Why career conversations matter for HR

HR professionals need to find time to have their own structured career conversations, either with like-minded mentors or even themselves

Previously, I wrote about the the rewards that can come for HR professionals when they consider their own careers in the same way that they help the employees on their watch. Today, I hope to share about the value of career conversations for both sides.

You’ll already know that the potential cost of not asking, of not conversing, is to lose talented professionals. A career conversation is not merely engagement – it is a true sense of belonging and inclusion. Gallup’s annual global engagement survey drives this point home, as the most recent report indicates only 13% of employees globally are fully engaged in their work. In East Asia that number sinks to 6%, largely based on the results from China which has one of the lowest global figures. Or, put another way, between 87-94% employees are not emotionally invested in their work. I think that leaves room to improve those conversations and retention.

Disengagement drains the life out of a team and undermines performance. Being emotionally invested at work means doing work which matters. The power of the four questions I mentioned previously (see: below) is to drive engagement by determining what matters most to the individual. Whether starting out in HR or mid-career, everyone seeks a sense of belonging and meaningful work. There is an easily visible relationship between career opportunities in an enabling culture and being emotionally invested at work.

Engagement, belonging and purpose. All begin with career conversations to uncover behaviors, which in turn are tethered to strengths, and reinforce engagement rather than just doing the job. Too often, career conversations get wrapped in an annual performance review. That is a separate conversation which looks back keeping an employee accountable, whereas a career conversation focuses on the present and future. Move away from formulaic discussion on what needs improving and towards thoughtful, frequent career conversations throughout the year.

If career conversations so clearly drive engagement, what stops us from doing so more often? The answer is usually “not enough time," which is understandable – everyone is time-starved.

I have found HR professionals often resist taking time to think about themselves when managing their career paths. But it's not labour intensive. Try five to 10 minutes weekly to get started. It’s discipline, not time.

Revisiting the past – whether it was good or bad – offers a future perspective.

About the Author

Jane RS 5 (3).jpg

Jane Horan
Jane Horan


Jane Horan is an author, speaker, and consultant focused on helping organisations build inclusive work environments and meaningful careers for their people. z

She has held senior Asia-Pacific management positions at The Walt Disney Company, CNBC, and Kraft Foods, and has an extensive professional background in inclusion, belonging, diversity, and cross-cultural leadership.


Going to the gym is discipline, as we need to exercise our reflective muscles regularly. Re-prioritise your time. How much time per week do you spend supporting others (colleagues, clients, team, family, bosses) versus how much time a week do you expend on your career?

My advice? Become your own mentor and make your career conversation a weekly activity, even if it's you talking to yourself. You’re probably better at pushing yourself and taking control anyhow. Or when getting ready in the morning, tackle one question weekly from the below list. 

Imagine asking, what keeps you at work, with a colleague, direct report or a senior HR executive. We learn best when we coach or counsel others. Doing so can reveal a forgotten strength previously buried. More important, listen to the responses – yours and others – and jot them down. After a few months, you’ll be more of a Chief Career Officer; helping yourself, helping others, and helping the organisation.

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