A career versus a job – why should HR managers care?

How to keep staff happy and motivated is not a new challenge within the world of HR. It will, however, continue to remain a firm focus for many companies as they continue to evolve the ways in which they can meet the needs of modern-day employees.

The traditional nine-to-five has been replaced by flexible hours at many forward-thinking businesses, and a number of those are now exploring hybrid approaches to operations.

And don’t forget, over recent years there has been increasing use of freelancers, contractors and agency individuals who have ‘become their own bosses’ and continue to contribute a huge amount to the UK economy.

Therefore, when evolving employment models – to accommodate what individuals want from their professions in today’s fast-paced world – it’s vital that companies move with agility, embrace change and listen to what motivates colleagues, if they are to support productivity and drive a thriving company culture.

In relation to meeting all those requirements, there has long been a debate about what it means to provide people with either – put simply – a ‘job’ to do, or a ‘career’ in which they live and breathe. When defining these two terms on paper, there is a vast difference.

That’s because the former is noted as being ‘a paid position of regular employment’ compared to the latter – described as ‘an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life, with opportunities for progress’.

And it’s those last four words that businesses and their HR teams must embrace if they are to provide a motivated workplace, in which staff are dedicated to the cause and want to do everything they can to help the organisation become an employer of choice.

Why it’s important to be honest when looking inwardly at what your company represents

For the enterprises that want to create a team of career-driven individuals, they must be able to answer this question: ‘How can we provide an environment where our people can grow and develop?’

Without a compelling answer to this question, organisations will be on the back foot in terms of what it now takes to remain relevant in a saturated marketplace. Not only that, they’ll soon miss out on retaining and attracting top talent who want to upskill – with a competitor likely to steal a march.

Of course, there will be employees who enjoy the flexibility of moving between organisations to build on their attributes as they complete short-term projects, but the business should still be providing ways for their workforces to grow.

Throughout the pandemic, many organisations have diversified and delved into what their brand identity represents – and what people ‘looking in’ think. If they’re merely seen as a ‘stop-gap’ for talent who will inevitably move on because they’re not offered development and career progression opportunities, it’s perhaps time to have a rethink about the overall company values.

Now is the time for senior leadership teams to work closely with their HR departments to build employee advocates who want to enjoy an exciting career. This is instead of them funding costly and time-consuming recruitment drives to battle against a high turnover rate – often underpinned by a poor company culture and a lack of authentic values.

So, when businesses are exploring how they can achieve long-term success internally, a good starting point is to evaluate the current workplace environment and be honest about whether or not they’re fostering a thriving, career-driven team ethos – and where improvements can be made.

Investing in people, listening to their needs, and providing them with the guidance, support, and tools to help them progress can truly help to positively impact an enterprise – and achieve that all-important employee ‘buy-in’ that breeds loyalty, motivation, and dedication.

It’s vital to have these meaningful conversations before it’s too late – all of which can be achieved with transparency and agility. Only then will organisations be in a stronger position to attract, retain, and develop top talent that – no matter whether they’re full-time, part-time or freelancing – can build a career for themselves in a motivated, productive and collaborative environment.


Abi Shephard, chief people partner for network planning services firm, Flomatik