Career Management Culture, the Secret to Engagement

Kate Fletcher, experienced senior marketer and a career consultant, advises how to create greater engagement via a career management culture.

Only 24% of Australian workers are engaged in their jobs1, having a major impact on employee turnover, productivity and even customer satisfaction scores1.

And here’s the secret. If more leaders had meaningful career conversations with their staff (that is, conversations about them – about their talents, how they are growing and engaging in their work), more workers would be far more engaged.

If engagement isn’t an issue for your organisation, there are other reasons to foster a proactive career management culture:

  • To have workforce skills ready to embrace contemporary practices and meet changing business needs.
  • To sustain productivity during times of change and uncertainty.
  • To attract millennials - 65% of millennials ranked personal development as the top factor in accepting their current role.4
  • To retain talented staff in flatter structures where promotional opportunities are limited.

What is Proactive Career Management?

Simply put, it’s ‘showing up’ in your work with intent:

  • The most formidable intent comes from what you are most internally motivated by – clearly grasped, this serves to drive you, and be at your best. No matter your intent, if you find yourself not working to it, your best career story may never be written.
  • It’s then being conscious and deliberate about ‘how you show up’, that is aligning your daily behaviours and deeds to your intent. This determines the content of your career story – the one you intend, or potentially the one you don’t intend to create.

Proactive career management is not predicated on a time bound career plan. It’s important to have a yardstick for your future, however, life and careers are commonly disrupted and they also find new and unexpected shoots as opportunities arise. Just ask yourself if you are today where you thought you’d be five years ago? …when I ask this in a workshop, I hear a resounding no from the majority. Career management is a mindset and approach that helps you to be agile, open to change and ready to pivot - most valuable is knowing yourself deeply, playing to - and building on - your strengths as you traverse your career journey.

Proactive Career Management in Practice

I believe that proactive career management involves six fundamental practices that evolve with your career. Two of these practices are touched on here:

1. Play to your strengths:

People who use their strengths every day outperform those who don’t – they are 8% more productive, 15% less likely to quit and six times more engaged!5

Being clear on what your strengths are is the starting point. A useful process is to rank your enjoyment level out of 10 for your current and past roles. Reflect on your rankings and look for themes that uncover what you enjoy doing most and least – these are your strengths and burnout areas. I like the KnowdellTM Motivated Skills Card Sort to help enrich your insight (get your report on www.careerplanner.com).

If you don’t currently use your motivated skills (or strengths) every day, explore how you can craft your role or approach your work differently to make this possible. We tend to do this subconsciously, but the more conscious you are, the more you will optimise your strengths – for example, changing how you undertake a task (e.g. if you want to develop your natural talent for presenting, but have little formal opportunity, change how you approach your meetings to allow you to practice presenting and influencing others), volunteering on a project, using your strengths to help others, proactively seeking more responsibility that uses your strengths, etc.

This also applies to tasks that are your weaknesses or zap your energy – minimise the impact of these tasks by automating them, change how you approach them (e.g. chunk them down, or if you’re don’t like working with numbers, convert spreadsheets into graphics to analyse them), or gain support from someone who enjoys the task - your burnout areas will be someone else’s motivated skill.

2. Grow in role

Your growth opportunities on the job are not entirely determined by the scope of your role, or leadership support – don’t buy into this limiting belief. Let’s say you are a campaign manager who is motivated by strategy but has had little experience or exposure – you typically receive briefs from those with strategic responsibility, to develop, implement and report on tactical campaigns. The campaign evaluation process is a great opportunity to stretch your strategic thinking – when you interpret the results, consider the drivers of performance, the customer experience, the business and competitor impact. Not only are you practicing being strategic, you’re showcasing your strengths, which contributes to your reputation, legacy and future opportunities.

Professional development does not require a special project or a formal course (although both are immensely valuable). A growth mindset, engaging in your diverse learning ecosystem, applying and building on your strengths, will help you grow in your role and build bench strength.

Having career conversations

Firstly, why are only 16% of employees having regular career conversations?  Some of the immobilising myths relate to the perceptions of too many leaders:  ‘There is simply not enough time’, ‘employees need to own their own careers (it’s not my job)’, and ‘I can’t give them what they want, so I won't ask’6.

The reality is that conversations help people grow and this growth translates into business outcomes – precisely the job of leaders.

The other reality is, it doesn’t take much time and the leader isn’t responsible for the heavy lifting, the employee is.  Start by getting to know your employees - their strengths, motivations, aspirations and their burnout areas. Take quick and frequent moments to check in, coach and give them feedback - when you are already having a conversation – at the start or end of a project, when someone does well (or poorly), when someone appears disengaged, or they are working too hard - in fact any time.

Make this your practice in parallel to conversing with people about their work and not only will you build engagement, you will achieve better business outcomes. A great guide and easy read about effective career conversations is ‘Help Them Grow or Watch them Go, B Kaye & J Winkle Giulioni’.


 Kate V2

The Author

Kate Fletcher is an experienced senior marketer and a career consultant. Kate is passionate about unlocking human potential at work. She believes the opportunity for people to better understand and build on their professional currency is immense, and the gains for organisations are significant on critical performance measures. For more information on the Six Practices of Proactive Career Management, contact Kate.

[1]Gallup State of the Global Workforce, 2012 [2 & 3]Right Management Talk The Talk Report, 2015 [4]PwC Millennials at Work, Reshaping the Workplace, 2011 [5]Gallup Client Data, 2015, 6Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go, B Kaye & J Winkle Giulioni, 2012.