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Employee Coaching - Giving effective feedback and helping employees develop career goals

Russ Hissom's picture
Owner Utility Accounting Education Specialists -

Russ is the owner of Utility Accounting Education Specialists a firm that provides power utilities consulting services and online/on-demand courses on accounting, finance, FERC best-practices,...

  • Member since 2021
  • 106 items added with 30,966 views
  • Nov 22, 2021

Tips for helping employees develop their careers when your background is in a technical area (like accounting, engineering, and consulting)


 Key Takeaways

 1. Part of a manager's duties includes helping employees develop their career goals.

2. It is up to the employee to work with the organization to achieve those goals.

3. Avenues for managers to develop employee development skills include the manager's approach to goal setting, training sponsored by the employer, and online courses and other self-study. There are many tools to draw on that can be used at any management level.

4. Balancing business and employee goals can be accomplished by management and employees working together. 


Does my job description include helping employees develop their career goals?


This article is written from someone with an accounting and finance background in a professional services firm, not a human resources background.

 No matter your background, if you are in charge of employees, your job description includes helping employees develop their career goals. Developing those goals includes:

  • Meeting the needs of the business and assisting employees in having a well-rounded career experience.

  • Developing their skills.

  • Helping them understand how their life's work fits with their personal career goals.

The days of an employee being a lifer with a company have passed for the most part. It is a stewardship responsibility of a manager of people to help employees through their career journey, which at the point in time has stopped at your company.

 But recognize that while you can help employees develop their career goals, it is up to the individual employee to work with the organization to achieve those goals. The organization provides some tools and the roads; the employee decides on the journey they take. The succeeders in the career process are those employees who make use of the tools on their path. 

That is a shift in thinking for some managers. Many managers would love nothing more than hiring individuals who grow and develop and become superstars in the organization, eventually taking over for the manager as they move up the ladder to upper management, partnership, or CEO. Then the pyramid scheme continues with their replacement, rinse and repeat. You have a team of "company people." If business were so easy. In reality, for every 10 hires in a professional services firm, you can expect 4 to remain with the company after 5 years. The average cost to replace an employee is 33% of their annual salary.


I wasn't trained for this; it wasn't on the exam

For most professionals in technical fields, you will have graduated from college with intense training in your chosen profession. The business management side of your training may be a bit light. The typical 5-year accounting or finance curriculum contains one employee management type course.

Where do you pick up these skills? You can draw on areas from personal experience, and you will require employee management training to be effective. Here are some thoughts:

 1. Your approach to personal goal setting

 One key area that you can first draw on is your approach to your career. For you to succeed, having a robust goal-setting method in place is key to measuring your progress towards career and personal goals, adjusting along the way, working on areas of weakness, and emphasizing areas of strengths. Ideally, a methodology for goal setting is framed around these steps:

An organized plan to setting and meeting goals can take the following approach:

  1. Write down goals in key areas. Three goals in each of these focus points will give you a year filled with hard work and reward:

    1. Spiritual goals

    2. Family goals

    3. Health goals

    4. Contributions (serving others with time and talents)

    5. Financial goals

    6. Career success

  2. Define the action steps you'll need to attain those goals

  3. Commit yourself to action

  4. Review your highest priority goals every day

  5. Review and re-prioritize goals every week – have weekly, quarterly and semi-annual targets

  6. Assess your success each week, refocus or zero in on an area if needed

  7. Modify goals if needed as your year progresses

  8. Do this same process more generally for longer-term goals – 3, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25-year goals.

The list is written towards individual goal setting but can be equally effective in setting business goals. For example, all businesses have spiritual and family aspects. Those areas are labeled "company philosophy" and "team contributions."


2. Training in workforce management and employee development sponsored by the employer

 If your organization does not offer internal (or external) training for managers in employee development, strongly consider doing so. Some managers are natural at nurturing and developing employees and may be regarded as the stars of the organization. But other managers must learn employee development just like any other skill. They need the resources, forms, structure, and feedback to be effective in their employee development role. Having the organization do the hiring process for this training can lead to a more thorough vetting process and match of the training to your organization. 

 If you are a small utility or co-op, there are many resources available for workforce training. Look to your state or national industry associations for preferred providers in training specific to your industry. A ½ day workshop once a year will reinforce the training and deliver the evolving thought and approaches in developing employees. Just because you're a small utility or co-op doesn't mean you should not do this.


3. Self-study

 If you can't get the resources you need from your organization, turn to self-study. Searching for "employee development," "employee review resources," "doing employee evaluations," "workforce planning," and other similar phrases will yield a universe of online courses and articles that can be used. You'll find pertinent resources like:

 1. The Energy Industry Competency Model from the Center for Energy Workforce Development

2. 9 Box Grid

3. Individual Talent Profile

4. DiSC profile

 These resources are all useful in the evaluation and workforce management process. They are by no means the totality of thought on employee performance but are easy to understand and implement.


Balancing business and employee needs

 Depending on your area of the country, there may be many other job opportunities for your current employees. While meeting your organization's business needs is critical, recognize that having a career path within your business for their future career will entice employees you wish to keep viewing your organization as integral to their career and personal development. You'll also have those employees filling organizational roles now that may move on and be replaced. Your goal for those employees should be to help them develop their skills during their time with you and have a satisfying work experience.


Things I learned over my 35 years at a professional services firm on helping employees develop their careers and skills:

 1. Recognize that goal-setting covers three main areas – personal, family and business. Successful goal development comes at the intersection of those three areas.

 2. Goals cannot be decided by either the employee or management in a vacuum. Working together is key to success.

 3. Be open to remote employment. In person at the office working with a team is always best. In the office, informal discussions and casual information sharing make for team building and morale-boosting. Even before the recent move to remote mass employment, our firm used remote employment when we wanted to keep talent and meet the employee needs. I think remote employment makes it harder on employee retention, but a systematic process with online meetings, team events, Slack, other IM tools, and phone discussions helps. As we now wrestle with remote working vs. in-office working, we may see a shift in overall attitudes and approaches to make remote options work for the benefit of the business and the employee’s career path.

 4. Listen. Maybe you can't make for the ideal career situation, but listening, empathizing, and working within the available parameters is part of your stewardship commitment to being part of management.

 5. Transfer employees within your organization. It hurts, but you're helping the greater good if an employee needs a change in teams or their career skills and goals lie outside your team. Recognize when you must let go to meet employee needs and still keep them within the organization. 


Developing goals is a skill that lasts a lifetime


We will continue to see changes in the work environment, employment opportunities, and career development. The greater implementation of artificial intelligence tools in some professions may cause employees to reconfigure their career goals. Automating routine business processes is a method for controlling costs and freeing workers to pursue other tasks. AI will lead to re-organizing portions of your organization's workforce and training staff for new roles. 


The shift to renewables will impact the operations more than the finance and customer service side in the electric business. Still, there will be opportunities in all areas for employee development. 


Helping employees develop their goals is a skill that needs to be worked on as much as any technical skill. It should be started early in your career.


About Russ Hissom

Russ is the owner of Utility Accounting Education Specialists. He has over 35 years serving electric investor-owned and public power utilities, electric cooperatives, and telecom providers as a past partner in a national public accounting and consulting firm's energy practice. Russ is passionate about the Electric and Telecom Industries and his goal is to share industry best-practices to help better your business and enhance your career knowledge.

Find out more about about Utility Accounting Education Specialists here or you can reach Russ at




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