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These three aspects of development conversations are sorely missing from today’s offices – and without them, we can’t hope to develop our talent. Welcome to the lost art of conversation…


We hear a lot about development conversations today. Organisations all around the world are putting pressure on their managers to be more involved in their team’s development, and spend more time discussing their opportunities for growth. The problem is that we’ve lost the art of conversation. Somewhere between email, Skype and workflow forms, we forgot how to relate with one another. These are the three most important aspects that are missing from development conversations today:


Development conversations aren’t simply about filling in a form with an employee blindly, without giving any thought to their answers or concerns. They need to involve an element of coaching, which means spotting an opportunity to help, and offering support and advice when you do. Managers need to be able to listen to employees, and then be proactive in terms of helping them. They need to think ahead to find the solutions that are available for the employee, and then offer ongoing support and advice while the action is being taken.


We’re fans of technology, yes. It’s made it easy for us to communicate – and to do work without having to communicate face to face at all. The downside is that we’ve lost our ability to, simply, chat with each other. We send out workflow forms that go from one person to the next, without them ever having to speak, for example. This is fine when filling in a leave form, but not when developing people. “Chatting is informal, it can happen anywhere and it is essential for maintaining rapport and social connections at the office,” says Martin Sutherland, Global Director of PeopleTree. “Technology should facilitate the chatting process, instead of removing it from the workplace.”


Somewhere along the way, we’ve become less able to truly connect with one another – especially in the office. The more we get used to communicating via screens, the less we will be able to foster a human connection. Instead of finding the words to express sympathy face-to-face, for example, we’ll send a crying emoji to a colleague across the office. But in a development conversation, managers need to really connect; and demonstrate an interest in someone that is authentic and genuine. They need to be given tools to help them bond with their team, so they are genuinely interested in their growth.

Great talent development needs to create opportunities for managers to chat with, connect to and coach their team members. Yes, this could simply mean regular, face-to-face interaction or team building – but it should certainly also mold your technology strategy. Technology should be used to facilitate, not hinder, this communication, by guiding conversations, and giving managers the right words to use when having them.