Towers Watson: Majority feels career hits dead-end

04 November 2014

Three-quarters of UK professionals say they are hit by the 'dead-end job epidemic', concludes Towers Watson in a new research. As career advancement is named the top reason for professionals to leave a company – currently 41% of UK employees feel they need to switch companies to advance their career – employers should create a clear career development path for employees to keep them engaged and committed to the company.

‘Dead end’ of UK employees
In its recently released ‘Global Workforce Study’ report consulting firm Towers Watson researched the attitudes and concerns of employees around the world. The research shows that 73% of skilled UK professionals feel their career has hit a ‘dead end’ or has even worsened in the past year. The term ‘dead end’ has been used in the past to refer to low-paid workers, but, as the problem is found across all professional levels, the term “now applies to a high percentage of professional positions, where there are limited opportunities to progress and achieve greater financial success,” explains Carole Hathaway, Global Leader of Towers Watson’s Rewards Practice.

Top 5 reasons for joining current employer

In the report, the firm reveals the top reasons to join and the top reasons to leave a company. ‘Pay’ is listed as the most important reason to join the current employer, followed by job security. Career advancement is a close third reason, and in addition, the top reason for employees to leave a company. “A crucial component of attracting and retaining the most talented staff is for employers to be actively supporting employees in achieving their objectives and rising to new heights in their career,” says Hathaway.

Looking at the opportunities given for career advancement, 41% of the UK employees feel they need to find a new job to climb the corporate ranks and 22% say they have not discussed any career development in the past year. According to Nick Tatchell, Director of Organisational Surveys and Insights Practice at Tower Watson, this is something employers should recognise. “With employees citing the opportunity to advance their career as one of the top reasons to choose and stay with a company, seeing a clear path to climb the career ladder is clearly crucial to earning their engagement at work.” Tatchell states that career development is a central component of sustainable business success, and failure to accommodate employees’ needs and wishes might lead to companies losing their skilled professionals. “Without this, ambitious individuals can become disengaged and start looking around for a new role even when other aspects of the job – such as pay, benefits and company culture – are acceptable,” adds Hathaway.

Top 5 reasons to leave current employer


Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

17 April 2019

Soft skills matter in the workplace just as much as technical expertise, writes Samantha Caine, Managing Director of Business Linked Teams.

For too long technical expertise has been seen as the marker of a strong candidate for development into a sales or leadership position. Sales and leadership candidates are tasked with demonstrating a diverse and wide-ranging set of technical skills, yet their aptitude in these technical skills or ‘hard skills’ cannot signify great leadership potential. This is why a healthy balance of soft skills and technical ability is required. 

So what exactly is the difference between technical skills and soft skills? In engineering, it’s crucial to demonstrate knowledge of physics as well as a strong grasp on mathematical equations. Yet, in any industry, it’s important for leaders to be able to interact with other people effectively with soft skills like communication, empathy and adaptability. 

Business Linked Team’s 2018 study into internal leadership development revealed that 69% of large organisations are prioritising the identification and development of future leaders from within the workforce. As more and more organisations begin to invest in sales or leadership development within their existing workforces, more focus needs to be placed on ensuring the right soft skills are in place. 

With those soft skills in place throughout the workforce, the business will benefit from a wider pool of potential leaders developing under their noses, and it should be the same where sales candidates are concerned. 

It’s not just about easier access to ideal candidates for these positions without the rigmarole of recruiting from outside of the organisation. The leadership development study also found that 89% of HR decision makers say succession planning has become a top priority. Those currently serving in leadership positions can’t lead forever and the same goes for those generating sales for the business.

Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

From people leaving for new opportunities or retirement, to people simply stepping aside to focus on other areas of the business, successful leaders and salespeople require experienced and capable successors that will be ready and able to confidently step into their shoes and pick up the mantle without the business experiencing any lapse in performance.

Soft skills make stronger candidates

When it comes to the soft skills required, a strong leader must be able to manage through clear communication and effective time management, coaching and goal setting. They must be able to demonstrate empathy and empower their teams to be successful, productive and fully engaged. And beyond simply giving direction, they must also be able to take direction from those above them and cascade the business strategy down through their teams. 

A strong sales candidate must possess the ability to communicate value to the customer, negotiate well and protect margin or the ability to increase the scope of a particular sales opportunity. 

With the relevant soft skills in place, the business will benefit from increased productivity, greater agility against changing market conditions and greater transparency. In turn, this will provide visibility on issues and inefficiencies while removing opportunity for miscommunication. All of this can transform the culture of a department, improving employee satisfaction and reducing staff turnover. 

Ultimately, developing leadership or sales candidates will require the business to strike the right balance between technical skills and soft skills, and this requires an effective and sustained learning journey.

A balanced learning journey

Facilitating and supporting the development of leadership and sales is best achieved by establishing training groups. By cultivating training groups, businesses are creating talent pools that will inspire and support each other on the learning journey. However, personal goals and learning objectives must be defined for each individual based on their own existing skillsets and the skills that each individual needs to develop. 

With the emergence of e-learning, businesses recognise the value of online-based learning activities, yet many make the mistake of opting for one-size-fits-all solutions which are solely focused on self-study. A development solution will only deliver true return on investment if it combines e-learning activities with group learning activities that provide opportunity for shared experiences and support.

A blended learning solution that combines self-study and face-to-face group learning activities will aid strong development of the talent pool through shared experiences. Through these shared experiences, those undergoing the training will organically develop a support network that supports the development of the group as much as it supports the development of each individual. 

The blended learning approach is supported by one of the seven principles of human learning that socially supported interactions aid the individual development of expertise, metacognitive skills, and formation of the learner’s sense of self. The strongest opportunities for development can be unlocked by blending workshops with online activities such as virtual sessions, peer coaching, self-study, online games and business simulations. But it’s crucial to provide a blend of one-to-one and group sessions too.

Beyond delivering a better learning outcome for the employee, the blended learning approach allows organisations to adapt their training quickly and easily to shifting business demands in an ever-changing landscape.