Beverly Kaye: Why We Have to Redefine Growth and Opportunity

The i4cp 2015 Conference brings together top business leaders to discuss the advanced people practices that drive market performance. The lineup of speakers for this year is a powerful mix of thought leaders, executives, and authors, including Dr. Beverly Kaye.

Kaye, a bestselling author and internationally recognized authority on a range of career and workplace issues, will be co-leading an interactive session with Cliff Stevenson, senior research analyst at i4cp, on how HR can help employees grow through career conversations.

In a recent conversation with i4cp, Kaye discussed the career conversations employees want.

What are the main concepts your presentation will cover?

BK: Never before has career development been as crucial as it is now. Globally it's seen as one of the major drivers of engagement and retention. While that's not new, it's now being called out in stronger and louder ways than ever before. When you look at the lowest rated Beverly Kayeitems on engagement surveys, typically it has something to do with career opportunities, career conversations, career paths, or "I don't see my future in your future." If individuals can't see growth for themselves, then they aren't going to give their discretionary effort to the organization. If we've ever had to redefine growth and opportunity, we have to redefine it now.

It's not moving out of and into the next position or the next opportunity, it's growing right where I am. That's not new news--it's something I've been talking about for 40 years. Talent's always been significant; it's always been a main driver, but now the data's reinforcing that it is key.

Has anything changed?

I don't know why we've yanked career development out of a lot of leadership training when the best mark of a leader is the answer to the question: "What have you done to grow other leaders, to develop other people's careers?" The big pushback that I hear is about time. Managers just don't have time. So the idea of my book Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go, was to talk about how to make time when it looks like you have none. And, how to build career conversations into the everyday work flow and not concentrate it on the form or the process or the completion of the IDP. So how do we get more conversations happening between managers and employees?

How much change are you seeing as a result of generational shifts?

What I'm seeing is that Millennials are not saying, "Promote me or I'm going to go." They're saying, "Grow me or I'm going to go." They're saying, "Challenge me or I'm going to go." They're saying, "Use all of my abilities." I think there are five things employees--no matter what the generation--are asking of their organizations and of their managers:

"Will you get to know me so that you can use the breadth of what I have to offer?"
"Will you give me opportunities to keep growing, to keep getting better at what I do?"
"Will you show me what the future looks like so I know how to get ready for it?"
"Is this an organization in which I have multiple ways to grow?"
"Is this an organization where I am going to keep learning so that I'm continually employable, if not here, elsewhere?"

And as long as most of these requirements are met, employees will stay.

We make such wide, sweeping statements about generations. Shame on us. It really is "different strokes for different folks." All generations want to believe they're being used to the max. And all generations want to be valued by their managers and their leaders. They all want to be kept on the cutting edge.

What are companies doing?

It's interesting, I'm not a hierarchical person, but I do know that a hierarchical structure continually says, "Up is the only way." That's the way you get more, more, more... But I think we have to look at a variety of ways to let people know that, "Up is not the only way." And that growing deeper and wider is also a promotion in a different way.

I often say to managers, promotion is only one way to promote your employees' careers. And promotion is only one way for me to promote my own career. Maybe the question is not "How far can I go?" but rather "How far can I grow?"

The i4cp 2015 Conference--March 16-19, in Scottsdale, Arizona--is fast-approaching and the final remaining seats are filling. To reserve your seat at the most important human capital event of the year, register now.