COVID-19 has impacted virtually every aspect of people’s lives — including their careers. According to our recent Career Progression Survey in partnership with global research company Censuswide, which surveyed more than 2,000 employees at mid-to-large companies in the United States, 43% reported that their career progression with the company where they currently work has either completely stalled or significantly slowed down during the pandemic.
And as such a significant portion of the workforce feels like their careers have been put on pause, nearly half (47%) of respondents are either actively looking or considering looking for a new job — one that gives them the growth opportunities they need to take the next step in their careers.
While some job seekers are taking a more relaxed approach, many are looking to make a move — and soon. In fact, 17% of survey respondents reported that they were looking for a new job right now, and hoping to find a better opportunity immediately. With 127.16 million full-time employees in the United States (as of June 2021, according to business data platform Statista), that equates to a whopping 21,617,200 people who could be looking to transition into a new role ASAP. This is a trend many are calling “The Great Resignation” — and it’s putting companies across the country in jeopardy of losing their best people.
“With more than 3.6 million people quitting their jobs in the US in May alone, leaders need to recognize what a serious problem this mass exodus is for the survival of their organizations,” said Jack Altman, cofounder and CEO of Lattice. “People are companies’ most important assets, and the cost of turnover is high,” he added.
But who, exactly, are these job seekers? And why do they feel like their current job lacks the growth opportunities they’re looking for? Below, we’ll take you through the key findings from our Career Progression Survey. And importantly, we’ll also share our best tips for how, as employers, managers, and organizations, you can support your employees’ career progression through the continued pandemic and beyond — and make sure you don’t lose your employees to the Great Resignation.
These Are the Employees Planning to Resign
Employees across the board are feeling frustrated with the lack of career progression during the pandemic. Our research found that 54% of employees surveyed are either actively looking for a job now or would consider looking for a job in the next year, while 30% said they were more likely to quit their job now than before the pandemic. And the lack of career progression opportunities is, for the vast majority of employees, a major factor driving the desire to get out of their current positions: A staggering 76% of employees said they would be somewhat or very likely to leave a company due to feeling dissatisfied with the opportunities available to progress in their careers.
Employees in general are feeling frustrated at the lack of opportunities for career advancement. But particularly, younger workers, who are still in the early stages of their working lives, are feeling the impact more acutely than their more seasoned counterparts — and are more willing to say goodbye to their current role in favor of a job with more growth opportunities. Our survey found that 37% of Gen Z employees and 25% of Millennial employees are currently looking for a job that offers career progression transparency — or, in other words, a job with clear opportunities for growth. This is significantly higher than our findings for older generations Gen X (18%) and Baby Boomers (7%).
Younger workers are also more likely to want to make a move now. We found that 23% of Gen Z respondents and 20% of Millennials are looking to transition to a new job right away, compared to just 13% of Gen X employees and 6% of Baby Boomers.
What’s Making Employees Feel Like Their Careers Have Stalled
Feeling like their career progression has slowed down (or completely stalled) is a major reason many employees are looking for new jobs. But what is causing employees to feel like their careers aren’t moving forward?
The employees we surveyed cited a variety of reasons behind their pandemic-related career progression frustrations, including:
- A lack of mentorship (24%)
- A lack of tools to clarify their path toward career progression (21%)
- A decrease in one-on-one meetings with their manager or supervisor (16%)
Managers also aren’t taking an active enough role in supporting their employees’ career progression. And even for the ones who want to take a more active role, they often don’t have the tools they need to do so. More than a quarter of employees surveyed (26%) said they and their managers don’t talk about their career progression opportunities, and another 18% said that, while they speak to their manager regularly, the company doesn’t have any tools in place to track their career progression, adding to their experience of feeling stuck.
In addition to lacking support in their own career progression, many employees reported a lack of career progression transparency across the organization as a significant issue. A full 29% of employees surveyed said they didn’t have a clear view of the career progression opportunities within their company, and of that 29%, close to 40% blame that lack of transparency on their company.
