If you’re counting on your front-line managers to assist employees with their career development goals, you’re probably backing a losing horse. At least that’s what a new survey shows.

Right Management, a consultancy owned by Manpower Inc., early this year asked 616 employees whether their managers were engaged in their career development. Fully 68% said their managers weren’t at all engaged, and another 15% said these managers were only sometimes engaged.

So fewer than 20% of managers are actually helping their subordinates develop into the kind of employees — or leaders — they want to be. That’s not a good number, especially if your organization is officially committed to learning and development. It means your well-intentioned efforts may be crippled by a lack of involvement from the people who have the most contact with employees, and therefore the greatest opportunity to help.

Giving them a clue
We’re not trying to vilify managers here. In some cases, they may be so hellaciously busy that they don’t feel they have time for career development talk. Others may have little idea of how to go about it.

But that losing horse we referred to earlier can still be taught to run. Right Management senior consultant Ron Raque advises that you get managers started by prepping them with a few leading questions to initiate the discussion. Here are some of the suggested questions:

  • What is important to you in your career and in your day-to-day work experience?
  • Tell me about your career plans. What are you interested in doing, in both the short- and long-term?
  • What are some steps you might take toward those goals, especially the short-term ones?
  • Have you sought feedback from colleagues about how you’re perceived in the company, and their views on your strengths and development areas?
  • Where do you think our business is heading and how do you fit in that?
  • What would keep you committed to and involved in this organization?
  • What experiences do you need in your present role to help prepare for future moves?
  • Are you interested in a new area? Who can I put you in touch with to help you explore it?

Asking questions like these won’t necessarily transform managers into career development gurus. But they’ll at least get the conversation started, and allow employees to feel that their manager is on their side.

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