5 Excuses Leaders Give For Not Supporting Career Development

This article is submitted to us by Renee Pooley, Director of Full Potential Consulting, and creator of Career Converser, an intuitive online tool that facilitates a powerful career development conversation between an individual and their manager. Career Money Life is proud to have Full Potential Consulting as part of our Supplier Community. 

I recently sat in the boardroom with the executive team of a company considering a career management solution for their people.

One of the leaders was completely on board and keen to get started straight away. With the talent marketing heating up in their industry, they had recently experienced attrition. Many former employees had quoted “a lack of career opportunities” as the main reason they had exited.

As the conversation progressed about career management, it was clear some members of the leadership team thought that the risks of a career management initiative outweighed the benefits. The following “excuses” were raised by this leadership team, and are typical of the concerns held by many leaders.

Excuse #1: “It’s All Very Well To Ask People What They Want, But What If They Aren’t Good Enough To Get There And Don’t Know It?”

Research by psychologists has identified that natural talent is not the best indicator of success – it’s more about effort than IQ. We know that people who are more engaged put in greater amounts of discretionary effort. Some people just need a reason to put in that extra effort; feeling positive about future career opportunities is a top driver of employee engagement. This is not to say that everyone who is motivated can rise to the top, but it’s not for leaders to be an individual’s judge, jury and career executioner rolled into one. People can and do grow in the right environment with the right support. It’s a leader’s role to let people know what it takes to reach their aspirations, help the person identify any current gaps in their skills and experience, and be supportive of experiential development activities that will close these gaps. With a supportive leader and a bright future mapped out, you never know what people’s revived motivation will achieve for them and their organisation.

Excuse #2: “It’s Up To People To Take Responsibility For Their Own Career.”

Most organisations held this viewpoint a decade ago. Smart leadership teams have realised that this old paradigm misses opportunities to engage, retain and attract talent. A partnership approach works well, where the individual is responsible for their career, and the organisation enables and supports people’s career growth.

Excuse #3: “Lots Of People Aren’t Career Motivated, They Just Want A Job.”

This is an excuse of convenience. If leaders prefer not to spend their time on development conversations, they will tell this story. According to the research compiled by Daniel Pink for his best-selling book, Drive, two of the three major motivators are autonomy and mastery. If you want to have an engaged workforce you need to continuously expand people’s minds. In instances where an individual’s primary career driver is ‘total life balance’ at this point in time, leaders will build commitment from this person by supporting them to work flexibly.

Excuse #4: “There’s Nothing Stopping People From Initiating A Conversation With Their Leader. My Door Is Always Open.”

Many people will feel uncomfortable sharing their aspirations with someone unless that person has shown an interest first. And let’s just say for argument’s sake that someone does ask their leader for help, and the leader does provide career development support for that one person. This kind of approach can lead to accusations of favouritism and declined morale from other team members.

Excuse #5: “We Don’t Have Many Career Opportunities At The Moment Because Our Structure Is Quite Flat And We Can’t Promote Everyone. If We Ask People About Their Career Aspirations, We’re Just Going To Raise Expectations That We Can’t Deliver.”

This challenge can be overcome by changing the conversation from career advancement to “supporting career growth”. Only a few can experience career advancement each year, but everyone who wants it can experience career growth. As part of the program design, check in with people on what is important to them in their career, and support career growth in line with their drivers. People’s career drivers can vary from challenging work, innovating, finding meaning in their work, continuously learning, producing quality work, or working with great people, to name just a few. The proportion of people who are primarily driven by wanting to advance up the hierarchical ladder is relatively small.

In the case of the organisation spoken about in the introduction the above excuses held them back from implementing a career management program, with the exception of one leader who decided to go ahead with a pilot for their division. I’m sure this will lead to increased employee engagement and retention for this division over time. Hopefully this will influence the other leaders that the risks can be overcome to reap the rewards. In response to that experience, I created a business case toolkit for career development. It consolidates compelling evidence in favour of supporting people’s career development.

You can download here: http://www.fullpotentialconsulting.com.au/career-converser/.

Empower your people to be their best through coaching. With our broad range of online and face-to-face programs, Career Money Life’s Career Coaching and Mentoring Programs give employees the freedom to browse, select and complete coaching and mentoring when it suits them. Book a demo now or contact us to find out more.

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