Real Leaders

Don’t Fear Career Coaching, Your Employees Will Still Love You

Coach explaining game plan to basketball players in the court

Career coaching scares most leaders. It conjures up images of employees flowing out the doors to the competition. This is flawed thinking. Your employees care about their careers. The fact that they are already working for you does not diminish the profound level of concern talent has about growing, learning, and succeeding.

As you read this, you face a talent shortage and high turnover. People are quitting their jobs at a historically unprecedented rate. Additionally, 60% of middle-income Americans are considering making a career change (source: Harris Poll-Fast Company Magazine). This tsunami of movement in the labor market requires a savvy leadership response. One that is:

  • Highly personalized and customized to each individual employee.
  • Brave and transparent, giving employees honest, ongoing feedback.
  • Utilizes a career assessment that allows employees to author their future.
  • Bases the career coaching process on a transitional model that guides healthy career development.
  • Allows employees to grow at an accelerated rate if they have met their goals and earned the right to advance (regardless of their age or years of experience).
  • Coaches’ employees out of the organization if their talent and dreams will flourish elsewhere.

Unfortunately, there are some obstacles you will face if you move in this direction. Here are a few:

Hurdle One: Fear they Will Leave

For years and years, managers have focused on performance in the service of the organizational mission. They avoid discussing careers or career development because, as I said before, they think career coaching will lead to unwanted turnover.

Research consistently finds that employees are vested in staying and succeeding in your organization. They leave because their needs are not getting met, or your competition is doing a better job attracting talent. There are a few random job hoppers out there but, for the most part, your talent does not want to leave. Focus on giving them more reasons to stay.

Hurdle Two: Internal Competition

How many of your managers and supervisors truly want their employees to shine and reach their full potential? If you are honest, it’s a short list. No matter how much leadership training and business coaching you have offered, leaders use their power to propel their own career forward. They do not see their people as the first priority. Rewarding your leaders for amazing career development, and giving them career development tools, will begin to shift this toxic dynamic.

Hurdle Three: Retribution or Career Damage

Talent does not tell you the truth about their career-related concerns or aspirations because the price paid can be devastating. If they open up to their boss about their career dreams, they might be blocked or punished for wanting too much or not falling in line with productivity goals. If they go to Human Resources, they might be labeled as a trouble-maker.

Making it safe to be honest is hard. Your top management team will need to model the way, demonstrating (in a very public way) that individual career development matters. Decisions made to support talent growth at the senior level will give your workforce the confidence to tell the truth about their goals.

Hurdle Four: Old-School Recruiting

If your recruiting team fills orders with little management involvement or attention to longer-term organizational objectives, you are falling behind. Explore establishing a talent acquisition partnering program. Integrate career coaching questions in the interviewing process to determine how well the candidate knows themselves and how well they fit into the strategic objectives for the position. Make everyone in your organization part of the hiring team to bring on the very best people you can find.

The final step is consistency. Just bringing up the career conversation once or twice a year will not protect you from a talent drain. All managers and supervisors at every level should be trained to deliver career coaching, or contracted career coaches need to be made available. This highly personalized strategy will make your organization stand out as the employer of choice who goes the extra mile for their people.

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