Let's Talk Talent

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Survey signs from around the world are pointing the way to greater engagement and higher profits. Fortune 1,000 companies to local businesses are realizing the potential of higher profits through the power of their people who are growing, learning and developing. Today, more than ever, people are asking their companies, “Can I see my future in your future?” See it, they stay. Don’t? They’re gone. Whether they quit and leave or quit and stay, growth and development is the single, biggest driver of employee engagement.

According to The Conference Board’s 2012 report on Employee Engagement, lack of career development is one of the key factors limiting employees’ willingness to stay at their company and recommend it as a best place to work. To address these concerns, companies are investing millions in career paths, talent management processes and competency models. These are all good foundational pieces, but something very simple and practical is often missing.

The conversation.

Alan Weber, co-founder of Fast Company, said, “In the new economy, conversations are the most important form of work. Conversations are the way knowledge workers discover what they know, share it with their colleagues and in the process, create new knowledge for their organizations.” And what do knowledge workers most want to talk about? Their careers!

Unfortunately, many managers shudder at the very idea and employees are often too afraid to ask. Talk … about careers? What if I can’t give them what they want? What if they ask for a pay raise? What if I want a promotion and they can’t give me one? What if we all say nothing at all? What if indeed! Raw, real human conversations can be the most direct path to greater awareness and stronger relationships. It also beats any well-documented corporate career path as the best way to develop and engage.

In the book by Beverly Kaye and Julie Winkle Giulioni, Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go, the authors ask the question, “Is it better to sit down for two hours and map out a career plan for the year or do the same thing in a dozen 10-minute conversations over the year?” When was the last time anyone had two-hours for a quality conversation at work and why wait?

Keep it simple. Talk, rap, gab, converse or chat about what matters and be curious. As stated in Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go, “You can fake listening. You can’t fake curiosity.” Listen well, dig deep and find opportunities to help yourself and others grow, learn and develop. Only then will you know how to leverage those career paths and talent management processes inside your organizations.

So, let’s talk. I have 10 minutes!

C. Patrick Smith is the CEO of Career Systems International, an employee engagement and career development company specializing in helping organizations worldwide maximize the strategic engagement, development and retention of key talent. For more information visit www.careersystemsintl.com.

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