5 Steps to Get the Most Out of Career Development Conversations

David-Li“Where do you see yourself in five years?”


This loaded question, or something similar, is nearly ubiquitous in career development conversations. Managers seek to tap into employee motivations to maximize performance. But this is an incredibly tough question, and one that a great number of employees don’t have an immediate answer to.

There’s a better way to kick off a career development meeting. If you carefully consider your questions’ content and order, you can create honest, genuine discussions that reveal employee goals and help them reach their true potential.

Follow these five steps to maximize your development conversations, boost employee engagement and avoid unnecessary turnover.


Need help defining your goal philosophy? Read our Power Workbook for Setting Employee Goals and OKRs.


1. Don't box the conversation into just promotions.

Development doesn’t necessarily mean a role change. You may not be in the position to offer a promotion, but you can provide other ways for an employee to grow. Use this time to get to know what the employee is thinking about and where they see their career progressing. Perhaps they’re seeking additional mentoring, or they believe they have the capacity to coach others. They may desire to attend formal learning opportunities such as classes and conferences.


2. Don't be abstract or use broad questions.

Some employees have a very detailed plan for their future and thrive answering questions like, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” But these queries do little to engage the employees more focused on day-to-day opportunities.

Ask specific questions that tap into what the employee has worked on that they’re proud of or are energized by. The key to development is finding tasks employees are passionate about. Identify what excites them at work and look for opportunities to have them perform those actions more often. If you’re able to discover passions and interests, you’ll unlock an employee’s true potential.


3. Set developmental goals.

Give your employees something to strive for. Set benchmarks that an employee works towards throughout the year versus those with a concrete ending, such as “Complete HubSpot’s 2018 SEO Training Course” or “Obtain Master’s Degree”. Vague goals such as “Research competitor strategies” are likely to go unfulfilled. Try tying developmental goals to team and/or organizational goals.


4. Know your role.

As the manager, you play a massive part in helping your employees reach their goals. The employee should have initiatives to get started, but you should be right behind them to support and guide their efforts. Identify the aspirations of your employees and serve as an advocate to help them progress.


5. Discuss how short-term goals affect employees in the long term.

Help your employees see how the goals they set for the next six months will affect their long-term aspirations. A series of short-term goals should build together to help progress toward loftier, impactful benchmarks down the road.


The better you understand what your employees are aiming for, the more you can help them reach those goals and maximize their productivity. Listening to and aiding employees boosts employee engagement and creates a stronger workplace. For more ideas on how to increase employee engagement, check out our ebook on the topic.


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