British workers want more career progression chats with their bosses

A little less conversation isn't working out too well in keeping employees engaged and productive.

by Rebecca Smith
Last Updated: 21 Apr 2016

When was the last time you had a chat with a member of staff about their career progression? If you’re struggling to call to mind a recent example, you’re probably not the only one. And according to a study of 4,402 employees by management consultancy Right Management, most workers (69%) don’t feel confident enough to initiate conversations outside of any annual performance reviews. But they’d like to, if only they could get past the sweaty palms and heart palpitations that keep cropping up every time they try.

Employees think that more fruitful career conversations would mean they’d feel much more engaged in their work, happier and more likely to stay in the organisation. Just 42% of respondents felt a career development plan was available to them, only 35% felt that all employees have access to technical skills development programmes and 27% believe there’s access to leadership development.

'Employers need to start proving that they’re serious about nurturing this "career for me" expectation that the next wave of talent demands,' said Right Management's MD, Ian Symes. 'A performance review just once a year falls drastically short of achieving that.' He thinks many avoid having meaningful talks with their staff about career prospects because ‘they cannot meet expectations such as promotion or training investment’.

That’s a problem for a couple of reasons. Keeping promising employees motivated and showing goodwill towards the company improves talent retention. Failing to instigate career conversations can have the opposite effect. A wider issue is that a disinclination to offer training for whatever reason can be a productivity drag.

Putting the onus on employees to start the conversation in the first place is unlikely to spur much success. More often than not it's incredibly awkward to try and bring up the topic. And it's a bit of a self-perpetuating problem too – the fewer conversations had, the more daunting it can feel for people to broach the subject. So the next time you catch sight of a particularly clammy-looking member of staff working up the nerve to try and bring it up, put them out of their misery and set up a career chat. 

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