Career Progression: Workers Will Stay if They Can Advance Their Career

Kathy Gurchiek By Kathy Gurchiek October 18, 2022
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career progression

​A majority of workers in 25 countries want to stay with their current company, but nearly three-fourths are confident they would be able to land a new job in six months or less. A lack of career progression at their current employer is a factor in their desire to move on, according to a report from The Adecco Group.

As companies struggle to hire, Millennials and members of Generation Z (60 percent and 58 percent, respectively) are more confident than other generations in the workforce that, as job seekers, they have more power and options to choose where they work, Global Workforce of the Future: Unraveling the Talent Conundrum found.

Additional findings from The Adecco Group report include the following:

  • 44 percent of workers who want to stay at their current company would like to progress to or upskill for a new job.
  • 31 percent of workers indicated the primary reason to quit is a lack of progression and reskilling and upskilling opportunities.
  • Managers have more exposure to training opportunities and career progression conversations than nonmanagers (60 percent versus 40 percent).




The data is based on a 20-minute online survey conducted April 8 to May 30 with 34,200 respondents ages 18 to 60 who had to have been employed with the same organization for at least two months. Respondents included office and nonoffice workers.

The percentage of workers who want to stay or leave their current job differed by country, Adecco found. A significantly higher percentage of workers in Australia (33 percent) and Switzerland (32 percent)—two countries, the report noted, where workers have the highest sense of job security—want to leave their job, compared to other countries.

A separate report from Emergn, a digital business service based in London, underscores the importance of improving workplace training.

"Workplace training programs should be structured with the understanding that employees don't just want to learn how to do their jobs better; they want opportunities to grow beyond their current roles," according to Emergn's report, The Pursuit of Effective Workplace Training.

"Managers want to learn skills that will have them knocking on the door of the C-level suites, and employees want to learn how to lead like the management above them," the authors of the report added.

In Emergn's survey of 1,209 professionals in the U.K. and U.S. in July, 75 percent said strong workplace training would have a high or very high impact on deciding to stay with their employer.  

What Employers Can Do

HR professionals agree on the importance of training as a retention tool. A joint survey by the SHRM Research Institute and TalentLMS found that 86 percent of HR managers said training aids in retention, and 83 percent said it's a recruitment tool.

Adecco recommends the following strategies to encourage career progression:

Have career conversations with your workers to make them aware of internal opportunities. One-third—34 percent—of all respondents said they were seeking greener pastures because "my career is not progressing, [I am] looking for more upskilling and training, or [I want to] move to a job that will give me employable skills."

Nearly one-fourth (23 percent) of workers surveyed have never had a career progression conversation in their current job. However, those having frequent career conversations are three times more likely to be encouraged to apply for internal job opportunities.

A Harris poll for Integral, an employee engagement and communication consultancy in New York City, found that among 2,010 employed U.S. residents, nonmanagers were less likely than managers to agree their employers supported their career growth.

Provide adequate training opportunities to progress into new roles. Seattle-based consulting firm Slalom partnered with Microsoft for its Breaking Barriers initiative, which launched in 2021. Employees from underrepresented groups—women; individuals who are neurodiverse; people of color; military veterans; people with disabilities; and those who identify as LGBTQ—make up the bulk of employees in the program, which is designed to advance technology and leadership skills.

"We have participants who are early-career; for some of them, this is their first job out of college," said Bianca Blanco, manager of Slalom's Microsoft technical development programs. "We also have seasoned leaders up to director level who are involved because we know the tech skills gap for underrepresented groups isn't targeted to one age group or demographic."

Breaking Barriers, she noted, is "very much about continuing to upskill our employees and providing them with the tools and resources they need to advance their careers. As a result, it is impacting the overall employee experience."

Reduce the friction for workers who are looking to move into new roles across the company. There are advantages to moving employees into new positions, but there can be downsides as well, such as resentment by those who see a colleague promoted away from a department where they have labored for years, according to Indeed.com. Internal transfers can also create gaps in the department the person is leaving, which "could create awkward relationships between departments that wouldn't exist if you hired externally for new roles."

Other SHRM resources:
Report: Employers Reap Benefits of Employee Training When Done Right, SHRM Online, August 2022

Address Skills Gap by Identifying 'Skill Adjacencies,' SHRM Online, March 2021

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