If you want to lead employee career conversations, Ryan Seamons would like to show you how

Ryan Seamons, the founder of Groove, a provider of career maps geared toward more meaningful manager-worker conversations, is on a journey that reflects his parallel interests in management and technology. His interest in management stems from working in a grocery store when he was 16, where some managers were fun to work with, while others made life miserable. His interest in information technology in high school led him to obtain a degree in this field. However, he later took an MBA with a specialization in organizational behavior, and his later work bridged his interests in management and technology.

Seamons describes himself as an avid consumer of management books, driven by longtime Harvard business guru Clayton Christensen’s pronouncement about the management profession.

“Management is the noblest of professions if practiced well. No other profession offers so many ways to help others learn and grow, take responsibility and be recognized for their achievements, and contribute to the success of a team.

He sees this statement guiding his own life, as well as his work at Groove.com, as the focus of this article. The Groove website claims that “Career Conversations help even the most inexperienced manager facilitate a discussion about someone’s career path, which leads to positive outcomes for employees, teams, and companies.” The goal is to get these managers to initiate and succeed in career conversations with their employees. “If we can do that,” says Seamons, “we can have an incredible impact on people’s experience, not just in their work, but in their lives.

He clarifies: “It seems silly that we are in a place in our world where we have to learn to have conversations. Knowing how to talk to people seems like a very basic part of being human, but technology has made it harder than ever for us to look someone in the eye, speak openly, ask questions, and listen. These are skills he feels need to be taught today. He says that when contacted for the first time, employees often say, “None of this is new, but I never really talked about it, or I never really wrote it like that. . He says spending a little time on what matters most can have a big impact on how people feel and what they produce.

Seamons then prototyped and launched a simple approach to career conversations. It uses card sorting along with some underlying guidelines for managers and their employees. There are five categories of cards, with each category consisting of ten cards, most showing a single word, as follows.

1. Interpersonal values. How you might approach relationships – things like integrity, respect and purpose.

2. Lifestyle values. Things that might be relevant to how you live your life – like engaging in learning, taking risks, or having fun.

3. The nature of the work. What happens in your day-to-day work the role – for example around collaboration, variety or autonomy.

4. Wider work culture. It involves issues that go beyond a single team, such as diversity, leadership and trust across the business.

5. Working Conditions. These are circumstances that surround the job, such as compensation and flexibility, and the mission of the company.

The card sorting procedure is as follows. An employee selects three cards from each of five categories, shuffles the fifteen cards they selected, and then reworks the selected cards one more time to choose their “top five motivators.” These are the cards on which you will invite the employee to speak. in a career conversation. The employee will use their cards to focus on questions such as “Why am I doing what I am doing?” What is most important? Where am I going in the future? How do I create a roadmap for my future career? Careers are often messy, says Seamons, but some sense of direction can be helpful in helping a person move forward.

When your employee sorts the cards, they won’t be told the categories, because the idea is that they simply answer each card openly, without questioning the purpose of sorting the cards. As Seamons observes “None of the words on the cards are bad, they are just things that may relate to someone’s work situation.” An employee’s last five cards indicate what they would most like to talk about.

The accompanying manager’s guide states that “there is rarely a rush to talk about an employee’s long-term personal growth. But by the time it seems urgent, it’s too late. The guide offers four “mindset shifts” to think “Anyone can grow in their career”, “You don’t need to know everything”, “Priming (giving career conversations time ) is powerful” and “Selfishness is toxic to career conversations”. .” There are a series of helpful tips on how to hold and deepen a career conversation and hold an employee accountable to their future career roadmap.

At the beginning of the conversation, a manager will often hear “It’s tough. I like all these things. Who doesn’t want these things? However, the conversation can deepen in various ways. One is people who say, “I’m very clear about what’s important to me, and I like my job, it’s fine.” Another is people who seem lost. They ask “What should I do next?” – but that’s the wrong question. They should ask”Why am I doing what I’m doing? Once they ask the Why you can talk about the How? ‘Or’ What. You may ask “What does success look like and how can you get there?” Another outcome that can be difficult but important is when people say, “I’m really upset with my job, I don’t like what I’m doing. Here you have to go straight to the “Why?” Talking about what matters to an employee can be an incredibly powerful tool in charting a path forward.

Readers familiar with popular career assessment approaches may balk at the apparent lack of clear theory and reluctance to share the underlying logic of the five decks of cards. However, it is safe to say that conventional approaches to career assessment – for example with regard to personal values, strengths or personality types – all steer the worker in a particular direction and, in doing so, undermine the possibility for a manager to listen to an employee’s own opinions. assessment of their professional situation.

Asked to give the last word on our conversation, Seamons responded as follows.

“I founded Groove after realizing how career conversations could benefit individuals and teams at the intersection of talent and technology. The card sorting tool gives managers and their employees the space necessary to have conversations that are really hard to manufacture out of thin air, and moreover, these are conversations that these people really should have and want to have.

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