Development Conversations

Build a Solid Foundation with Meaningful Development Conversations

Who feels that they have had a meaningful development conversation with their manager in the past 12 months?

Now this is a question I have asked hundreds of people over the years, and it might surprise you to know that less than 5% feel that they have.

In this episode I'm going to explore what exactly a development conversation is, why it is significant and how to make it more meaningful.


Development Conversation vs Performance Conversation

Whilst they share some similarities, development conversations and performance conversations are two distinct types of discussions that need to take place within the workplace. They serve a different purpose and focus on distinct aspects of an employee's journey. Here are the key differences:

Development Conversations

  • Objective: To discuss the employee's professional growth and mid to long-term aspirations. The aim is to help him or her strategise and plan their career path within the organisation.
  • Focus: The employee's future, including potential career advancement, skill development, and alignment with the employee's personal and professional goals.

Performance Conversation

  • Objective: To discuss the employee's past and current job performance. The aim is to evaluate his or her achievements, strengths, and identify areas that need improvement.
  • Focus: Assessing the employee's contributions, improvement, productivity, and ability to meet job-related objectives.

They should be separate conversations for one very simple reason. When you have a performance conversation your mindset is focussed on justifying your performance. When you have a development conversation your mindset is focussed on you and what you want for yourself.


The Significance of Meaningful Development Conversations

Empowerment & Engagement: Meaningful development conversations give employees a sense of autonomy over their career. They are more engaged and committed when they feel that their organisation values and supports their aspirations.

Aligning Individual Goals & Organisational Objectives: Meaningful development conversations allow organisations to align individual goals with organisational objectives. Employees gain purpose when they understand how their personal growth aligns with the organisation's success.

Retention & Talent Development: Meaningful development conversations lead to an increase in retention as employees are more likely to stay with an organisation that demonstrates a commitment to their growth. This ensures a solid pipeline of talent for the future.


Keys to Meaningful Career Development Conversations

Build Rapport & Trust: Open and honest communication is the foundation of any meaningful conversation. Create a safe space where employees feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, aspirations and concerns.

Demonstrate Genuine Sincerity: You cannot have a meaningful development conversation unless you are genuinely interested in the employee's development. Treat employees they way you would like to be treated - with genuine sincerity!

Focus on the Employee: Meaningful development conversations will differ from employee to employee. Recognise that one size does not fit all. Take the time to understand their unique strengths, weaknesses, interests and aspirations. What are they truly passionate about and why?

Set Concrete Outcomes: Meaningful development conversations should lead to concrete outcomes. Facilitate the defining of clear goals, both short-term and long-term, and help to identify the steps needed to achieve them. Their roadmap should outline the skills, experiences, and resources required to reach these goals.

Insist on Regular Check-Ins: Meaningful development conversations shouldn't be a one-time event. Regular feedback helps employees stay motivated and on track. Show how serious you take their development by insisting on regular check-ins to track progress, reassess goals and adapt plans as needed.



Meaningful development are not a nice to have. They are a must have. When you invest in these conversations, you will be laying the foundation for a brighter future for both your employees and your organisation as a whole.

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