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11 Career Development Questions You Need to Ask Your Employees

Good questions are the foundation of an effective career development conversation. They can help you better understand your employees, demonstrate your genuine interest in their professional development and create a healthy dialogue about how they can move forward in their careers. Here are 11 career development questions to get the conversation started.

Start with the Personal

These career development questions are designed to help you understand where your employees feel they are in their careers and where they’d like to go in the future. They also offer opportunities for you to share your take on their strengths, successes and goals.

  • What activities in your job have you enjoyed the most and found most interesting? Which have you disliked? Don’t underestimate the power of simply enjoying the tasks you and your employees do at work each day. For everyone who hates doing payroll, there’s someone who loves it. And these answers may evolve as an employee learns more and tries new activities. It’s important to check in from time to time and reiterate your interest in giving employees, as much as is possible, work they genuinely enjoy.
  • Which projects from the past year are you most proud of? This question lets your employees use real-life experiences as a means of showing accomplishments. It’s also time-bound so their answers won’t get repetitive and stale.
  • What are your most valuable talents and skills? This question lets you see how employees view themselves and their contributions, which may differ from what you assume. It also gives you a chance to offer your observations about their strengths, and how they contribute to the company’s success. It’s a nice way to connect your employees’ goals to the company’s needs.
  • What are your career goals for the next year or two? What about 10 years from now? This question lets you understand what your employees want for their career in specific short- and long-term time frames, and what they’ve done or plan to do about those goals.
  • What are you already doing to reach those short- and long-term goals? This lets you see what the employees have done already that you might not be aware of, and also to see what they’re planning to do, hoping to do and how you might help.

Connect the Personal to the Organization

These career development questions are designed to help your employees gain a greater understanding of the big picture at your company, and their place in it. As you discuss these career development questions, you will get a sense of what other functional areas they may enjoy or add value to. Their answers can also help you think of key people, committees or projects that might be a good addition to their development.

  • Do you know the organization’s goals for the year? If your employees know the answer to this, ask how they want to contribute to that bigger picture. If they don’t, you can share the goals so they can align their individual goals with the organization’s.
  • What projects, committees or other responsibilities would you like to be a part of to help develop your career? Is there another department you’d like to learn more about? If they’re not sure, you can make suggestions. If you agree on any, this will help their development and possibly your bench depth in other areas.
  • Would you like a mentor? Is there anyone in the company that you feel would be a good mentor? If not, can I recommend someone? This allows you, as the employer, to see that your employees receive guidance from people you trust to give good advice. It can also develop a third person if the mentor is someone within your company.

Look Toward the Future

These final career development questions can be used to spur your employees to action. Remember, your goal is to facilitate their development, but they bear the responsibility to act. You want to encourage and facilitate their action and ownership of their career goals.

  • Which development activity can you start on now that would be most beneficial to achieving your short-term goals? Your long-term goals? This lets the employees think of concrete actions to begin immediately that will benefit their career. They will likely ask to be introduced to the mentor you suggested earlier, to take a class or to be given higher-level assignments. Listen with an open mind and be ready to accept their ideas or guide them to new ones.
  • What can I do to help you get started? You can reiterate your interest in being a resource here and in removing obstacles for them.
  • Can you report back with your progress in three to six months? This shows your desire for this to be a continuing discussion, not a one-off conversation, and signals to employees that they’ll be held accountable for their results.

Centering each development discussion around the employee’s unique personal goals and experiences, tying them to the organization as a whole and then carrying them forward will show employees that you are serious about their long-term success. They’ll feel more empowered and more valued at your organization. This will benefit the individual and the organization. You’ll have a more skilled staff, and your happier employees will make your brand that much more attractive to future candidates. Development is a win for everyone. Start having discussions today.

Success Labs is a Baton Rouge, Louisiana, management consulting firm that offers companies across the country guidance and training on leadership development, executive coaching, organizational development, workforce planning and succession planning. For more than 25 years, our expert team of consultants has worked with hundreds of companies to explore and achieve their potential.

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