Want to Keep Talent? | Knowledge Hub | Kelly Services

Want to keep talent? Give them an opportunity to develop! 

Want to keep talent?(1)Another day, another dollar? If this saying rings true for employees, chances are they will already be looking elsewhere.

Employees are seeking meaning and a sense of achievement in their work - without it they will look elsewhere in spite of economic uncertainty. In the UK, less than 40% of employees feel that they have real job fulfillment. Most report that their work does not provide them with a genuine sense of purpose or meaning. This lack of meaning at work is remarkably consistent when comparing with the rest of the world. Despite broad geographical divides, and vastly different employment markets, people feel very similar regardless of where they live and work. While it may once have seemed like a safe assumption to believe that seniority and tenure increased job fulfillment and meaning in line with increased responsibility and influence, this does not appear to be the case. Older generations report the same level of disappointment with their employment as younger employees.

Only 43% of employees in UK say they are ‘happy’ in their jobs. This figure is similar to the 35% who believe they attain some sense of meaning from their jobs, and strong correlations in the data shows that the two issues are linked. Three-quarters of workers (77%) say the key way that they derive meaning from their work is in having the ‘ability to excel or develop’ in their field. Yet, most report that they are simply not achieving it. While significant proportions of people also say issues such as their ‘connection with co-workers’ (47%), ‘alignment with personal values’ (35%), ‘connection to corporate strategy’(20%) and ‘community involvement’ (25%), contribute to finding meaning in their work, development opportunities are by far the central driver of ‘meaning’.

Interesting to see here that there are some distinct differences to be found across generations. The focus on personal development is most pronounced among younger workers, while the ways in which a person’s job aligns with their personal values becomes more important as they age. Organisations and employees have common goals – they both wish to maximise individual achievement and performance. Yet, these common goals are experiencing a clear disconnect, which is compounding issues of retention, turnover and productivity.

So what is the solution? Focus on developing and rewarding skills and achievements, not people.  

    • Recognise that the goals are the same

    • What employees want, and what organisations need from them, are exactly the same. They need to be given the opportunity to excel and use what skills they have to offer. Employees report that they not able to reach their full potential and that this is creating a high degree of unhappiness and the desire to quit. 


  • Reward continuous improvement and team outcomes


More emphasis on leaders as coaches to continually improve things, rather than as guardians and enforcers of existing knowledge and process is key. A rewards system that reflects this way of leading, and which recognises the outcomes of the team, above that of the individual manager, will ultimately provide employees with greater control and responsibility over their roles. Providing clear, measurable feedback on individual and team performance, and ensuring this aligns directly with what the organisation needs today is critical. It is vital that leaders know how to have a meaningful career discussion with employees to establish plans that support their development. Look beyond the hierarchy to elevate the best skills: promotion is one way to measure success, but it’s limited by vacancies and organisational structure. Only one person in the team can be the leader, and if this is the only expression of success, most employees will be dissatisfied most of the time. So, the idea that being the ‘boss’ is the ultimate goal in every individual’s career is a limited and outdated way of rewarding high performance. Organisations need to find other ways to ‘promote’ high performance more consistently, and to develop specific skills in a more timely way.




Deb Pettingill, Operations Director, UK and Ireland, comments: “It’s fundamental to the success of any organisation that their people adopt a positive frame of mind. I think when times are tough, the temptation is to manage by hierarchy and numbers – we should always remember to catch people ‘doing something right’ than constantly picking people up on what they are doing wrong. Companies also need to be more flexible and recruit and develop according to people’s talent and motivators. Leaders need to know their people, know what makes them tick, provide continuous feedback and be a constant coach.”