Manager must also be career coach

MEANINGFUL CHANGES: One way to effectively lead or manage your team is to understand that people want to be heard by their bosses.


    Apr 26, 2016

    Manager must also be career coach

    IT IS no rocket science that leaders must lead and managers, manage. Yet, they do not.

    A 2015 Gallup study found that only 35 per cent of managers in the United States engage their staff about their careers while 51 per cent are not engaged. Worse, 14 per cent are actively disengaged.

    The study, State Of The American Manager: Analytics And Advice For Leaders, says the "not engaged" group alone cost the United States between US$77 billion (S$104 billion) and US$96 billion annually through their impact on those they manage.

    Given that Singapore's economy is going through turbulent times, with job cuts and enlarged job scopes becoming the norm, managers need to add value to the company. They need to become a career coach.

    Know what employees think, as this is crucial in retaining the stars and spur on the plodders, which will later impact bottom-lines.

    One of the most effective ways of becoming a career coach is to have a "career conversation".


    A career conversation is actually a series of discussions addressing issues that employees care about the most in growing their careers.

    People want to be heard by their bosses and want to hear out their bosses too.

    This sentiment was revealed in a recent survey of some 4,400 individuals and managers aged 25 to 55 across 15 countries and regions, including China, Hong Kong, Germany and Switzerland.

    The report, Talk The Talk: How Ongoing Career Conversations Drive Business Success, by global career experts Right Management, found that nine in 10 employees want to take greater control of their work development.

    Yet, only a quarter felt they were getting the right advice.

    The survey, conducted between November and December last year, also showed that eight in 10 individuals believe they would be more engaged if their manager included career chats in their day-to-day reporting routines.

    In reality, only 16 per cent said they had such ongoing discussions with their supervisors.


    As a career coach, make sure that you listen attentively - not through filters such as your own biases or plans for your team.

    While an employee may say: "I want to stay with the organisation and I understand its goals", his tone of voice or facial expression may hint that this is not the whole truth.

    On your part, you may find yourself asking issue-based questions, such as: "What's the problem you've found with your work?"

    While these questions seem focused, they could put the employee on the defensive.

    Rather, use a solution-based question like: "In what ways would you like to change your daily work?"

    This style of questioning is better at helping your staff see things differently and take ownership of removing barriers to his career progression.


    As a career coach, you must be a skilled negotiator who can set out a clear contract with your staff member.

    Getting an employee to be open about his ambitions is helpful but bringing about meaningful change requires his commitment to deliver.

    You need to be clear when securing this commitment and when establishing standards that he should strive towards.

    However, be willing to be creative during discussions about goals. This way, you learn which ones are the most relevant to an employee.

    For example, not all staff members are interested in a promotion. Some may prefer a lateral move to another function or a role that is completely different. It may be that the individual has ambitions to develop a particular skill that's not directly relevant to his role.

    All said, career conversations should be the responsibility of anyone who manages people - not just the human resource (HR) manager. However, you may be anxious about these dialogues because you are not a HR practitioner.

    Identify your fears, banish them and get ready to become a valued career coach.

    Here are three fears that were picked out by Right Management's ongoing Career Conversations study, and ways to counter them.

    You believe that career conversations would lead to expectations you cannot satisfy and would inevitably cost money in terms of employees looking for a promotion.

    Tackle this:

    Realise that many employees simply want to grow in their current role and be given an opportunity to move laterally.

    You have never been trained to support your employees' career development.

    Tackle this:

    Speak to your own manager about courses you could take. Tap into HR and management courses via SkillsFuture credits.

    You do not understand the cost benefit of having such conversations, and are not incentivised or held accountable for initiating them.

    Tackle this:

    Set your own key performance indicators and discuss them with your supervisor or boss.

    This article was contributed by Right Management, the global career experts within United States-listed HR consulting firm, ManpowerGroup.