personal growth is critical to company success
Feedback Culture

How to have a successful growth discussion with your employee

February 1, 2022
7-minutes Read
Emily Vo

Emily Vo

Growth Hacker
manager looking at his team's member one-on-one dicussion
February 2, 2022
Feedback Culture

How to have a successful growth discussion with your employee

7-minutes Read
Emily Vo

As an HR leader, it’s important to give your employees the support they need to succeed and reach their goals. Growth discussions with employees are a key way for HR leaders to learn about their employees’ professional goals and help them reach their potential. With that in mind, we’ll take an in-depth look into why these development conversations matter — and what you can do to conduct them more effectively in the future.

Why Employee Development Matters For Everyone

From the perspective of your employees, growth discussions show how much you're investing and valuing in their work and careers — beyond their daily tasks. It’s a way of directly demonstrating that the leadership and management care about their employees and view them as individuals — rather than production quotas or positions to be filled with adequate skill sets.

If you don’t conduct growth discussions that help employees grow and understand their utmost potential, they will quickly become less and less engaged and motivated — ultimately leaving your organization due to a lack of interest.  

Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace found that employees who have consistent performance feedback and growth discussion become emotionally and psychologically attached to their workplace.  

This type of discussion can be beneficial for both the employee and the company. The employee gains benefits through constructive feedback that supports his or her long-term professional goals, while the company benefits from fostering its success through the retention of top talent.

How To Have Successful Growth Discussions

To have career growth discussions become a regular part of your employee management, you need to approach them in the right way. Here are a couple of tips on doing it right.

Always have the first growth discussion

The first growth discussion is fundamental, especially when a new person joins the team. A growth discussion helps you and your employee know what to expect, where the company is going, thus the employee's career vision, and where support is needed.

It is also a time to discuss employee projects so that everyone is aware of their role is and how they fit into the company as a whole. Growth discussion involves more than just KPIs. It's about listening to personal career aspirations and goals, individual’s strengths, and weaknesses, and helping them develop skills that will be beneficial to both the company and the employee over time.

Ask these questions on your first growth discussion with your team member:

  • What is important to you about your career?
  • Which role do you want to grow into in the next five year?
  • What motivates you?  
  • What do you see as their greatest areas of strength?
  • What personal goals do you have?

This ensures that the new employee has an understanding of the overall company goals and get introduced to opportunities.

Have regular conversations or 1:1

Companies constantly evolve — and so do their employees. Over time, their career trajectory, ambitions, and goals will likely change. And as a manager, you need to help them properly develop their careers by regularly catching up with changing circumstances.

Even if these growth discussions are short and "to the point," managers should try to have them on a weekly basis or bi-weekly with the employees. When these conversations are done a few times a year or once every quarter, they're more likely to be unpractical.

The key to effective support and growth management is to be consistent.

And besides scheduling these growth discussions with employees regularly, it’s also important to ensure those one-on-one meetings are specifically focused on the development of the individual employees — don’t let various other work-related things involve into this conversation.  

Try adding these questions to your next one-on-one, and repeat the same questions for the next quarter. Depending on the situation and timeline between each one-on-one you can customize the questions: For career growth and development:

  • How have you been since we last met?
  • What is one (or more) thing you have learned or succeeded this quarter or week?
  • What’s one thing you really wanted to do last quarter but didn’t get a chance to?
  • Do you feel you’re getting enough feedback on your work? If not, where would you like more feedback?
  • What areas of the company would you like to learn more about?
  • What resources can I or the company provide that would help you excel further in your role?
  • Where do you see yourself in the team next year?
  • How can I better support you?

For personal growth and development:

  • What is one(or more) thing you have learned or succeeded in this week?
  • What skills would you like to improve between this and the next growth plan?
  • How do you plan on acquiring/improving those skills?
  • In what way you could be supported between this meeting and the next one?

By having regular conversations with employees, you can keep track of their development and career progression. Thus, ensure that they are receiving the support they need at all times. Providing your employees with continual development opportunities that fit their roles and skills will help them reach their goals and feel more supported.

Related: How to get 1-on-1s right to cultivate employee engagement

Personalize your approach to each individuals

To have meaningful discussions, you’ll have to tailor your approach to every individual. For instance, many employees thrive on constructive, direct feedback on things they'll have to improve from the company's perspective. On the other hand, many feel discouraged and shunned as they take such feedback as negative criticism.

Moreover, employees have different needs and wants when it comes to career development. So it is unpractical to apply fixed structure to each growth discussion. While some may have a concrete plan on what they want to do with their careers and only need your support to get there, others are just feeling stuck and will need assistance in figuring out what they should do next.

Let them take the lead.

While conducting growth discussions with your staff, it will be tempting to use this opportunity to share your own thoughts on the career paths you believe they would be wise to follow. However, if these conversations are to be fruitful and genuine — that’s an urge you’ll have to resist.

If you share your thoughts on their careers first, employees will be less likely to share what they want to do out of fear of not coming across as agreeable. Even the most high-potential and well-intentioned performers can be people pleasers. They may find it difficult to share their professional aspirations if you’ve already envisioned something different for them.

In that case, you may not get all the data you require to provide optimal support to your employee’s professional development and growth. So, make sure you’re giving your staff enough space to take the lead in these conversations. Providing them with tangible expectations and much-needed structure in advance, thus allowing them to define their success on their own.

Create a growth plan

At the end of each conversation, both you and the employee should have more clarity about concrete next steps for everyone and a better view of what the individual is working towards. That’s when to take the next action, create a growth plan.

A growth plan or development plan defines how a person will achieve their goals. It breaks down goals into small, manageable steps to follow.

Related: How to create personal development goals that get result  

The strategies of a personal development plan should focus on learning and experiential. This gives employees valuable hands-on experience when developing new skills or learning about a new role.

Guide your employees based on what goals they want to achieve. For example, if the goal involves a career change, ask them what education or skill they need and how to acquire that. If they want to upskills, ask what area of the team they would like to learn about and reach out to that team for cross-project or match them with a peer who can mentor them.

The bottom line

Taking the time to focus on your people as individuals and support their professional goals helps you create a supportive environment and empower your team members to be at their best at work.

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