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Managing Career Growth of Your Reports

Personal growth
Career Path

23 February, 2021

Paras Doshi, Engineering Manager (BI & Data) at Amazon, tells how he approaches career growth of his reports by dedicating time to exclusively talk about their careers.

Problem

Taking care of and supporting the career growth of their reports is the most important -- and also the most rewarding -- responsibility managers have. Therefore, career growth deserves its own time and shouldn’t be done in an ad-hoc/unplanned manner. By managing your reports’ growth, you are helping them achieve mastery in different crafts and become the best version of themselves and raise the performance bar of the entire team in the process!

Actions taken

Example 1 -- Role transition

One of my reports wanted to transition to a more technical role, and to enable the transition to happen, I followed our company’s guidelines. I introduced monthly career growth conversations where we talked about what my report found exciting, what they enjoyed doing, where they saw themselves in two or five years, etc. Once we defined their goals and aspirations, we could start working backward toward achieving them.

My report did a lot of automating and applied many new technologies, but the existing opportunities at that time were not sufficient. I had to find several projects for them to work on for the next three months, and after they would successfully deliver on them, I could transition them to a new role following our internal policies. For three months, they were working on those projects to prove their skills and capabilities and then, it took three more months to fulfil all the standard requirements for a role transition, including collecting feedback and compiling all documentation.

Their job satisfaction enormously increased in the new role though they stayed on the same team. They were exceedingly motivated, and their output was far better. Moreover, they started to consider the next career step and possible promotion. By helping them fulfill their aspirations, not only I made one of my reports happier, but I had them stay on the team. As a result, we were able to reduce the attrition rate and also sent a strong signal that we genuinely care about our employees.

Example 2 -- Promotion

With another report who was hoping for promotion, I also introduced monthly one-on-ones where we talked about what they wanted to do and how I could help them to get there. I quickly realized that the work they did was quite impactful for their level and that I had to figure out how to get some more scope for them. I had to create opportunities that would show that my report could continue to make the same impact at the next level. Also, I had to corroborate with data points that they were also successful at the scope we gave them for the next level.

I was able to carve out several projects within our roadmap that would result in data points that would strongly suggest that my report was already performing at the next level. The promotion takes six to nine months in our company, and once again, I followed our internal procedures. I gave my report extra scope and followed up on the delivery.

Their newly added activities also allowed me to scale myself up because they were able to step into a more tech lead role, which freed up some of my bandwidth as well. I was able to delegate much of day-to-day design and code reviews and then, the rest of the time, invest in the career growth of my other reports. Needless to say, my report’s job satisfaction significantly improved, and I was happy to see the growth taking place within the team. Getting an email that formally approved the promotion I proposed was one of the most rewarding experiences of my career as a manager.

Lessons learned

  • Dedicate a time slot to talk about career growth that is entirely separated from tactical one-on-ones.
  • It is essential to understand what each of your team members wants to get from their careers because then, you can work backward and make sure that they have the scope and impact that will take them there. If you don’t provide them with opportunities, they will eventually leave. Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go: Career Conversations Employees Want by Beverly Kaye and Julie Winkle Giulioni was an eye-opener and a great tool for driving retention and engagement. I was happy that I was able to retain my reports and see them grow within our team. Furthermore, having people stay on the team improved their output and satisfaction.
  • Be proactive. It is too late to talk about one’s career growth when they already decided to leave. Most managers have good intentions and want to help their reports grow, but they fail to put the right mechanisms in place. They typically focus on check-ins, and their weekly one-on-ones become too tactically with no time left to discuss a career.

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