How career conversations help prevent boredom at work

Employee retention is one of the biggest challenges faced by HR. By introducing career conversations, organizations can help motivate and engage staff and address potential skills shortages, writes Antoinette Oglethorpe.

As skills shortages become increasingly prevalent, one of the most critical challenges faced by HR professionals is employee retention.

Although financial incentives and flexible work arrangements play a significant role in maintaining a stable workforce, one overlooked strategy is the use of regular career conversations.

‘Rust out’, the insidious feeling of stagnation and boredom that employees can experience even in the most vibrant work environments, is a significant contributor to attrition rates. It occurs when employees feel they are not challenged enough, or their skills are underused. This feeling of ‘career plateau’ can be a significant determination to morale and productivity.

All organizations are under pressure to grow and deliver results. However, there’s a challenge: while organizations want to maximize employees’ performance, employees want to maximize their careers. These goals are not one and the same.

In the context of the current economic reality helping employees to develop their careers assumes more significance, not less. Career management is about getting people to where they want to be and where the organization needs them to be. If you want your people to be committed to the organization, engaged with their work and driven to perform, you need to provide them with the tools and resources they need to manage their careers.

Organizations sometimes focus so much on what employees need to do to meet the needs of the business that they lose sight of what the organization needs to do to meet employees’ needs. Yet, this is crucial if you are going to be effective in retaining and developing talent.

Encouraging loyalty

Career development is a tricky area for organizations. This is because it deals with the future and is a venture into the unknown. It is also deeply personal. Many managers worry that asking about careers may unsettle staff or even make them leave, but evidence showing that attending to career issues makes staff more loyal to the organization and more productive.

By aligning organizational goals with personal ambitions, employees become more invested in their roles and are less likely to become bored.”

Meaningfulness of work and the fit between a person and their job are two of the key drivers of engagement at work. Support your employees in managing their careers and they will feel connected to their work, valued for their contribution and motivated to contribute further. Their willingness to apply and increase their capability will be enhanced.

Career management in organizations is important whatever the state of the employment market. In a buoyant job market, it’s often easier for employees to leave a company than to manage their careers internally. If the organization doesn’t develop their careers, they quit physically and leave. In a tough economy, the bigger risk is that employees quit psychologically and stay!

Where career conversations fit in

So, how can career conversations help address rust out?

Career conversations serve as an opportunity to engage employees in discussions about their aspirations, skills and development opportunities within the organization. These discussions offer insights into employees’ career goals, enabling their managers to provide them with meaningful work and targeted skill development opportunities. By aligning organizational goals with personal ambitions, employees become more invested in their roles and are less likely to become bored.

Here are four key strategies to leverage career conversations for employee retention and to counter skills shortages:

  1. Establish regular career conversations: This is a fundamental step towards creating an engaging work environment. These conversations provide an opportunity for employees to share their career aspirations, interests, and concerns. Regular conversations can foster strong relationships between employees and management, and can be a valuable tool in identifying the early signs of rust out.
  2. Personalized career development plans: After understanding employees’ career goals, HR professionals can work alongside them to create personalized development plans. These plans, which should be dynamic and revised regularly, can help employees see a clear path of progression within the organization. This approach not only prevents feelings of stagnation but also equips employees with the skills needed to fill any gaps within the company.
  3. Skills training and upskilling: A key part of employee development involves providing relevant training and upskilling opportunities. By identifying the skills shortages within your organization and aligning them with employees’ career development plans, you not only address the skills gaps but also create a sense of purpose and growth among your employees.
  4. Recognition and rewards: Recognizing employees based on their performance and progression towards their goals is an essential aspect of employee retention. Rewarding employees for their growth and development reinforces the benefits of their career conversations and development plans. This will encourage them to continue to learn, evolve and contribute to the organization.

Implement these strategies and there are enormous benefits. These include:

  • Helping employees feel more satisfied and motivated in their current role, no matter what their ambitions are
  • Encouraging them to identify development opportunities and take steps that will help them to be more effective
  • Having conversations that make them want to stay with the organization rather than going elsewhere
  • Having a flexible approach, which means they take ownership of their career development
  • Supporting their wellbeing by taking a holistic approach to growth and development.

As HR professionals, we need to address the threat of rust out with proactive measures. Career conversations can provide a valuable tool to mitigate boredom at work, retain key talent, and combat skills shortages. By aligning the growth of our employees with the growth of our organizations, we can cultivate a productive, engaged and resilient workforce.

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