Employers need to recognise the value of career development

Having clear career pathways to attract and retain sought-after specialists in STEM is crucial 

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Summary

Career development helps retention

Research highlights

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Key take-away

STEM employers who can deliver on career development requirements stand a better chance of retaining key members of their workforce

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Key statistic

42% (2,082) of overall respondents say that career development opportunities will be one of the most important factors when they are searching for new roles

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Summary

Offering a clear route to professional development and skills training within an organisation makes it a more attractive proposition for STEM candidates. Yet STEM employers sometimes don’t recognise that having a career trajectory in place is important to new recruits from their first day at work, not something that kicks in after six months. Evidence strongly indicates that it can become a deal-breaker when employees feel that it’s time for a career change.

The SThree How the STEM World Works research confirms its importance: 42% (2,082) of total respondents cite it as an important factor when searching for new roles, behind salary/benefits (60%), flexible working options (54%) and work/life balance (53%) (Table 8). This aligns with results from the SThree Youth Survey, where opportunities for career development rated consistently as an influential factor in wanting to pursue a career in STEM.

Furthermore, a lack of career development acts as spur to leaving a job. This is particularly the case when it’s considered that businesses can be reluctant to offer enhanced salary or bonus packages unless an employee’s role changes significantly. Without a clear career development path, those opportunities become limited. In such cases it’s little wonder when employees take shorter-term contracts and look externally for better alternatives.

The Work Institute’s 2020 Retention Report reflects our survey findings, showing that a lack of development opportunities is the top reason for leaving for the 10th consecutive year. “Employees 42% (2,082) of overall respondents say that career development opportunities will be one of the most important factors when they are searching for new roles. 42% leave because they want to learn, grow and be challenged in their roles at work,” the Work Institute states. “If not challenged, they will find a job where they will be.”

“Attrition has always been costly for companies, but in many sectors the cost of losing employees is rising, due to the tight labour markets and the increasingly collaborative nature of jobs,” Brian Kropp, HR Practice Group VP at Gartner, said back in 2018. “If employees do not see [their employers] investing in their future with them, they are going to look somewhere else [to progress their careers].”

Other contributory factors lead to career development frustrations. Gartner research found that over the past decade, due to structural rationalisation, many organisations have removed several layers of middle management. This has resulted in fewer opportunities for internal promotion.

 

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Career development helps retention

Only candidates in Singapore (71%) and the United Arab Emirates (62%) said that career development opportunities were the most important issues for them when looking for a new role. It remains, however, an important consideration for those in several countries, including Japan (74%), Austria (50%) and the USA (58%).

Some 14% of respondents put a greater focus on career development and growth opportunities available in the 12 months prior to participating in the survey (Table 9). Asked which of these changes will they still consider when searching for a role, 43% indicated career development/growth opportunities (Table 10).

In the SThree STEM Youth Survey, meanwhile, 34% of respondents put ‘continuous learning and development’ among their top three reasons for pursuing a career in STEM. A further 31% included ‘opportunities for career development’.

“STEM companies are placing much more emphasis on career development and training to not only attract, but also retain their top talent,” says SThree CEO Timo Lehne. “Further, we see that many STEM employers now believe that ensuring candidates can see that they have a career path that is structured is critical to retaining highly-skilled STEM professionals.”

Timo adds: “Anecdotal evidence of training opportunities is especially evident in the IT and other tech sectors, as well as in life sciences. There are also more limited opportunities in manufacturing.”

Career development tables

How the STEM World Works

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