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Ep 17: Career Meetings: The Best Way To Keep Your Top Talent For The Long Haul

What do high level employees need in order to stick around? (it’s more than laser tag)
What time of year is the best time to have a career development meeting?
Who are the select team members you should be having these meetings with?
What are the questions you need to ask your employee to prep ahead of time?
What you as the employer should be doing in the weeks leading up to the meeting and the weeks following?
What are the key decisions that need to be made after you’ve had the meeting?

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Read a Summary of Episode 17

How do you keep hold of the high performers in your business? You know the ones we are talking about: the talented, hard working people you really, really don’t want to lose.

According to the latest report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average time at a job is 4.1 years. So how do you get star employees to stay for the long haul? Go karting trips? A raise? No and no. These options just won’t cut it.

The fact is, to keep hold of high performers, they need to ascend – they need to experience personal and professional growth. It’s the hallmark of the phenomenal employees you so badly need to keep.

The thing is, if your business is growing at a steep rate you as a leader can easily become overwhelmed with the increasing number of tasks if you don’t offload them to the smart people in your organization.

In short, you need to ascend your good people to higher level roles so you can stop wearing so many hats . . . and you need to keep hold of these people.

So what’s the solution? From our experience, one tried and tested solution is the career development meeting. (Note: You’ll usually be ready for this stage if you’re doing at least a couple million a year and ready and able to form a true organizational structure.)

Unlike a performance review that is conducted with everyone in the company, a career development meeting is 1-on-1 with a key employee that allows you to focus and understand everything on his/her mind in relation to where he/she is currently at and that person’s role in developing your company.

Note we say key employee. That’s because these meetings should only happen with the people you think should ascend to higher levels.

When should you have a career development meeting?

So when should these meetings be held? I like to do them around year-end because, firstly, that’s when I do my annual strategic planning (I dedicate the entire month to that and career development meetings to prevent other things cropping up); and secondly, we have been programmed to view year-end as a time for change.

Planning for these meetings in advance is essential. You can’t show up half-cocked. If you’re going to conduct them, you need to block schedule them right away because they take time.

"If your business is growing at a steep rate you as a leader can easily become overwhelmed with the increasing number of tasks if you don't offload them to the smart people in your organization.In short, you need to ascend your good people to higher level roles so you can stop wearing so many hats . . . and you need to keep hold of these people."

Here are my 5 Steps to conducting a career development meeting:


Step 1: Employee prep

It’s time to plant the seed. I like to start with a meaningful conversation with the employee in order to provide context: what it is; why it’s important for that person; and why it’s important for the organization.

Two to three weeks before the meeting I will give the employee a framework in the form of in-depth questions to guide that person’s thought process. This gives the employee time to get prepared. The document dives deep into understanding their aspirations (example here:

It’s essential to give the employee time to sit down and think about future goals. Be sure to get the answers back 48 hours in advance of the meeting.


Step 2: Leader prep

Now it’s time to review the responses. No, looking at them on your phone while walking to the coffee shop won’t cut it. You need to set aside time the day before, grab a pen and make notes. This will give you clarity on where your employee could potentially go in your business. You’ll also want to think about the needs of the organization within the next few years.


Step 3: The Meeting

OK, so a number of points need to be considered here. First off, where should you hold the meeting? Well, definitely not on the tailgate of your truck, and not in the office, either. Pick a super casual setting, like a quiet coffee shop (no-one wants eavesdroppers); there is huge value in getting away from the workplace.

Also, timing matters. The meeting shouldn’t be held during peak work hours, but perhaps on a Friday afternoon when things wind down a little.

I break down the actual meeting like this:

  • The start of the meeting should be about building rapport, as you want the employee in a relaxed headspace. I usually spend 15-20 minutes just chatting on a human level.
  • Now you can start focusing on the career development side. I will introduce a few points made in the prep to show I am listening, and that I care about the employee’s time invested.
  • A good hour after that is spent going through their prep with the employee. The fact is you only get a certain % of his/her thoughts from the paper: the juicy stuff comes from the conversation you have about it.

A key point to remember is that at no point will you be making any promises. You may be talking about company initiatives and roles coming up, in order to demonstrate that the business is going somewhere. However, the primary focus is to understand deeply where your employee wants to go in the next few years.

At the end of the meeting, schedule a follow up meeting, a few weeks out, to allow both of you to think about what has been discussed,


Step 4: Time For Reflection

Block schedule time to reflect on the meeting, on the document, and your notes. From here you can strategize moves you will (or will not) be making. If the meeting didn’t go in the direction you wanted, don’t feel compelled to make a move. Remember: you didn’t make any promises.


Step 5: Follow Up Meeting

In this pre-scheduled follow up meeting it’s time to share your thoughts. When you start the meeting check to make sure the employee still feels the same and that nothing new has come up. If his/her perspective is the same, now it’s time to propose your decisions!


Step 6: Time To Act

So assuming you are both in agreement, nothing will change immediately; but as of this point forward, the ball is officially in motion and you will need to act. You need to be true to your word. The employee needs to see that things are happening.


So, what do you gain by doing all of this?

Experience has taught me, lots. You’ve led this individual down a road to reflect on where he/she wants to go and taken the time to make that person feel valued. You’ve learned where the employee wants to go with your business (essential as a strategic leader) and taken time to reflect on where you strategically want to go, too.

Yes, it’s a bit of a task, but very few leaders walk their employees down this path, which essentially puts you one step ahead of your competitors and ultimately helps you keep hold of those high performers for the long run.

If you’d like to conduct career development meetings in your business, download our Career Development Meeting Template HERE

Igor Trninic

Igor Trninic

Igor moved to Canada at a young age, where he learned the value of hard work as he watched his family rebuild a thriving life in a new world with extreme change. Most of Igor’s early learning came from competitive sports, where he learned how to hustle and lead. This learning transferred well to business, when he started running a College Pro Painters franchise at 18 and quickly grew it to one of the top franchises in Canada. After finishing an honours degree in Accounting and HR at the SFU Beedie School of Business, he decided to leave the dull world of numbers and followed his passion of developing people and businesses. He fell in love with leading great people and growing companies to their potential.

Working at College Pro as a General Manager for the franchisor, he tripled the revenue of his division in three years by hiring and leading great managers. Here, Igor saw the power of combining amazing people with strong systems to drive scalability. After College Pro, he chose to test these principles on a new venture with the launch of Shack Shine, and together with the guidance of a highly experienced trades entrepreneur, they grew the company to a full scale franchisor within a year and a half. Shack Shine was eventually acquired by 1-800-GOT-JUNK to be scaled across North America and Igor launched the Breakthrough Academy to guide trades and home service entrepreneurs grow their businesses through proven principles. Igor has a passion and true care for developing people and their businesses, which has formed the foundation of Breakthrough Academy. His work in developing BTA has recently been highlighted in Igor’s Top 30 Under 30 selection by BC Business Magazine.

Igor resides in Vancouver, British Columbia and loves to take on all the adventure that BC can offer. From hunting to skiing to downhill mountain biking, any outdoor adventure is up his alley.

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