In Hollywood, there’s an old truism that says the surefire way to draw a crowd for a show is to give the people what they want. With the majority of employees dissatisfied with their jobs, it’s advice that CLOs would do well to heed.
According to a recent survey of 3,400 professionals in 29 countries conducted by management consultancy Accenture, fewer than half (43 percent of women and 42 percent of men) are satisfied with their current jobs. That finding isn’t a surprise given the lingering effects of a deep recession.
What is surprising is that nearly three-quarters of those same employees (70 percent of women and 69 percent of men) plan to stay with their current employers rather than seek new career opportunities elsewhere. Much of that unwillingness to leave can be chalked up to continued uncertainty in the job market, but it also represents an opportunity for savvy CLOs.
“While there is a level of dissatisfaction, because they’re staying there seems to be a very deliberate choice to take action, to course correct and grow in their careers with their existing employers,” said LaMae Allen deJongh, a partner in Accenture’s financial services practice and managing director, human capital and diversity for Accenture U.S.
“This is an opportunity for companies to embrace that and to work with their employees to figure out and help them achieve their desired level of career advancement and growth, whatever that might be and whatever that might mean.”
The survey results, released by Accenture last week as part of the firm’s recognition of International Women’s Day, found little difference between men and women when it came to job satisfaction. The top reasons for dissatisfaction were being underpaid (47 percent of women, 44 percent of men) and lack of growth opportunities (36 percent for women, 32 percent for men).
Despite that, more than half (59 percent of women, 57 percent of men) said they plan to buckle down and focus on their career by developing new knowledge or skills. This is where CLOs have a real opportunity to re-engage employees, drive higher retention and deliver results to the organization, provided they take the right steps.
“Companies need to better listen to what employees are saying, seek to understand what does that really mean for the individual and then respond to that,” deJongh said. “The actions could take a lot of different forms depending on the specific environment at the company but also what their employees are actually saying they want and need.”
Listening to employees is the first step in giving the people what they want. For women at Accenture, that means investing in mentoring programs to make them relevant, robust and accessible. For other companies, it may be a new training program or expanded job rotation for emerging leaders.
“The key point is for companies to really understand what is it going to be for them and their employees, and that’s really going to come into effect by listening to what they have to say,” she said.
There are several ways for organizations to gather data on what career development opportunities employees would find useful. CLOs can start by re-examining quantitative and qualitative data from existing sources, such as employee engagement surveys. They can also tap into internal employee networks or communities of practice to garner insight into a particular group’s needs.
At Accenture, each employee has a career counselor and coach who can be a valuable source of potential career development data. “Through that counseling process, we’re also able to glean any sort of themes or insights that we should be taking note of,” deJongh said.
But tapping into this opportunity requires more than formal career development programs or expanded mentoring. Managers and leaders also must encourage development through their behavior and actions, such as nudging an employee to tackle a stretch assignment or take on responsibilities requiring a step out of the comfort zone.
“That’s less about anything programmatic or training. That’s about being a leader and helping to develop people,” deJongh said.
At the organizational level, it requires identifying and developing career paths and experiences to groom people and build career paths.
“There’s a window of opportunity here,” deJongh said. “Actively listen to employees and then actively respond.”
Mike Prokopeak is editorial director of Chief Learning Officer magazine. He can be reached at email@example.com.