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Prepare yourself and make your employee development interview more valuable

Many people discuss their own professional development with their manager these days – here is a guide to getting more out of the conversation. Preparation is absolutely key.

21. Sep 2022
5 min
Af Birgitte Aabo
baa@finansforbundet.dk
English / Dansk

It’s that time again. For some it’s a rewarding pleasure, for others it’s a superfluous and rigid meeting. Annual employee development interviews are part of the programme in many Danish companies, and it’s been that way for decades.

The interview requires a good portion of certainly the managers’ time and energy and has been regularly come under fire, including questioning whether it is purely a waste of time.

Troels Bjerg-Nielsen, a consultant with Finansforbundet with expertise in skills development, firmly rejects this notion.

“It it’s unreflective, lacks a common thread and becomes a pleasant chat, then it’s a waste of time. But if employee development interviews are taken seriously by both the manager and the employee, there are very good opportunities to benefit from it.”

You and the strategy

If you want to get the most out of your employee development interview, it is absolutely essential that you set aside time for preparation, Troels Bjerg-Nielsen emphasises. This applies whether your employee development interview is annually recurring event or split up into an ongoing dialogue instead.

“Your options largely depend on your relationships and your situation. How important are your skills to the company?”

“Should you be careful what you say to your boss or should you put all your cards on the table?”
- Troels Bjerg-Nielsen, consultant with Finansforbundet

Do you have skills that are difficult to acquire or are there a lot of other people who can do the same thing? This obviously affects your options, as does your relationship with the boss and your knowledge of him or her – should you be careful what you say to your boss or should you put all your cards on the table?

Also consider which tasks you enjoy and whether you might need to be challenged more. Maybe this naturally leads to a request for supplementary training?

You can also benefit from considering your own development in the company’s strategy and mission. It significantly increases your chances of getting through requests for different work tasks, for example.

“Instead of just saying what you want, you have to say how you want to increase your and company’s market value”, says Troels Bjerg-Nielsen.

However, he advises you to read the culture at your workplace in terms of saying that you want to increase your own market value.

“It’s not equally acceptable everywhere to talk about that and the desire to be mobile in the labour market.”

Going into depth and big talk

Søren Frimann, senior lecturer in communication at Aalborg University, has researched employee development interviews for several decades and is a supporter. As he once said to Magasinet Finans:

“Employee development interviews can do something but not if they involve slavishly pounding through a questionnaire. These are expensive conversations for the companies, so you want to get something good out of it when discussing professional matters, job satisfaction and skills”.

He has followed many employee development interviews and notes:

“It creates a special space when two people meet well prepared for a conversation. It can be of great value to go into depth this way.”

A conversation that can have consequences on both sides of the table:

“It’s not a chat, it’s big talk. In some places it’s thought that you can set aside the power relationship with an employee development interview and talk completely freely. This is not possible, and so it’s important that both the employee and manager are aware of the consequences the conversation can have.”

Prepare yourself – what will the manager come up with in terms of evaluating your efforts and the current situation, and what will you emphasise yourself.

Think about your input to the company’s strategy.

Make your effort visible.

Lay the groundwork for a salary interview (but never make an employee development interview a salary interview).

Talk about your relationships/networks, this is something the manager is looking for.

If you are under pressure, try not to complain – make an appeal for accountability, how can the manager help you prioritize.

State what you would like going forward and how it adds value strategically.

Follow-up on an employee development interview – if it doesn’t happen by itself, ask for it.