recThe only way is Across? Development or Progression and its Effect on Engagement

There are few more vibrant, emotive and real-time recruitment market analogies than the football transfer window. During the month of January, teams, whether they are pushing for promotion, fighting tooth and nail against relegation or locked in a visceral challenge at the top of the table, are always on the lookout for a player or two who can make the difference. A player who will appease the fans (or customers) and a player who might keep the CEO jovial and not consulting his employment lawyers. And recent history is littered with individuals who have changed teams and touched glory and others who have, at some point, clearly incurred the wrath of the footballing gods. Interestingly, the transfer window serves not only as a hiring opportunity but also one that impacts on retention and engagement. Talented players who see their clubs selling individuals are likely to draw their own conclusions as to the relative levels of ambition of their current employer and to their own potential longevity of tenure.

There is then a clear link to this month’s publication of research from the excellent Conference Board and their 2014 CEO Challenge survey. Emerging as the top challenge identified by CEOs across the world is Human Capital – how best to develop, engage, manage and retain talent, or, as the Conference Board puts it, ‘Building a culture that supports engagement, employee training leadership development and high performance’. The Conference Board notes a change in emphasis from leadership focusing on external factors to key internal concerns more within their control and management. Internal talent being front and centre. The research also goes as far as suggesting that the establishment of a strong internal talent pipeline rather than the drive to hire externally is considered a priority. Hugely positive…up to a point.

Interestingly, the couching of these terms correlates closely to a key trend emerging from much of TMP’s own engagement and employer branding work with our clientbase. As employees increasingly view the employment market as an opportunity rather than the threat of the last five years, they are looking for more. Their employer is probably enthusiastically ticking boxes marked training, development and enrichment, but what about that shinier one that’s been hidden away for a while, progression? The move towards flat organisational structures and reduced hierarchy brings many benefits but swift progression up the corporate ladder is not necessarily one of them.  And if their employer cannot offer what talent was perhaps too cautious to ask for between 2008 and 2012, might employees be seeking external opportunities if the internal move they seek is horizontal once more rather than vertical?

And it may be easy to draw the conclusion that development without progression does not make for a happy workforce. A major new report from Gallup this week suggests that just 13% of the global workforce is engaged by their jobs, or, as Gallup puts it, ‘with a sense of passion for their work, a deep connection to their employer, these people are moving their organisation forward’. Sadly this leaves an awful lot of people making a less positive contribution to the workplace. Gallup estimates that 63% are not engaged and that a further 24% are actively disengaged, hating their jobs and undermining the people around them.

Having guided their organisational ships through some troubled water over the last five years, employers, perhaps expecting calmer waters, may in fact be entering a perfect engagement storm. As the economy firms up consistently, organisations will be looking to take advantage of a more confident, robust consumer armed with deeper pockets. Ironic then that they may find themselves doing this with either a disengaged and corrosive workforce or one that has tired of imitating a crab and wants to move forward rather than sideways and who have just produced their resignation letter.

The same sort of steep progression that will surely see Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo begging to join the mighty Tottenham Hotspur over the next ten days.

About the Author:

r2Neil Harrison | Employer Branding Advantage

Neil is the Head of Employer Branding and Insight at TMP and has worked in this field for the past 20+ years. He has delivered employer branding solutions for organisations as diverse as Santander, Heineken, the University of Sheffield, Aircelle, HSBC, GCHQ and Unilever over the past few years.


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January 27, 2014 in Resource Centre