Using performance management to improve employee retention

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min read
September 8, 2023
January 18, 2024
Focus on career and personal development
In this article

Less than one in five employees have regular discussions about their career with their manager. This means the majority have no clear plan of how they will progress within their organisation, leading them to look for new opportunities elsewhere. Building career and personal development conversations into your performance management process can hugely improve employee retention.

One of the most commonly asked interview questions is “Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?” The question is designed to uncover a candidate's career ambitions and how they would like to develop. An articulate, well-thought through response is much appreciated by interviewers, singling out the candidates that have clear drive and determination. Companies want to employ people who are keen to learn and develop.

However, once a candidate is offered a role and becomes a new employee, the emphasis on career planning and personal development sadly often gets lost. Once they have completed onboarding and their probation period, many employees never talk about their career and development aspirations again. In fact, a recent survey found only 16% of employees have regular discussions with their managers about their career.

Why are career and personal development conversations important?

There are many reasons people leave their jobs –pay, a toxic culture, poor work/life balance – but the most common reason cited in a survey last year was lack of career prospects. At a time when finding the right staff is still proving a huge challenge, many organisations could be losing employees that could be retained because they aren’t talking about careers or personal development enough.

While sometimes, especially in smaller organisations, the option to promote employees can be limited, this doesn’t mean career conversations should be ignored. There are many ways employees can develop. This could be widening their skillset, studying for a new qualification or being mentored by a senior colleague. Having a productive and honest conversation that is recorded where an employee can state what they want is key.

Employees will understand that if they can’t progress right now, that their ambitions are acknowledged and their employer is taking them seriously. Understanding what skills and behaviours are required for promotion or to take on extra responsibilities, gives employees a focus and something concrete to work towards.

Re-engaging “quiet quitters”

A focus on regular conversations about career ambitions or personal development priorities can not only prevent people leaving your organisation physically, but it can also stop them switching off mentally too. The term “quiet quitting” first came to prominence in 2021 following the Covid-19 pandemic, when employees began reassessing their priorities and doing just enough at work and no more.

While employees need to have a healthy work/life balance to function to their full potential, they also need to have energy and enthusiasm; to be motivated to do a good job. Quiet quitters have lost this zest. By encouraging these employees to think about their careers and how they would like to develop, you can start to breathe new life into their role and find ways for them to make a more positive contribution.

Building career and personal development conversations into your performance management process

Effective performance management is not just about setting and reviewing objectives. It’s about helping an employee reach their full potential. This means providing effective support, guidance and encouragement. The line manager is often the person best placed to offer these things and holding regular check-ins or one-to-one conversations is a great way to deliver what’s needed.

It makes sense to vary what’s discussed in check-ins to prevent them from becoming stale and unenjoyable. Including a focus on career or personal development from time to time ensures an employee’s wider aspirations are captured and followed up on. 

How often you focus on career or personal development will depend on the employee. A more junior person at the start of their working life is likely to want more of these discussions than someone much further on in their employment journey. However, don’t assume what an employee wants. Ask them what they would like to discuss or give them the option to request a check-in when they want it, empowering them to take control of their own future.

Four tips for holding productive career and personal development conversations

  • The line manager and employee should prepare in advance so both parties are ready and informed 
  • This doesn’t have to be a long conversation – if an employee is happy in their current role, it may only take a few minutes but it’s important to let them know you are thinking about their future development
  • When it comes to personal development goals, don’t get hung up on making these SMART, sometimes a qualitative measure is more appropriate
  • Make sure any action points are noted and followed up on, so employees know these are useful and productive conversations

To help you get these conversations right, we’ve developed check-in templates for you to follow and adapt to your own business. These form part of our suite of templates that support the entire employee lifecycle. 

Download the career, personal development and stay templates now

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