, Singapore

Managers as career coach: Career development in organisations

By Wendy Tan

The recent Singapore Budget had a scheme SkillsFuture to help people deepen their skills. Career coaching will also be included in schools and tertiary education institutions. What about organisations? Who will be the career coach?

Career development is one of the top engagement and retention driver for all generations. This is even more so for Gen Y and Millenial workers, who are direct about their career plans and eager to try out new and interesting challenges. If employees don't have career conversations with their managers, then they are likely to do it outside, with headhunters.

In addition to engaging and retaining their staff, organisations also need to develop people for their future. With artificial intelligence as a business enabler, organisations need people who are discerning, able to make good judgment and co-exist with technology. Automation requires people to handle increasingly sophisticated technology.

Organisations also need to innovate the next game changer. With change as the constant, comes the need for resilience, adaptability, and learning agility.

So employees want career development. Organisations need people to be developed. Who's pulling it together? Managers. They are not the complete solution, but definitely a pivotal part. They need to have career conversations with their staff.

In my work with managers in Singapore and Asia Pacific region, I learnt some assumptions that need to be challenged and shift towards a new mindset. Here's the comparison between the Traditional and Evolving mindsets:

This Evolving mindset is the spirit we approach career development. What can we do practically? Use these 5 steps, developed by Dr Beverly Kaye, co-author of the book “Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go,” to navigate career conversations.

Develop understanding about who they are
Ask questions about the strengths, interests, and values of the staff. What do you enjoy doing? What comes naturally to you? What gives you satisfaction at work? What is your definition of a successful career? Ask these questions with curiosity to find out who this staff is.

Develop reputation
Give career-oriented feedback, which is different from performance feedback. Performance feedback is about the current job. Career feedback focuses on the staff’s fit for larger and future roles. What are his strengths and experiences that would help him? What are future capabilities, skills, and experiences that he needs? Ask your staff to get feedback from his career audience too.

Develop future insights
Tell your staff how the industry and organisation are changing. How are Singapore, our customers, and the global economy changing? What skills, experience, and mindset will become more important? This is finding the sweet spot between the staff’s aspirations and organisation’s needs. Develop your staff for the future organisation.

Develop options
Broaden your staff’s thinking about his options. Up is not the only way. In a career lifespan of 40 years, moving laterally, growing in place, enriching one’s job, or even taking a step back make sense to help us move forward. This is especially so in Singapore, which is undergoing economic restructuring, so the need to reskill in another industry may be a necessary career option.

Develop plan
Link your staff to development resources. Think beyond training. It could be mentors (other than yourself), stretch assignments, book clubs, or teaching others. Touch base on this development plan periodically. Take stock of how they have grown and repeat the process.

Human development is an iterative process. It requires patience, time, and skills. Most of them, it requires intentionality. A retired director said, “One of my greatest joy is to see my team grow. They step up and take on new challenges. When they succeed, I succeed.” I bet he is a career coach. Are you?

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