An employee’s perception of internal growth and development opportunities is one of the more important predictors of employee engagement. Understanding this, we were disappointed to discover, through our latest research, that the employee perception of internal opportunities is the lowest it has ever been.
When employees were asked to rate their agreement with the following statement: “This company provides attractive opportunities for growth and development,” only 57% of employee responses were favorable. This is 20% below the overall engagement score average and is the lowest measured score on this question to date.
For organizations with particularly low scores on the statement, we took a closer look. We found that the written comments surrounding growth and development issues suggest that employees attach their perceptions of opportunities for growth and development to promotions, increased pay, and advancement prospects. In other words, career advancement and promotions are what employees see as giving them growth and development opportunities. Training and skill development alone appear to be ineffective for increasing perceived opportunities for growth and development. Employees see career advancement and promotion as most representative of the company’s development possibilities.
For many organizations, advancements and promotions can be likely because of struggling business operations. Employees notice the decrease in succession planning—hence the drop in scores. Can you fix that? Can you increase employee engagement when there are less opportunities for career advancement?
Yes. It’s possible. A number of organizations have maintained high scores on perceived growth and development opportunities throughout economic downturns. The key is to maintain opportunities for simple promotions and growth within the company and communicate them regularly, even if they’re small. For employees to sense opportunities for growth and development, keep talking about development plans and succession planning. Maintain communication about advancement opportunities on an organization-wide level, and also through personal development meetings where the question is asked, “Where do you see yourself in this company five years from now?” and “How can we help you get there?”
Focus on small promotions, payment increases, and advancements. Keep talking about career advancement. As the perceived growth and development opportunities increase, so will your employee engagement.