Employee Engagement

Retention must-have? Professional development opportunities

Lydia Watson

Filled with dread whenever someone asks “can we have a quick chat?”. Been to more leaving drinks than you can count? Then your organisation might have a retention problem.

And no, you shouldn’t write it off as a consequence of The Great Resignation or the COVID-19 backlog – because if you do, you might be overlooking a real issue your employees are facing. Or, more importantly, a real issue you can find a solution to. 

Why do people quit? No career development opportunities

93% of workers would stay with an organisation that developed their career. That’s a huge majority that are prioritising their next steps – and why wouldn’t they? As much as their company offers in terms of purpose, culture, or even pay, you’re one step on their career ladder. 

And it’s not just talk: in one study, one-third of resignations were linked to having no development opportunities. It’s clear this is a make-or-break point. 

Realistically, you can’t promote everyone. There just isn’t the budget, or enough vacant positions, to make that a reality. But professional development doesn’t just consist of a new title and a higher salary…

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4 career development opportunities examples (when promotions aren’t an option)

1. Employee recognition scheme 

Whether it’s formal or informal employee recognition, making some kind of effort to notice your team’s efforts is essential. One survey found that recognition was one of the main factors in deciding whether to stay in a role – showing that it’s as important as development itself. 

And in a lot of ways, providing recognition is part of professional development. It’s a way of reinforcing ‘good behaviour’, and letting your employees know they’re on the right track. 

Done publicly, it also sets an example for the rest of the team. It’s aspirational! That’s likely why 68% of staff say their company’s recognition scheme has a big impact on retention. 

2. Coaching at work

Don’t forget the ‘learning’ part of Learning & Development. By providing coaching and mentoring to your employees, they’ll acquire skills that will boost their career – in your organisation and beyond. In fact, 77% say that coaching has helped their professional development. 

How this looks is up to you. Formal coaching programmes or informal ‘lunch & learns’ both have merit and say loud-and-proud that you recognise that workers have their own career journeys to consider.

3. 360 performance review

Performance appraisals are – in and of themselves – a crucial part of professional development, whatever their outcome. You may not be able to offer progression, but regular reviews still hold value. Studies suggest that fair appraisal systems correlate positively with retention, boosting commitment and loyalty.  

Make sure you have a good performance review process – and one where you justify the outcomes. If progression isn’t on the table, explain why, explain when it may be, and exactly how employees can work towards that. 

It’s also worth considering a 360 review – where feedback from other employees and self-evaluation are considered alongside their manager’s annual performance review. The advantages of 360 degree feedback are that employees can be more involved and self-aware of their own performance.

4. Moving sideways, not upwards

Promotions might not be an option. But what about a sideways move? ‘Internal mobility’, or moves to different departments or new roles, have been linked to higher retention rates. 

Consider the individual skill sets and passions of your employees – someone from the customer service team could show an aptitude for sales, for example. Consider how to use the talent you have to its best effect, and give people a renewed sense of purpose.

2 ways to use employee feedback to review your career development strategy:

  • See if there’s a perceived lack of opportunities: is a lack of opportunities driving any turnover you’re seeing? There’s only one way to find out: by asking. Send a survey to your team, isolate the low-scoring feedback, and see if there’s any insights in the feedback they give. On our survey platform, we summarise common themes (like ‘career development’, for example) so you get a quick snapshot of why people may be disengaged.
  • Get more detail on what people actually want: what are employees in your organisation actually looking for? We made some suggestions above, but every company culture is different. You need to look at your own employee feedback to build a strategy that will work for you. From the themes our platform pulls out, you can dig into the comments and see if peopleare just desperate for a bit of kudos – rather than a sizable raise! 

    Try our Employee Feedback Platform for free

    Whether you’re creating a new people strategy or just have a question to answer, it always starts with listening. That’s why we built our Employee Feedback Platform. It means you can turn employee feedback into change-driving action.

    Ready-to-send surveys, written by experts. Instant analysis of your results. Powerful language analysis tech, to uncover the bigger picture. And the best part is you can try it for free.

    Get your free trial today – it’s quick and easy:

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