Supporting the Career Development of Employees

While each person is ultimately responsible for their own career, managers can and should support the career growth of their employees. 

What is my role in employee career development?

Being open to and supporting your employees’ career interests and goals will help them feel valued. Employees who feel valued by their manager are inclined to be engaged in the work, adaptable and growth oriented, and loyal.

The first step in offering support is raising the topic. A good time to do that is during the annual performance review. The following questions can help as conversation starters:

  • How does your current work fit with your career aspirations?
  • What are your short- and long-term career goals?
  • What skills and talents do you have that are not being tapped into?
  • Tell me about a time that you felt most happy in your career, when you were having fun and doing a great job?
  • What ideas do you have for how you can learn and grow and advance towards your career goals?

What workshops and resources are available to me?

HR offers a workshop to help managers prepare for and conduct career conversations with their employees.

Some employees will not have clear career goals. HR offers resources to help employees explore their career interests:

Once employees have a general sense of their career interests and goals, managers can support their efforts to learn more. This learning can include:

  • Informational interviews
  • Job shadowing opportunities
  • Projects in the current role or department
  • Involvement in MIT activities outside their current role
  • Educational options
  • Work with a mentor
  • Conferences and webinars

How can I get comfortable with career conversations?

It can be intimidating for managers to ask employees about their careers. Managers might be concerned that initiating a career conversation will lead to a valuable employee leaving for the next step in their career. Managers might also fear an employee will interpret a career question as a sign they are not valued in their current role. Employees are also likely to be nervous about career conversations.

Managers can offset this anxiety (for all parties) by framing career development as part of the overall performance development plan for the team. Doing the work of performance development can also help, as it improves communications between the manager and employees, strengthens relationships, and builds trust—which can make career conversations easier.

HR also offers a workshop to help managers prepare for and conduct career conversations with their employees, as well as additional online resources in Developing Staff and Teams.

How can I get better at giving feedback?

Ongoing coaching and feedback between managers and employees is integral to employee performance and engagement. See coaching best practices on our performance development site.

How do I support the overall career development of direct reports, independent of their particular role?

No one knows where a career opportunity may lie, so when faced with a direct report looking for fulfillment outside the team, don't take it personally. Everyone moves on; if not, we would all still be in our old jobs. Most importantly, do not shy away from the conversation. Be curious and ask questions that show you care while soliciting more information about the new career direction. This insight could align with a future opportunity on the team that fulfills their aspirations.

Additional resources:

What if I need more help?

Looking for assistance with talent planning, performance development, and supporting the career development of team members? Support is available. The Talent and Career Development team within Human Resources offers programs, services, and resources to help you plan strategically, manage change, build bench strength, create an inclusive culture, and enhance team and organizational effectiveness. See how we can help.