Development is key to staff retention, according to research

Hywel Roberts , 01 Jul 2014


Research from BlessingWhite shows employees favour personal development over career progression. They are more likely to stay loyal to a company if given opportunities to develop.

Employers are struggling to retain control over developing their workforces, as employees attempt to free themselves from paternalistic organisations and seek career autonomy, a report from BlessingWhite, seen exclusively by HR magazine, has found. 

The team behind Navigating Ambiguity: Career Research Report 2014 surveyed 2,000 employees and business leaders from all age groups. They were asked about their career intentions, the level of input they want from their employers and the way employers are trying to adapt to changing attitudes. 

Mary Ann Masarech, a lead consultant in employee engagement at BlessingWhite, told HR magazine the research shows people are increasingly looking for personal development at work, not just traditional career advancement.

“Life experience, not just work experience, seems to be the currency that employers can trade in now,” she said.

According to the report, many HR departments only see career development as a way to get the most value from their talent while ensuring they stay loyal. 

Sarah Salter, group HR director at Northumbrian Water, told HR magazine it’s an area her company is thinking about. She says accepting that “career paths don’t exist like they used to” and training managers to speak openly to employees about a range of alternative approaches to development is key.

“We have developed an approach called ‘Our Way, Your Direction’ to help people think realistically about their careers,” she said. “We are taking a different approach to our development opportunities, with secondments and project assignments widely available. In 12 months over 100 people had a new personal development opportunity.”

Figures suggest employers are right to be concerned about this area. Almost half (46%) of employees said their next job move is likely to be to another company. With this worrying trend, employers should be looking to align their employee development options with the options their staff find most useful. However, the research suggests this isn’t always the case.

According to the report, employees’ favoured career development option is secondment and temporary assignment work. More than one-third (35%) said they would find this useful, up 7 percentage points from 2007. However, the number of companies offering this as an option has decreased in the same period, from 61% to 58%.

Employers are focusing on online social networking and communities as a way to help their staff develop. Almost six in ten (59%) organisations now offer this as a way to aid their workers’ career options, an increase of 16 percentage points since 2007. However, this isn’t an area that employees particularly value, as only 20% see it as useful.

Claire McCartney, resourcing and talent planning adviser at the CIPD, told HR magazine a need to cut costs may be behind the move to online learning and development tools. 

“We’ve seen from our research that training spends are down,” she said. “It’s really important that employers identify the development needs of their employees. This will also help employers avoid being constantly hit by high recruitment costs as staff seek development elsewhere.”

One area where employers can take comfort is the length of tenure for workers. While many believe employees are moving on after increasingly short periods of time, this isn’t borne out by the figures; in fact the opposite is true.

From 2000 to 2012, the average tenure for a UK worker increased from 8.2 years to 9.4 years. This ties in with the fact that 88% of workers now say there is nothing wrong with staying in the same job for long periods if there are opportunities to develop within the role. This is an increase from 80% in 2007.

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Changing times

Peter Dean 01 Jul 2014

It goes to show how times have changed. Not too long ago folk were happy with a new job title, but now they are thinking further down the line. It is a positive thing though, if staff are keen to learn new roles/skills, then surely their individual input to the business will rise proportionally and with it the productivity of the business as a whole. Great article and rather an eye opener I will admit.

Keeping the learning alive....

Jan Shankar 02 Jul 2014

Agree wholeheartedly with the points in this article - in addition it is vital for organisations to make the most of their spending on learning and development by using various practical ways to keep the learning alive afterwards. True development is about the ongoing discussions and 1-1 coaching - this is what enables individuals to put what they have learned at any training events into practice.

Challenging work is a big motivator

Theresa Marks 03 Jul 2014

Have been interviewing today and one of the questions I am asking is what will keep you motivated and will bring out the best in you? - answers are 'being developed' 'keep learning' 'doing new work'. Keeping an employee motivated and learning is ever more so a necessary skill in a manager's tool kit. Managers should always be thinking what is the next task I can give my employee.

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