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Management Advice: Time for a Career Path Discussion With Your Team?

June 20, 2018

Do you spend enough time talking to your staff about their career paths? Probably not, according to a recent survey from global staffing firm Robert Half, which found many employees want to spend more time discussing their future. Of the 1,200 accounting and finance professionals polled, 93 percent said they would like to talk about their career path on a regular basis, yet 40 percent said they never have this conversation with their managers.

The Benefits of Career Path Direction

Career planning should be a vital part of any staff retention strategy. Employees are more likely to stay at a company if they feel there is a long-term plan in place for their professional future. Otherwise, they’re liable to take matters into their own hands and look for a job elsewhere.

As a manager, touch base with your staff on a regular basis to ensure they’re satisfied with their position and career path.

Frequency of Career Path Discussions

Many employers will include career progression as part of an annual review. This may not be enough, though: 48 percent of respondents in the survey said they would like to discuss their career path quarterly or even more frequently.

So how often should you have a career path talk with staff? There’s no one-size-fits-all schedule, but the answer may be as often as they want to discuss it.

How to Talk About a Career Path

If you’re among the many managers who have never had a career path discussion with employees, or if you do so irregularly, here are some tips:

  • Uncover goals. Some staff members, especially those at the beginning of their professional journey, need guidance in turning their goals into a tangible career plan. As a manager, ask questions to discover what really motivates them such as: which type of work they are drawn to, if they would be interested in supervisory roles in the future and what weaknesses are holding them back. Work with your employees to define a career path that leads to clear, attainable goals.
  • Help them along the way. When you outline career path objectives, you undertake partial responsibility for helping employees achieve those goals. This means mentorships, training, on-the-job experience and perhaps another degree or certification. If they’re on a management track, professional development can help staff members acquire the leadership skills and general business acumen they’ll need later in their career.
  • Be realistic about opportunities. As with all plans or promises, you shouldn’t make them unless you think you can deliver. It’s best to be transparent and open about the opportunities that will — and will not — be available. For example, if the company won’t be able to offer reimbursement for an MBA, or if there are no senior-level vacancies expected in the next five years, be up front about it. So as to not discourage ambitious accounting professionals, talk about the opportunities you anticipate will become available.
  • Mix formal and informal chats. Even if you and your staff discuss their formal career plan only once a year during performance review time, you can have casual talks more often. Go out for coffee and ask how it’s going and whether they feel they’re on track to meet their goals. Take the time to show you’re interested in their career progression.

You should never experience turnover due to the lack of career planning. With the cost and time associated with recruiting new finance professionals, as well as the even greater toll of losing top talent, it’s in your best interest to prioritize career path discussions.

Accountemps, a Robert Half company, is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm for temporary accounting, finance and bookkeeping professionals. Accountemps has more than 330 locations worldwide. More resources, including online job search services and the Accountemps blog, can be found at accountemps.com

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