Looking for the Secret to Employee Retention? Try Offering More Career Advancement Opportunities
- Human Resources
6 min. Read
Last Updated: 10/19/2022
Table of Contents
Providing the right career advancement opportunities is crucial for motivating and retaining employees.
But, while investing in learning and development is in itself is important, our research shows that it’s even more important for employers to make sure they’re providing development opportunities tailored specifically for their workforce.
To understand what employees today are currently looking for in terms of skill development and career advancement, we conducted an online survey of 606 employees at various organizations throughout the U.S.
The participants were full-time and part-time employees living in the U.S., working at small to mid-sized businesses (20-500 employees), and aged between 18-75 years old. Respondents represent a mix of in-person, fully remote, and hybrid workers, as well as both active (requires physical movement for much of the day) and sedentary (requires minimal movement for most of the day) job roles.
Over half of the participants (64%) agreed that they are satisfied with their organization’s opportunities for career advancement. However, at the same time, 63% said they would be more likely to stay at their current employer if they had better access to these career development opportunities.
Our research also found that there are key variations in satisfaction depending on employees’ working arrangement (remote, hybrid, on-site) and industry sector.
Here are some of the top findings:
- 63% of participants said they would be more likely to stay at their organization if they were provided better career advancement opportunities.
- Data analytics, computer, software, and marketing skills are the top hard skills employees, overall, felt are holding them back from career advancement. The top soft skills employees felt are holding them back are time management, digital literacy, and leadership skills.
- On-site employees would prefer to have more opportunities for in-person training/lessons with subject matter experts, while remote employees would prefer to have more access to a suite of online courses.
Key Findings: The Career Progression Opportunities Employees Want
#1 More than 50% of employees are happy with their current career advancement opportunities, but remote workers are not as satisfied as those who work in person.
Overall, 23% "strongly agreed" and 41% "agreed" that they are satisfied with the training and education opportunities their organization provides for career advancement.
However, those working fully remote (14%) are more likely to disagree with this than those working fully on-site (8%) or hybrid (7%).
Also, full-time workers (69%) are more likely to agree/strongly agree that they are satisfied with their career advancement opportunities than part-time employees (57%).
Finally, those in professional and business services (84%) are more likely to agree/strongly agree that they are satisfied with their professional development opportunities compared to those in any other industry (values range from 44–65%).
#2 Career advancement opportunities play a big role in retention.
63% of employees either "strongly agreed" or "agreed" that they would be more likely to stay at an organization if they were provided with better learning opportunities to enhance their skill set and advance their careers.
However, those with hybrid working arrangements (78%) are more likely to agree with the above statement than those working fully on-site (63%) or fully remote (52%).
Those who work full-time (71%) are also more likely to agree with the above statement than those who work part-time (56%).
When examining this sentiment across industries, those who work in construction (76%) are more likely to agree with the above statement than those who work in leisure and hospitality (42%); education and health services (60%); and retail, trade, transportation, and utilities (59%).
#3 The development opportunities desired by employees vary by their work arrangements (remote/on-site, full-time/part-time)
Overall, data analytics (39%), computer (39%), software (37%), and marketing skills (36%), are the hard skills that employees feel they are lacking, holding them back from career advancement. When considering work arrangements, fully remote employees (45%) were more likely to say that a lack of marketing skills are holding them back than those fully on-site (33%) or hybrid (32%).
Additionally, full-time employees (32%) were more likely to say that analytical skills are holding them back than part-time employees (25%).
In terms of soft skills, the #1 soft skills employees say they feel are holding them back from career advancement are time management (43%), digital literacy (39%), and leadership skills (37%).
When considering work arrangements, those fully on-site (46%) were more likely to say that digital literacy is holding them back than those working fully remote (34%) or hybrid (26%).
#4 Employees value access to learning in different ways.
Overall, the most desired types of career development opportunities are:
- Opportunities to prepare for a new job or promotion (58%).
- Employer-funded certifications in an area the employee wants to develop (57%).
- In-person training/lessons with subject matter experts (53%).
Remote employees (58%) prefer access to a suite of online courses compared to on-site employees (43%).
Conversely, on-site employees (58%) would prefer in-person training/lessons with subject matter experts compared to employees working remotely (47%) or hybrid (46%).
Active workers (63%) prefer development opportunities that prepare them for a new job or promotion compared to sedentary workers (51%).
How Employers Can Retain Employees by Prioritizing Professional Development
- Conduct employee research on overall satisfaction with learning and development to identify gaps between different segments within your organization. Our survey found perceptions varied most by the work environment of employees (in-person, remote, or hybrid) and whether they are full-time or part-time, and whether they perform active or sedentary work. Differences can also be found among industry, where we found that employees working in Business/Professional services are by far the most satisfied with their career development opportunities compared to other industries. The industries reporting the most dissatisfaction were Financial Activities, Leisure/Hospitality, and Other Services.
- Once you understand the needs of different employee segments for the delivery of development opportunities, prioritize these needs and act quickly. It could be the difference between retaining or losing a good team member.
- As workers increasingly elect a remote or hybrid work environment, focus on understanding the distinct needs of these workers, the skills they need training on, and how they want to be trained. You may find some want in-person seminars, while others may want a self-paced online course. Our research finds remote workers and part-time workers are most likely to be dissatisfied with their current opportunities.
- Tailor hard and soft skills training opportunities to your employees' working arrangements. For example, on-site employees may prefer digital literacy training while remote employees might want to develop marketing skills.
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The Power of Paychex
Providing robust training and development opportunities is keys to motivating, engaging, and retaining your employees. Paychex’s online learning management system offers hundreds of training videos, as well as the ability to customize your own.
Looking for additional ways to attract and retain qualified people? Explore the many other HR solutions we have to offer, including world class benefits and HR technology that can help you create a more positive employee experience.