Job satisfaction has decreased substantially and now sits its lowest level for over two years, according to the CIPD Employee Outlook report, 2016. Almost a quarter (24%) of 2,029 UK employees surveyed in February and March 20161 were looking for a new job (compared with 20% in autumn 2015). The report found that voluntary sector employees are most likely to be looking for a new job (29%), followed by employees in the public sector (27%), with employees in the private sector (23%) least likely to be looking for a new job.
Staff churn is a costly exercise and disruptive to business and customer service. Employee desire to change jobs can be due to a number of complex factors but there is no doubt that learning opportunities ranging from vocational skills through to soft skills such as language and communications competencies can help to create and maintain employee loyalty and drive richer career development opportunities throughout the organisation.
Employees take ownership
There is no doubt that employee development can improve employee engagement but many organisations only address learning and development needs once a year as part of an annual appraisal process. It is far more effective to make the process of assessing training needs and undergoing development ongoing. However, many HR professionals would argue that neither they nor line managers have the capacity to be constantly checking in with their employees about their development. To address this challenge, it is key to put in place both the culture and a process for employees to identify their own skills gaps and to take ownership of developing themselves.
Organisations that take steps to empower their employees to drive their own development opportunities will heighten motivation, improve productivity and the quality of output, and reduce staff churn. In contrast, lack of loyalty may be a sign that organisations are neglecting to offer employees the opportunity to develop and aspire to promotion. This is particularly true of Millennials – during the next year, if given the choice, one in four Millennials would quit his or her current employer to join a new organisation or to do something different, according to a 2016 Deloitte report: “That figure increases to 44% when the time frame is expanded to two years. By the end of 2020, two of every three respondents hope to have moved on.”
Deloitte found that Millennials feel underutilised and believe they’re not being developed as leaders: “Millennials fully appreciate that leadership skills are important to business and recognise that, in this respect, their development may be far from complete. But, based on the current results, Millennials believe businesses are not doing enough to bridge the gap to ensure a new generation of business leaders is created.”
Here are five top tips for HR professionals looking to strike a balance between identifying and providing development opportunities that are good for the business while considering what employees want:
- Source feedback from employees regularly when starting an initiative to foster a culture of self-development. Employee surveys are a good place to begin. Align requests for bottom up feedback with the goals of the organisation. Confer with employees to develop a mutually acceptable plan for development opportunities and communicate this plan internally to create visibility. Encourage management to have an open-door policy to encourage feedback and conduct performance reviews regularly.
- Focus on both hard and soft skills. Employees may be tempted to focus on certifications they need to do their job or training courses that might look good on their CV. Softer skills such as leadership and language and communications skills are equally if not more important and should be built into the training programme agreed with each employee.
- Invite employees to participate in leadership programmes. Allow them to make their interest known, by ´applying´ for the internal role. Communicate your expectations and define potential gaps by testing clearly defined key skills required for leadership.
- Communicate frequently the expectation that employees should be looking for opportunities to develop themselves. Provide employees with frequent training and development options that need not necessarily be classroom-based courses. These could be coaching and mentoring opportunities, e-learning modules or even simply sharing useful Internet content to keep the development conversation flowing.
- Measure success. Ensure you set SMART goals at the beginning so that you can measure how successful the initiative is after a specified time so that you can set up a virtuous circle of positive feedback that will continue to drive a culture of self-development.
Employees are a company´s biggest asset. Maintaining and developing their knowledge and skills is essential. But the workforce has evolved and employees increasingly want to feel involved in their own development to bring meaning and engagement to the many hours spent at work.
The CIPD points out: “The world of work is changing rapidly and it seems our approaches to job design and career management have not kept pace with that change. Increasingly organisations are flatter in structure and many have adopted matrix ways of working. Consequently, we need to redefine our approaches to careers in the light of this new context. We need to work in partnership with employees on their jobs and careers and aligning organisational and individual needs.”
Effective HR professionals who are successful in working in partnership with employees to provide engaging development opportunities that align with the organization’s strategy will play a major role in creating the kind of resilient flexible workforce that is necessary for success in a challenging global marketplace.