CEO For a Day: Career Conversations People Want

Women of  HR were asked, “If you were CEO for a day, what would (or did) you focus on to improve an organization's productivity, employee engagement or ability to recruit?”  This is the third post in the series of responses.

It’s a rare organization that doesn’t somewhere in its mission statement or values express a sentiment similar to “people are at the core of our business success.“  It’s an even rarer one that actually acts on it.  If I were bestowed the mantle of CEO, I’d make it my #1 priority to be part of that very rare group…. and I’d have my work cut out for me.

In today’s business environment, talent is the major differentiator. And developing that talent is one of the most significant drivers of employee engagement, which in turn is the key to business outcomes like revenue, profitability, innovation, productivity, customer loyalty, quality, and cycle time reduction.

Yet engagement remains at disturbingly low levels.  Right Management recently released survey results that reveal that only 19% of employees describe themselves as being ‘satisfied’ with their jobs. That leaves 81% who don’t have the mindset required to delight customers, tap into their discretionary effort, and drive results.

So as CEO, my focus would have to be on development and helping people to grow.  Unlike money, benefits, recognition trips, and other tactics that deliver short-term results, development is a strategy that has legs to carry it beyond this week or month, delivering sustained results over time.

My recent research with Beverly Kaye found that what employees wanted from development conversations with their supervisors (even more than promotions) was a discussion about how to creatively use their talents.  As humans, we’re wired to want to expand our capacity and to contribute. An organization that can tap into that natural wiring will be nothing short of unbeatable.

As a result, this CEO’s directives would include:

Suspending the Individual Development Plan (IDP) and related systems.

Somehow the simple human act of helping people grow has gotten very complicated—processes on top of checklists with how to get your ex back

references to resource guides. For the manager, this can be a huge time-sink and for the employee, the experience is frequently like drinking from a fire hose. For both, it can be an artificial set of activities that gets checked off the to-do list until next year at the same time. So, let’s temporarily de-emphasize the ‘form’ and focus on the ‘function.’

Insisting upon a daily development conversation between managers and every employee.

When it comes to the managers’ role in development, talk’s not cheap… quite the opposite. Talk is actually the most precious and results-driving commodity managers have to share.  Development is all about the conversation.  It happens one conversation at a time, over time. But these conversations must be prioritized to be as important as any other business task. Once this sensibility is well entrenched, the IDP process can be re-instated…producing powerful results because it will be driven by authentic and regular communication.

Evaluating leaders based upon their employees’ development.

Are employees growing? Do they know more today than they did yesterday? Can they do more now than in the past?  Are we growing and promoting those from within? Are employees satisfied with their careers?  These are the metrics that leaders would be measured on if I were CEO.

Growing the business means growing people. CEOs who turn the plaques and platitudes about people into daily development dialogues will tap into the most powerful differentiator available to them… and transform their businesses in the process.

Photo credit: iStockphoto

About the author: Julie Winkle Giulioni has spent the past 25 years improving performance through learning. She consults with organizations to develop and deploy innovative instructional designs and training worldwide. Her book, Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Employees Want (co-authored with Beverly Kaye) (launching September 18th, 2012 and available on Amazon) is a practical quick-read for managers who’d like to figure out how to fit career development into their already-full dance cards. Learn more about Julie


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