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Progression — what’s the employee side of the story?

The last few years have shown that the UK’s flexible labour market can create jobs. And most people in work are satisfied with their jobs. But many organisations are failing their employees by not providing enough jobs that make full use of their skills. And too many employees feel they won’t be able to develop those skills and get a better job if they stay with their current employer. Data from the CIPD’s quarterly Employee Outlook survey show how widespread these perceptions are.

One question we regularly ask is whether “my job is as challenging as I would like it to be” – in spring 2015, just 59% of employees agreed with this.

Unsurprisingly, those who thought themselves over-qualified for their current role were less likely to think their current job stretched them.

“…how achievable do you believe career progression is within your organisation?”

In spring 2014, we asked “how achievable do you believe career progression is within your organisation?” A third (31%) said it was achievable but another third (33%) said it was unachievable.

In autumn 2014, we asked employees “how likely or unlikely do you feel it is that you will be able to fulfil your career aspirations in your current organisation?” 39% said it was unlikely. That may not be a surprise: people can outgrow their jobs and need to move employer. But we followed up with “To what extent do you feel that you receive the right coaching and training within your organisation to achieve your career goals?” Just 6% of employees answered “a great deal” while 27% said “hardly” and 23% “not at all”

A lack of training and development programmes was often mentioned by employees whose career had failed to meet expectations. Other setbacks they talked about were poor quality line management (either on starting a job or at key points during their career) and poor performance management.

A lack of training and development programmes was often mentioned by employees whose career had failed to meet expectations

The summer 2014 data showed clear correlations between the quality of performance management and whether employees felt the organisation provided opportunities to learn and grow.

As other surveys have found, those in management positions were more likely to receive training that went beyond the current job and were more likely to see progression as achievable.

There was little difference between the responses of public sector and private sector employees. In general, those working in micro businesses (with 2–9 employees) were less likely to say they received training or saw progression opportunities than employees in large firms – but the differences tended not to be great and there were compensations, such as better relationships with management.

A high rate of staff turnover is usually regarded as a poor reflection on a workplace but there are other ways of looking at it.

Turnover can be good for employees – if they can get a better-paid or more satisfying job somewhere else – and even for employers, when it brings in people with new skills and different ways of thinking. In fact, the historically low rates of turnover seen in recent years could be another potential explanation for the UK’s productivity standstill.

So the move in many industries away from routinely promoting from within doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but companies do still need to develop at least some of their talent themselves.

Personal and career development isn’t entirely the responsibility of the employer, but when anything between a half and two thirds of employees appear to be either neutral about – or dissatisfied with — the challenge, support and opportunities open to them at work, it suggests that many businesses need to rethink their approaches. A commitment to support employees in improving their employability must form part of the psychological contract firms have with the people who work for them.


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  1. 3na3ns -

    This is true — “Turnover can be good for employees – if they can get a better-paid or more satisfying job somewhere else – and even for employers, when it brings in people with new skills and different ways of thinking.”

    Hope you can post something about social recruiting like Jobhop http://www.jobhop.co.uk/