“The survey results make clear that managers should re-prioritize employee career progression to ensure they’re retaining their best talent,” Altman said. “Giving their employees authentic opportunities for growth is something that should be built into the fabric of their company.”
How Employers Can Support Their Employees’ Career Progression — and Keep Top Talent at Their Company
Clearly, if you want to keep your employees at your organization, you need to find ways to support their career progression. Otherwise, pandemic or not, they’re going to find another job at a company that will. Here are four best practices for supporting your employees’ career growth in a way that benefits both them and your organization.
1. Create growth plans with your employees.
In order for your employees to feel like their career is progressing, they need a clear idea of what kind of career they’re trying to progress to — and how to get there. “Employees need a clear path to growth, and transparency on career progression opportunities, in order to stay engaged and thrive at work,” said Altman.
That’s where employee growth plans come in. Employee growth plans lay the groundwork for each employee’s growth within your organization. They create a clear path from where your employee is now to where they want to go in their career, whether that’s learning a new skill, getting promoted into a management position, or transitioning to a new department.
Schedule a one-on-one meeting with your employee to discuss their career growth progression. During the course of that meeting or meetings, find out the following:
- What are their goals?
- What do they hope to accomplish?
- Where do they want to be in the next six months/one year/five years?
Once you’ve identified what type of career growth your employee wants to work toward, it’s time to create a plan around how to help them achieve those goals — including what each goal is, how you’re going to measure progress toward that goal, and in what time frame they’re aiming to accomplish the goal.
Working together with your team member to create an employee growth plan for them lets them know that you’re invested in helping them achieve their career goals, and lays out a clear path for how they’re going to get there.
2. Connect regularly with your employees about their career progression.
Creating an employee growth plan is the first step. But if you want your employee to be successful in hitting the goals in their growth plan, it’s important to check in regularly.
Unfortunately, a lot of managers are missing the mark on these kinds of check-ins. According to our survey, when asked if their manager had checked in with them about how they’re feeling about their job since the start of the pandemic, 38% of employees said no.
Regular check-ins give you and your employee the opportunity to review their employee growth plan, discuss their progress, and make sure that the plan still aligns with their desired career trajectory — and if not, it allows you to adjust the plan as necessary. Check-ins are also a great time for you to deliver helpful feedback to your employees about how they’re doing and how they can progress more efficiently toward their career goals. And many employees want your input; 33% of employees surveyed said they want more feedback about career progression.
If you want to support your employees’ career progression, make sure you’re carving out regular time on your calendar to discuss it, whether that’s once a month or once per quarter.
3. Celebrate wins along the way.
Part of supporting your employees’ career progression is celebrating when they reach their goals along the way, so make sure you’re giving your employees the recognition they deserve for wins, big and small. They’ll be sure to appreciate it; when asked about the most disappointing aspect of their current role — an aspect that would inspire them to quit their job — 26% of employees cited a lack of recognition and communication.
For instance, if part of your employee’s growth plan is to improve their public speaking skills and they nail a presentation for your team, make sure to acknowledge their progress and let them know they did a great job. If their goal is to get promoted into a leadership position and they get selected for your company’s management training program, celebrate their success with a gift or heartfelt congratulations.
Career progression is a journey, so make sure you’re celebrating your employees every step of the way.
4. Increase employee compensation when necessary.
Your employees may feel like they’re growing professionally, but if they don’t feel like their compensation is growing with them, that’s not going to be enough to keep them at your company.
If the situation warrants it, consider increasing your employee’s salary. Knowing that your organization not only offers them the opportunity to grow their career, but to also grow their income, can make a huge difference in retaining top talent (68% of the employees we surveyed cited increasing their salary as a way their companies could incentivize them to stay at their jobs).
Career growth progression is clearly top of mind for employees during the pandemic. So if you want to retain top talent, you need to make supporting employee career growth a priority within your organization. Not only will prioritizing career growth progression help your employees get clear on their career trajectory and start taking steps to achieve their career goals, but it will also show them that you’re going to support them as they take those steps — which will keep them committed to and engaged with your organization.