The Importance of Career Progression in Retaining Talent

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The Great Re-evaluation continues in the candidate job market. The Adecco Group Global Workforce of the Future 2022 Report reveals that workers are largely missing out on training opportunities, career conversations, and internal opportunities. How does this relate to the talent scarcity companies currently face? We talked to Jessica Conser, SVP of global coaching at LHH about the role career progression should play in retaining talent. Here's what we learned.
September 30, 2022
Future of Work
People across the globe continue to re-evaluate their working lives as the world of work shifts. And there’s more change still to come in the world of work. To keep up, companies need to upskill and reskill their workers; helping everyone acquire new skills and stay relevant helps them prepare for the jobs of the future. But some workers are missing out on key training and upskilling opportunities as well as career conversations.

In our Global Workforce of the Future 2022 Report, we dive into some of the workforce trends defining the world of work in the future. In previous editions of this survey, we examined how the global pandemic has bent working practices for desk workers. This time, and in the aftermath of the pandemic, we are focused on understanding how working practices, behaviours and attitudes are evolving, as well as uncovering new perspectives and insights about the future of work.

What drives employee commitment?

The global talent shortage is making it difficult for companies to attract and retain employees. About one in four workers in the world (27%) intend to leave their current position within the next 12 months. Of this 27%, career progression is the third most important reason to move (after finding a better salary and better work/life balance). A third of those intending to quit are leaving to find better career progression and upskilling opportunities.
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In this paper, we further examined the factors driving work satisfaction, so we could pinpoint the areas where workers are less satisfied. In order to have a significant impact on talent retention, companies must address those aspects. We refer to these as the talent retention levers and the approach overall as ‘the Wage Inflation Antidote’:

  • Salary
  • Flexibility
  • Career Progression
  • Mental Health

What makes workers want to stay? And what drives work satisfaction?

While salary is the top reason to find a new job, when workers are engaged and choosing to stay with their employer, salary plays a secondary role dropping to the 6th most important reason to stay.
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“When we look at factors beyond salary, employees reported that having good relationships and enjoy working with their colleagues as key factors in their satisfaction, as well as job security, and trust with their leader,” says Jessica Conser, SVP of global coaching at LHH. “Combined these elements play an important role when choosing to stay with a firm.”

“Our research found that 61% of employees would like to stay in their current company, but 44% will do so under the condition that they are developed and/or upskilled. If these conditions are not met, talent that is engaged now will be at risk in 12 months,” Conser says.

“I think we often underestimate the power of human-to-human connections. Now more than ever as we emerge from the global pandemic, we need to reconnect with others, and with so many opportunities on the horizon – employees want to know that their work has a purposeful impact that is connected to the broader vision and strategy of the organisation.”

How career development can help with employee retention

The role of upskilling/reskilling.

There is a shortage of qualified candidates and difficulties retaining and attracting talent, but what can companies do to improve their talent strategy?

“There are three elements here for me,” says Conser. “The individual employee, their leader, and the organisation / system in which they work. At the highest level, the organisation should have formal policies and procedures in place that support career development, mobility, mentoring, and succession planning.”

The majority of workers, whether they are non-desk or desk workers, don't believe that their company regularly assesses or invests in their skills (49% and 50% respectively). It is even less for non-managers (38% and 36%). If companies do not invest more in training their non-management staff, they will lose their talent pipeline.

At the same time, the report found that salary has increased much more for managers than for non-managers while they also have more opportunities for career advancement and training. Among non-managers, only 4 in 10 feel their salary is fair.

“Organisations typically reward and compensate people for their immediate / short-term performance which is usually driven by closely managing the daily business,” Conser said.

Yet, it is worth noting that managers perceive themselves as less skilled than non-managers, according to the study. What could be a reason for that?

According to Conser, there is a tremendous capacity constraint on managers at the mid and front-line levels who need to balance the daily fires and operations of the business while maintaining a path of engagement towards a strategy and vision that is set at the top.

“In many cases, they simply don’t have time to take their foot off the gas and step away for training that may or may not benefit their current or next role, and therefore they fall behind in their hard and soft skills development,” Conser says. “This again is tied to the importance of the organisational system.”

Another aspect that emerged in the Global Workforce of the Future 2022 Report is that it’s more likely for the younger generations to report skills gaps. Considering that, how can companies foster career advancement and promote upskilling initiatives without leaving anyone behind?

According to Jessica Conser, it takes a diversified, multi-generational approach to upskill a multi-generational workforce. Companies should not be trying to put everyone through the same development experience and process. Unlocking the knowledge and talent that sits within each and every individual through varied and contextualised forms of development can create a rich culture built upon transparency, inclusion, and authenticity.

“Companies looking for ways to tap into the collective knowledge with little to no financial investment can start mentoring and reverse mentoring programs, create affinity groups, allow for self-organised master classes for employees / leaders to up/re-skill their peers and teams in a topic they are advanced in or passionate about,” says Conser.

Providing insufficient training and upskilling opportunities exposes companies to talent loss. 1 in 4 workers who intend to remain at their current jobs plans to do so on the condition that they gain new skills and advancement within the organisation. The rate is even higher among desk workers. It is estimated that more than half of employees receive technical skills training, however, desk workers are more likely to be offered more opportunities. Increasing worker engagement is possible by educating the workforce about the benefits qualifications and training can have on their careers.

The role of Career Conversations.

In order to identify skills gaps and offer workers the right training, conversations are essential. However nearly a quarter of the workforce have never had a career progression conversation with their line manager. Companies experiencing talent shortages may lose out on opportunities due to a lack of career discussions, for example, workers who don’t have career conversations are significantly less likely to look for their next job internally.

Without career conversations, workers will not be informed of, or encouraged to apply for, internal mobility opportunities. Half of workers who have frequent (at least one a quarter) career conversations are encouraged to apply for internal jobs, compared to just 3% of those who never have career conversations.

Despite workers' longing for career advancement conversations, there aren't enough. Among managers, there is a strong desire for career advancement, development, and coaching. Managers are more likely to have these conversations than non-managers: 9 out of 10 managers have these conversations, compared to 7 out of 10 non-managers. Furthermore, the most common frequency of conversations for managers is once per quarter, compared to once per year for non-managers.

“It goes back to the first point around creating more opportunities for human-to-human connections,” said Conser. “Bring people together and let their experiences lead the dialogue for ongoing development.”

“Career conversations shouldn’t be limited to an annual discussion tied to past performance. Without career progression conversations, employees have fewer internal opportunities. Good leadership requires ongoing feedback and feed forward perspectives to help talent continuously grow and seek new, challenging opportunities that support the growth of the organisation as well,” says Jennifer Conser.

“Organizations should provide leaders with training and support on how to have meaningful career conversations and how to build trust and safety with their teams,” Conser says. “Then the individual employees would have the courage, awareness, and support to raise their hands for new assignments and roles that may require up/reskilling, but it would help fill the open roles within the firm, while retaining and engaging internal talent.”

Key Takeaways

Adecco Group is a global leader in talent advisory and solutions. We believe in making the future work for everyone, and every day enable more than 3.5 million careers in 60 countries. It is our culture of inclusivity, entrepreneurship, and teamwork that empowers our 30,000 employees.

To register for our The Adecco Group Global Workforce of the Future 2022 webinar, click here.