Employee progression in your business

Is it important?

Your employees expect to move onwards and upwards, increasing their skill-set, their responsibility and their salary. And yet, it seems that many UK companies are ill-prepared to meet these expectations. Only 10% of UK employees feel that their workplace gives them opportunities for long-term development (YouGov 2012). How does your organisation compare?

What counts as job progression?

Different types and levels of staff may have different goals, so the idea of progress can be fairly subjective. However, there are common themes such as:

  1. Pay increase
  2. Taking on more responsibility
  3. Movement sideways through the organisation to meet interests

The concept of career progression also depends on the ‘shape’ and culture of your company. The mental image of a career ladder, with rungs to be climbed, is still relevant in many cases. However, companies are now more likely than ever to focus on broadening skill-sets so that their workforce is more adaptable to changing markets.

In tandem with this shift, individuals now assume much more responsibility for their own career progression. For companies, this means an increased expectation to provide varied and interesting development opportunities.

Planning for career development

It is beneficial to have clear lines of career progression within your company, which are transparent and actively supported. This sends a clear message to employees that their career is valued, and will be proactively supported over time.

This approach should be company-wide, and start with jobs that are designed to fit overall strategic objectives. It also requires buy-in from managers at all levels, who will play an important role in developing their teams.

Progression might also occur naturally as a staff member leaves and another is ‘brought up’ to replace them.

Moving up while standing still

Even if pay increases and promotions are hard to come by in your company, it's still important to give staff a sense of progression.

The first step can simply be to enable conversations between individuals and their line managers, and make sure that career goals are acknowledged.

These conversations can sometimes trigger actions to move the individual along their career path. For example, the more senior employee may be able to offer appropriate advice, professional connections or knowledge about opportunities.

Your company may be able to offer progression opportunities within existing roles, for example:

  1. Secondments to allow a career ‘pause’ for higher level staff
  2. Regular training opportunities to develop skills at all levels
  3. Mentoring and coaching schemes that give individuals the attention they need

Keep them moving, keep them on board

There can be a tendency to avoid training staff, for fear that they will ‘outgrow’ their current role and look for a better opportunity elsewhere. This anxiety is not always justified.

Employees who believe that they are valued and well looked-after will have a greater sense of loyalty to your company. As a result, they are more likely to stay with you and share the advantages of their accumulated experience.

Conversely, staff who feel that their role is ‘stagnating’ are likely to look elsewhere, and be less productive in the meantime.


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