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Third of UK employees disappointed with their career progression

New CIPD report finds poor quality careers advice at school and poor line management at work to blame, particularly among those from poorer backgrounds

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A third (33%) of UK employees say their career progression to date has failed to meet their expectations, with poor careers advice one of the reasons cited as stopping them from getting into the right jobs and bad line management preventing them from getting on once in work. 

This is according the latest Employee Outlook Survey: Focus on Skills and Careers from the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development. The survey of over 2,000 employees considered the key factors relating to employees’ upbringing, education and workplace that affect whether or not their career progression had met their expectations.

It found that over a quarter (26%) of those whose career has failed to live up to their expectations identified poor-quality career advice and guidance at school as a key factor to blame, with three in ten (29%) saying they are in the wrong career so cannot show their strengths or potential. The most common workplace factor behind career disappointment is poor line management, cited by four in ten (39%) employees whose career has failed to meet expectations, followed by a lack of effective training programmes (34%) and negative office politics (34%).

Ben Willmott, Head of Public Policy at the CIPD, commented: “Poor careers advice and guidance is holding back too many people at the start of their working lives and contributing to the increasing gap between the jobs that people end up in versus the skills that they have. This skills mismatch undermines job satisfaction, employee engagement and ultimately productivity.

“For many, this problem is then compounded when they do enter the labour market by poor line management and a lack of effective training, meaning their skills are often left unidentified and under-developed. Good line managers coach and develop people and identify and help build on their strengths so they can reach their potential.”

The survey also found a number of factors that disproportionately hold back people that are from financially disadvantaged backgrounds. The highest proportion of respondents whose career had failed to meet their expectations were from poor or very poor backgrounds (39%). Four in ten of these respondents identified inadequate line management (42%) and a lack of training programmes (42%) at work as key reasons, compared to 32% and 30% respectively of those from well-off backgrounds. Similarly, a third (33%) of respondents who are from poor backgrounds and disappointed with their career progression identified not being able to afford to invest in their own personal development outside of work as a key factor, compared to just 8% from well-off backgrounds.

Willmott continues: “The survey shows the high proportion of people from poor backgrounds that are being held back because they cannot afford to invest in their own personal development by studying for a qualification or developing new skills. This highlights the importance of providing life-long learning opportunities for people of all ages. We need government to ensure that publicly-funded further education and adult skills are protected in the future and not treated as a poor relation to higher education. It’s also flags how important training and development opportunities in the workplace are, to enable people from more disadvantaged backgrounds to progress.”

The CIPD recommends that employers should:

  • Prioritise line management development – good quality line management is at the heart of effective progression in the workplace and poor line management holds people back
  • Review their approach to flexible working practices – employees that work flexibly or on part-time basis should have the same opportunities to learn, develop and progress at work as full-time employees
  • Improve access to training – development opportunities in the workplace are crucial to progression and with the world of work constantly changing, it’s in employers’ interest to invest in the skills of their workforce and keep their workers engaged