Organisations tend to adopt one of two strategies when it comes to retaining their best employees. Either they do nothing and blindly hope that the employee stays put out of a sense of loyalty or they invest heavily in benefit schemes with the intention of insuring themselves against attractive bids from rival organisations. Yet the reality is somewhat different: rather than material gains, the majority of employees are motivated by their employer’s provision of adequate growth opportunities within the organisation. Fixating over benefit packages exposes many employers inability to fully understand employee motivations.
When surveyed, individuals name the chance to advance as one of the top considerations when choosing to join a new organisation, but also the second biggest reason for leaving a job, Lack of career development is now a common problem for workers across all sectors, and it is not getting any better. 73% of employees report that their career prospects have remained static or worsened over the last year, with only 45% describing the training programs offered by their employer as adequate.
It is doubtful the figures would be so high if it was all about material benefits. There is much more at stake when it comes to securing an employee engagement. Even when other aspects of the jobs are acceptable – such as pay and benefits – ambitious individuals can easily become disengaged if they don’t feel they are developing in the role.
This is not what business would have you believe, where the narrative of success is often guided by material and financial gain. Yet there is a new strain of research emerging that illustrates just how bad people are in judging what makes them happy. We tend to put too much emphasis on work, money and property, in the process vastly undervaluing relationships, personal development and the importance of challenges. The recent financial crisis and subsequent turmoil has changed the way many employees think. We feel more overworked than ever before, and yet more anxious about job insecurity, despite the sacrifices. This has left employee’s demanding a sense of shared identity from the organisation that employees them, of a deeper meaning and significance in the work they carry out. They want to know what they do matters. This includes personal development. With long-term employment – where employees remain with the same company for years – now seeming an anachronism, employees are taking the power back, out of their employer’s hands, and requesting an investment in their development that helps build up their portfolio and skills range. It is a phase of employee liberation that shows no sign of slowing down.