Why Investing in Employee Growth and Development Is More Important Than Ever

A new report finds that while employees appreciate the job security many employers have been able to provide during the pandemic, they’re now concentrating on their future career opportunities. Organizations are recognizing that employee growth and development will remain crucial in 2021 and beyond.

Many organizations recognize that employee growth and development will be crucial in 2021. But a new report from Workday reveals that concerns around growth are increasing among employees. 

The Employee Expectations Report 2021, based on an analysis of 30 million employee comments from across 160 countries, highlights that while employees responded positively to the job security employers were able to provide during the pandemic, many are now concentrating on their future career prospects. 

Most significantly, the proportion of employee comments relating to growth dropped by 8% from the previous year, despite employee scores around growth being one of the few areas to see a decline. Not only are employees worried about their career prospects—they’re struggling to speak up about these issues. 

We’ve previously discussed the three other focuses covered in the report—flexible working, health and wellbeing, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. For the final piece in our series on 2021 employee expectations, we’re analyzing how employees feel about their personal and professional opportunities for growth, and further outlining how we as a global community can ensure there’s room for every employee to develop. 

“Organizations who thrive will be those who can help each employee feel as if they are making progress in the ways that feel most meaningful to them individually.”

Jason Lauritsen Author of Unlocking High Performance

Avoiding Potential Post-Pandemic Attrition

During the pandemic, many organizations prioritized job security—an important step in protecting the interests of their employees. Now, as they plan for the post-pandemic working world, it’s important they shift from job security to career development. If employees don’t see any scope for progression, then data shows that they’ll become an attrition risk.

The most common method of gauging if an employee is considering leaving is to ask a simple question: “If you were offered the same job at another organization, how likely is it that you would stay with [Company Name]?” And while that remains a strong metric, sometimes the signs are more subtle. For example, when using Workday’s attrition algorithm, the growth score of employees that remain with a business is 13% higher than the average score of departing employees.

With that statistic in mind, the above graph shows some concerning trajectories for employee growth scores. With the exception of Baby Boomers and Gen X—older employees who are generally in more senior positions—growth scores steadily declined throughout 2020. It’s important businesses take notice of these potential attrition warning signs and take action.

Promoting Growth and Development for Younger Generations 

What’s made clear throughout our Employee Expectations Report 2021 is that employees value clear communication. While the long term solution to ailing growth scores is investing in your company’s development options, the first step is letting your employees know that you’re aware of their needs. And nowhere is that more needed than with younger employees.

As outlined below, scores amongst Gen Z and Millennial employees suffered disproportionately when compared to their older peers. The risk here is losing staff who are still at an early stage of their career, and have much more to offer in the years to come.

Growth and development doesn’t always solely refer to pay progression or a promotion. Instead, managers should have honest two-way conversations about what their people want. Whether that’s:

  • Clarifying their long term goals and outlining a structured plan of action.

  • Increased support in their personal lives through flexible working options.

  • The opportunity to work with and shadow other departments more frequently.

  • Creating internal mentorship programs to facilitate professional growth.

By communicating clearly with employees about their growth and development opportunities, businesses ensure their employees feel valued. That perceived value, in turn, reduces the risk of attrition. Now that we’re ending the end of a period where prioritizing the present safety of everyone has been paramount, employees want to know that you’re invested in their future. 

To learn more about the impact of the past year on employees across the globe, and to better understand what employees want from their employers moving forward, read the full Employee Expectations Report 2021 here. 

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