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How employers can help workers grow in their careers

22 Sep 2022

Pluralsight’s Evanna Kearins discusses the dangers of limited career progression and how professional development is about more than promotions.

Employee retention has become more important than ever, especially following the so-called ‘great resignation’.

Among the usual employee requests such as flexibility, workplace wellbeing and a good salary and benefits, opportunities for career progression are a key factor for keeping employees happy.

Unfortunately, if employees are only offered training at infrequent intervals or not at all, their career development may be limited.

Evanna Kearins, SVP of marketing for the EMEA region at tech education company Pluralsight, said this is particularly problematic in tech – where the “half-life of a skill” has decreased from 10 to 15 years to just five years.

“This means that anything employees learned more than five years ago will no longer be relevant – or at least needs to be updated. As a result, organisations that don’t provide the chance for employees to upskill on a regular basis, or even re-skill to take on new roles or work on different projects, are limiting career development,” she said.

“Taking a one-size-fits-all approach to learning can also limit how employees progress in their career. Every employee has a slightly different skillset, even within the same team, so L&D opportunities need to be tailored to their own current skills gaps, career ambitions and workload.”

What does career progression look like?

When employers are thinking about how to ensure their employees are engaged and happy, career development should be high on the agenda.

But it can be easy to only think of career progression in terms of formal role changes or official promotions. Kearins said it’s important to establish other ways to help your employees grow.

“Learning and developing new skills within an existing role can give employees access to new opportunities – to work on a different project, or with different technologies – thus expanding their expertise into new areas,” she added.

“For example, if a technology team is implementing a cloud migration project, upskilling on demand in the specific cloud proficiencies required can provide employees the chance to take on a role in that particular project. By demonstrating these new skills, they may also be involved in more work with the cloud in future and build a new expertise.”

Enabling employees to upskill in this way can lead them to the more traditional promotion or pay rise as they learn more in-demand skills.

“With an ongoing skills gap in areas like software development, DevOps and data analytics, employers that look internally and upskill existing teams rather than hiring externally or outsourcing will likely plug gaps more effectively and efficiently.”

Kearins said employers need to start thinking of themselves as “creators of talent” rather than consumers of it and invest in their existing workforce rather than just looking to hire externally.

“To do this, employers need to focus on giving every employee the time, resources and encouragement they need to undertake professional development activities, as well as the opportunity to upskill and re-skill in a new area.”

Career progression challenges

According to Pluralsight’s State of Upskilling 2022 report, 61pc of employees surveyed are too busy to prioritise upskilling. This is up from 41pc in 2021.

“To ensure that every employee is accessing available development opportunities, dedicating time within the working week for learning can be very effective,” said Kearins.

“Making sure learning opportunities are available to every employee in a way that suits them best is also vital. Upskilling and re-skilling need to suit each person’s learning style and lifestyle.”

Waning engagement in a role can also be an indication that employees feel that their career is being hampered. Pluralsight’s report found that 40pc of respondents that leave a role do so because of a lack of career growth.

“To stop this from happening, offering learning and development opportunities that are tailored to the goals and ambitions for all employees throughout their career is paramount,” said Kearins.

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Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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