Why career goals are important (and how to help your staff achieve them)

04 May 2016 -


Most modern workers enter the “Rat Race” with ambitions to scale the career ladder, but poor careers advice and inadequate line management are leading to many employees feeling unfulfilled. Insights looks at how to avoid falling into this trap

Jermaine Haughton

One third of UK employees are disappointed with their career progression to date, according to the latest Employee Outlook Survey: Focus on Skills and Careers report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

The survey of 2,000 UK employees found the most common workplace factor behind career disappointment is poor line management, cited by four in ten (39%) employees whose career has failed to meet expectations, followed by a lack of effective training programmes (34%) and negative office politics (34%).

Furthermore, over a quarter (26%) of those whose career has failed to live up to their expectations identified poor-quality career advice and guidance at school as a key factor to blame for stopping them from getting into the right jobs. Just under three in ten (29%) respondents admitted they are in the wrong career and feel unable to show their true strengths or potential.

Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the CIPD, said employers should be mindful of the negative impact a lack of career fulfilment can have on their workforce.

“Poor careers advice and guidance is holding back too many people at the start of their working lives and contributing to the increasing gap between the jobs that people end up in versus the skills that they have,” he said. “This skills mismatch undermines job satisfaction, employee engagement and ultimately productivity.

“For many, this problem is then compounded when they do enter the labour market by poor line management and a lack of effective training, meaning their skills are often left unidentified and under-developed. Good line managers coach and develop people and identify and help build on their strengths so they can reach their potential.”

The research demonstrates that there is still much to be done by bosses to improve the happiness of employees, as ultimately, it will prove costly.

If employees believe their advancement in their own career is not fulfilled, they will begin looking for work elsewhere, and when this feeling becomes widespread, employers can quickly find themselves battling a high staff turnover crisis.

An Oxford Economics report shows that replacing members of staff incurs costs totalling £30,614 per employee.

However, a disgruntled worker who remains at an organisation can also be expensive. Just one disengaged employee can cost their employer £16,000, as well as providing a negative influence on many others in their team and make working conditions tougher for everyone.

Management guru Victor Lipman points out that many managers don’t intend to ignore development planning for their workers, but end up doing so due to the other gruelling daily demands they face.

“We tend to focus most on the here and now,” he said. “So many businesses are in a constant frenetic state of upheaval, reorganisations and trying to do more with less. In this environment, managers naturally tend to be most focused on essential day-to-day operations and less interested in longer-term activities perceived as having less certain payback.”

Skilled managers, who can lead, train and develop talented teams, have never been more critical to the success of firms than they are today.

With millennial workers set to dominate the global workforce in the next decade, companies are prioritising career development more than other alternative rewards, benefits and bonuses, according to the Korn Ferry Hay Group Alternative Employee Rewards study.

The US-based study analysed data from 242 US medium- to large-size organisations and found that across all employee levels, career development programs are poised to see the biggest expansion in use during 2016.

More than half of respondents indicate they intend to expand the use of career development programs across all employee levels, supporting the creation of a stronger bench of employees with the hard and soft skills needed to grow their businesses.

Based its latest findings, the CIPD recommends that employers should concentrate on three main elements of its career development processes to revitalise worker’s hopes. They are:

1. Prioritise line management development – good quality line management is at the heart of effective progression in the workplace while poor line management holds people back

2. Review your approach to flexible working practices – employees that work flexibly or on a part-time basis should have the same opportunities to learn, develop and progress at work as full-time employees

3. Improve access to training – development opportunities in the workplace are crucial to progression and with the world of work constantly changing, it’s in your interest to invest in the skills of your workforce

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