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Prevention Is Better Than Cure - Don't Wait for the Exodus

In January 2015, the Institute of Leadership and Management published research that highlighted that 37% of workers plan to change jobs this year. OK, so it was January - one of the points in the year when people naturally get off the treadmill, sit back and reflect on careers and make plans for the future (summer holidays being another one), but it’s the comparison with the same survey in previous years that makes it stand out.

In 2014 only 19% planned to change job and in 2013 it was even less at 13%. Even though intent doesn’t always transfer into action, the significant increase in those looking to move on is likely to lead to higher attrition rates.

On the same theme, research from Glassdoor this month revealed 39% of UK employees will look for a new job if they don’t get a pay rise in the next 12 months. This means 12 million people could be changing jobs this year with a potential cost of £360 billion in recruitment. Add to this the European Commission research that predicts a looming “Workforce Cliff” where labour demand outstrips supply across all major European countries (this happens in 2021 for the UK), and the scale of the potential talent problem facing UK plc. becomes alarming. Are you waiting for the crisis to hit and pay your part of the £360billion, or could you be taking action now to retain your talent and stay ahead of the competition?

If we spin all this research on its head and look at what this really means for organisations, the results are concerning but provide great insight into what businesses need to focus on. However, in order to do so, firstly we need to understand what is driving dissatisfaction in the workplace. Then we can ask the question: why are so many people suggesting that they plan to look for a new job in 2015? The vast majority of research points to two key factors to take notice of:

  1. Pay isn’t the main issue. As alarming as the Glassdoor research mentioned above is, it supports other research that there are bigger reasons people are looking to move in 2015. Figures published by Kelly Services in H2 2014 state that 59% of respondents would choose the opportunity to gain new skills over higher pay.
  2. Career Development is critical. Penna research also shows that other factors are a bigger driver of people moving on - 54.7% of employees leave due to a perceived lack of career development opportunities according to data gathered in 2014.

Organisations need to see this as an opportunity. Taking preventative action now and working on career development could make all of the difference in H2 2015, helping to re-engage and hold on to key talent. Here are a few ideas on what we can do differently to counter the exodus:

  1. Talk is cheap! Open the ‘career’ dialogue with colleagues and direct reports. Understand what makes them tick and understand what they want from the career deal in order to feel fulfilled. Career conversations need to happen on a regular basis and should be meaningful, not something that is banished to the annual review meeting.
  2. Act. Delegate interesting projects to team members seeking opportunities for development and help them find opportunities for lateral development as a way of developing new competencies.
  3. Share. Don’t be selfish with your people - if you spot a great opportunity for one of your team that happens to be in a different part of the business, signpost it to them. It might cause you a short-term headache but ultimately helping talent to move on, rather than move out, will be beneficial to your business. If you’re in HR or Resource Management, make sure you are building process and communication channels that make it easy to do this.
  4. Recognise. 2015 research by Penna on the different generations in the workplace highlighted that 32% of 18-24 year-olds felt their employer hadn’t done enough to recognise their potential. Notice it through regular conversations with them.
  5. Celebrate! Take every opportunity to recognise and celebrate career success. If your team can see that you are openly delighted by their success, they’re more likely discuss their career aspirations with you. The benefits are two-fold; you’ll be seen to have helped them with their development, and will have created opportunity for others in your team to develop within the organisation instead of seeking opportunities outside.

Whilst no single approach is going to be a panacea, these simple yet effective steps will help you to re-engage those who may be lured by the greener grass elsewhere. Promoting career development also strengthens your employer brand - positioning you as a company that truly supports employee progression and development, helping you to attract new talent.

Steven Ross


Head of Career Development

M +44 (0)7810 801 707

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