Finding Career Fulfillment


Why are your talented people leaving? In our last article we took a look at manager-employee relationships. But what else causes people to leave? What about the work itself? A quick scan of the article “The Top 10 Reasons Why Employees Quit Their Jobs,” helps answer this question. Here are the reasons they provide about why the work itself may be driving your people away:

#2.  Bored and Unchallenged by the Work Itself

#4.  Opportunities to Use Their Skills and Abilities

#5.  Contribution of Their Work to the Organization’s Business Goals

#6.  Autonomy and Independence on the Job

#7.  Meaningfulness of the Employee’s Job

To summarize, your people want to be trusted and challenged, and they want their work to matter. This seems reasonable enough, but how do you get to that point? You want your team members to earn your trust before you send critical tasks their way or give them significant autonomy. Plus, you need to balance the individual needs of employees with the needs of your department or division; the work you are responsible for needs to get done. But if the work itself is related to half of the top 10 reasons people leave their jobs, how can you prevent your people from getting stuck and ensure they are on the path toward fulfillment?

Do your people know what they want to be when they grow up? It seems like a silly question, but many people navigate their careers one raise or promotion at a time without fully understanding what makes them truly happy at work. Are your managers taking the time to explore their employees’ career values in development-focused conversations or is everything moving so fast that the sole focus is status updates? Do your managers know how to have employee-focused career development conversations, allowing the employees to determine what they want instead of management pushing them in certain direction? Are you surveying your employees to determine their level of satisfaction as it pertains to their work? A paycheck alone is not enough to retain your good talent, especially in today’s environment, where tools like LinkedIn and Indeed make it easy to find a job even if you aren’t actively looking. If you can honestly answer yes to these questions, then congratulations! You likely have a happy and productive department with very little turnover. If, however, that is not the case, then you may have employees who are unfulfilled in their current roles, which leads to turnover.  

A lack of career development can be hard wired into a company’s culture, and turning that cruise ship may take a while, but good coaches can augment and accelerate the process. A coach can work with your organization’s management to help them hone their people leadership skills so the impact can spread through the whole department, leading people to have transparent conversations about what they want to work on. On a broader scale, a coach can deploy any number of tools, such as the Hogan Motives, Values, and Preferences Inventory; VIA Strengths Analysis; or EQ Assessment to help employees gain self-awareness about their career priorities.  

Once your managers understand what their employees want from their careers, they can begin to focus on their work or start to pursue their goals in the “white space” (a concept that we will dive into during our next article). The transparent career conversations in your department will likely raise expectations. If your managers are having open conversation with their employees about career fulfillment, they will rightly expect that the manager will be a partner in helping them find that fulfillment. People also want to feel like their work is critical to the organization. So, if there are reasons that your managers can not align work with career values or are not ready to delegate critical tasks to certain members of their team, they need to clearly articulate the reasons.

360 feedback can be a great ice breaker on the path toward performance transparency. Many internal performance management tools have 360 capabilities. Thoughtfully crafted questions that provide scores and the space for contextual feedback are a great start. Having a coach hold face-to-face interviews for 360 participants often yields the most powerful results. The coach is an independent and confidential resource that can dig into the details of the feedback that is provided. This feedback can naturally lead to full coaching engagements to help your people build the skills they need to be ready for the next step in their career.  Five of the top 10 reasons people leave their job are about unfulfilling work. No two people’s path to career fulfillment is the same. We are all wired differently and have different life priorities. It takes a lot of work to discover what exactly will bring each person fulfillment. But it is possible, through transparency, reflection, and exploration. Data from personality assessments and 360s are a great way to jumpstart the process. Leaders need to be transparent, and make the time for these conversations with their employees. Retaining great, motivated talent will make your team more effective and efficient in the long run. A great coach can get you there.