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Impacts of slow career progression

Is slow career progression killing employee engagement and productivity in your office?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Career progression drives a lot of people, and the idea of working a “dead-end” job can be very off-putting. With rates of career progression seeming to have declined over the years, and employers often choosing to hire externally rather than promoting from within, it’s becoming much more difficult for people to advance along their chosen career paths. 

The impacts of slow career progression can affect everything from wellbeing and employee engagement to productivity and turnover.

Rates of career progression seem to be slowing down

Findings published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies show that decade on decade, both male and female employees are starting lower down the “wage ladder” than in previous generations. 

Not only that but since the 1980s, men’s rate of career progression has declined and an ageing workforce means opportunities to reach higher levels of seniority are reducing.

IFS also point to concerns about how the career prospects of young people will be affected by the uncertain economic fallout of COVID-19.

Taken together, these issues mean that many employees are starting at lower wages and seeing slowed increases to their salaries than they would have seen in the past, which poses a real threat to their financial wellbeing. 

Of course, not every employee is looking to get promoted, but in general, most of your staff are likely keen to progress and you shouldn’t assume someone has no desire to advance.

The impacts of slow career progression on employees

We go on a lot about the benefits of employee engagement here at Weekly10, but that’s only because it’s so important in becoming a highly-productive, highly-successful organisation. In fact, research by Gallup shows that engaged employees are almost a fifth more productive than their unengaged colleagues.

It can be tough when it doesn’t seem like your career is going anywhere. It can feel like putting in all the discretionary effort in the world won’t get you noticed. 

At that point, there isn’t much to stop a formerly ambitious employee from becoming disengaged. One study of IT employees found that career development boosts employee engagement more than training initiatives alone

One of the impacts of slow career progression is the lasting hit staff engagement can take.

In a survey published by Penna, almost two-thirds of employee respondents reported that a lack of career development would be enough to make them start looking for a new job. 

This supports findings from the LinkedIn 2018 Workplace Learning Report, which found that 93% of employees would stay with a company longer if that employer invested in their careers.

What can we do about the impacts of slow career progression?

Many of the best employees are those who are actively career-driven, and so part of a successful approach to mitigating the impacts of slow career progression must involve making sure that opportunities for advancement are still available. 

But businesses don’t just have an infinite number of management roles ready to be filled, so employers need to be ready to fill the gap with other measures to help employees stay engaged and boost their loyalty to the organisation.

Promoting internally: When a management position opens up, it can be tempting to put up a job listing and hire externally. After all, sometimes it’s the only way of finding someone experienced enough for the role. But if you’re constantly overlooking your own employees when new openings appear, then that’s going to give the impression they’re just not good enough and never will be.

While it’s unrealistic to expect to promote everyone who wants it, promoting internally shows your employees that it’s still possible to move forward with their career in your organisation. 

If they lack experience in certain areas, consider how you might up-skill them into the role. It might take more effort on your part, but there are clear benefits to promoting an already loyalty and engaged employee. 

Skills development: Speaking of up-skilling, just because there isn’t a higher role for someone to move up into doesn’t mean they can’t continue to develop professionally. 

If you’re worried about the impacts of slow career progression on your employees, then try to help them to learn a new skill or improve in one of their weaker areas. 

Employee education can provide a sense of personal growth that helps staff to stay engaged in their role, while also putting them in a better position to be promoted in the future.

Workplace mentorships: Mentorships are a great way to help new employees settle into their role, but they can also be a very rewarding experience for the mentor as well. 

Mentorships are ideal for putting you in a position to promote from within, as they have been found to significantly boost the career prospects of both mentors and mentees. If your organisation has a deficit in management skills training, mentorships are the perfect way to overcome that. 

Focus on skill-based training and internal promotions to reduce the impacts of slow career progression on employee engagement, motivation and loyalty.

Regular check-ins: One of the biggest impacts of slow career progression can be on an employee’s sense of wellbeing and motivation at work. This can compound over time, affecting their engagement and even driving them to leave the organisation. Without effective communication, these things can take you by surprise. 

Checking in on a regular basis (such as with a weekly check-in from Weekly10) allows you to track employee wellbeing and engagement over time. These check-ins can also be used to support employee development with effective two-way feedback between managers and employees.

Recognition: Often, it isn’t just loyalty to one manager that makes employees want to stick around, but rather their connections with various different colleagues. Effective managers build connections between their staff. One way of doing this is by enabling them to highlight each other’s positive performance. For example, check-ins on Weekly10 enable users to tag each other in special recognition-based questions, while user profiles keep track of the mentions they receive from other employees.

If you want to learn more about keeping your employees engaged during these strange times, then we recommend having a look at the Weekly10 blog today!

Interested in the benefits of a weekly check-in that powers recognition, frequent feedback and continuous performance management?

Head of People Science