We recently carried out a Global Workforce Study which surveyed the attitudes and moods of employees all over the world, including over 2,500 UK workers. The study found that Britain’s workforce has reached a standstill in terms of employee career development and ambition, putting businesses at risk of damaging employee morale and losing talent to growing competition across the globe. But HR professionals can play a significant role in helping to pull workforces out of the standstill that employees are reporting.

One in four UK workers feel stuck in their role

Our research found that one in four UK workers feel stuck in their role, largely due to the economic downturn. Employees are not only voicing that it is harder to progress their careers but they also perceive that when opportunities do arise, it is not always the right people who are promoted or rewarded. For example, only a third of workers think their organisation does a good job of promoting the most qualified employees and two-thirds say they cannot see a clear link between performance and pay, suggesting that workers have little incentive to push themselves in their role.

The post-recession reality is that many people have swapped ambition for stability and are choosing a steady income from their current role over aiming for promotion or looking for a new job entirely. To add to this, many older workers are staying in their jobs, largely out of financial necessity, rather than retiring, which is also contributing to the poor promotion prospects of younger staff, according to our survey respondents.

‘Up’ is not the only career advancement option

HR professionals have an important role to play to try to overturn this trend of ‘Standstill Britain’ and lift employees out of the rut, instead of leaving them to lose faith in themselves and their company. For example, helping employees realise that ‘up’ isn’t their only career advancement option, could encourage them to develop new skills and competencies by stepping sideways in order to get to where they want to be in their career and ensure that talent stays in the business. Think about identifying other departments where an employee’s skills could be applied. Such methods of helping employees overcome their career obstacles can have positive effects on staff motivation and productivity, and could encourage them to stay with the business for much longer than if they were to pursue only an upward trajectory.

Recruit and retain the right people

Fostering effective employee engagement practices is at the heart of reversing the standstill that many companies are experiencing. HR professionals can help by focusing on recruiting the right people, rewarding them appropriately, training them well and continually developing them. They should identify opportunities for people to progress to the next level in the company, to work on secondment in another part of the business and to invest in themselves through training and development.

However, these approaches are only sustainable if a long term approach is taken. For example, asking employees about their five to 10-year objectives and offering training to equip them with the skills they need to achieve their goals, can result in enhanced job satisfaction for employees, which in turn benefits employers. Try looking within your organisation to see if there are any suitable mentors and coaches who are experienced in particular areas that can be matched to employees’ training needs.

An atmosphere of innovation can also be created by encouraging employees to actively participate in the future direction of the business and to put forward solutions to problems. There are few better ways to show talented staff that you value their work than by implementing their ideas.

Embed reward and recognition in senior leaders’ brains

Many companies would benefit from more actively implementing positive employee engagement practices, whereby the idea of reward and recognition is embedded in senior leaders’ brains through training and development activity. Even if the wider economic outlook continues to appear fragile, companies can still expand and keep staff motivated, with the help of open communication, clear staff development activities and generous reward programmes.

To download a copy of the Global Workforce Study UK Report, please visit: http://www.towerswatson.com/united-kingdom/research/7556.

Thank you! Your subscription has been confirmed. You'll hear from us soon.