The Unsung Retention Tool: Career Path Discussions

As companies place greater emphasis on hanging on to their top-performing accounting and finance professionals, there’s a highly valuable retention tool that’s free, easy-to-implement and available to every manager: career path discussions.

In an Accountemps survey, more than half of workers interviewed said knowing their potential career path was very important to their job satisfaction. Another 31 percent reported it was somewhat important. With more than eight in 10 workers wanting to know where the future leads, employers can’t afford to skip conversations to map out where employees are headed.

Managers don’t have to wait for the annual performance review, which can be heavy and laden with pitfalls. Instead of employees being on edge as they wait to hear how they’re doing, set up a separate discussion dedicated to their career path.

Explain the situation beforehand, and ask staff members to be ready to talk about where they want their careers to go and where they think they can contribute down the road. Remind them you’re partnering on the discussion and explain you’re holding this conversation because you appreciate their efforts and want them to keep moving up in your organization.

This should be a confidence-building situation for the employees, making them feel good about themselves and your company. Kick off the meeting by explaining how much you value their work. The conversation itself should be a recognition of their accomplishments.

The two other objectives for the meeting should be identifying potential career paths, including specific positions and milestones, and defining, together, steps personnel can take to achieve them. Identify skills gaps – perhaps an internal auditor needs to improve his soft skills – and ways to address them. List training you expect staff to take, and determine which colleagues within your organization, even if from other departments, could serve as mentors.

Close the conversation by asking about any concerns employees have and how else you can help. Assure them, though, the discussion won’t end there. Set up times to check in on their development and steps they’re taking to reach the next rung on the career ladder. As their paths continue to take shape, adjust the plans as needed.

Career path discussions must be part of every managers’ toolbox. For more insights on how you can use these conversations to motivate and retain your staff, please join Robert Half and The Institute of Internal Auditors (The IIA) Thursday, September 25, for a free webinar, “Show Them the Way: Using Employee Career Paths to Build, Improve and Retain Your Internal Audit Team.”

During the event, which qualifies for one unit of continuing professional education credit, Paul McDonald, Robert Half senior executive director, and Larry Harrington, CIA, QIAL, CRMA, senior vice chairman of The IIA and vice president of internal audit at Raytheon Company, will share insights on how internal audit leaders can work with their teams to develop career road maps that benefit both their employees and organization.