading


Evaluating Emotional Intelligence When Hiring or Promoting People Continue Reading


Counterintuitive Life-Changing Principles, Part 3 Continue Reading