APM: UK business missing an opportunity for growth

UK businesses were hit by rising numbers of employees leaving their jobs voluntarily during 2021, with many employers facing the prospect of a hiring crunch throughout 2022 and a detrimental impact on their bottom line as time and resources are spent recruiting and training new staff. Half of UK employees feel frustrated that there is ‘nowhere to go’ at their current workplace, according to professionals surveyed by Association for Project Management (APM), the chartered membership organisation for the project profession.

The poll of 2,000 UK full and part time employees points to a profound shift in employee consciousness and labour market dynamics that’s been referred to as ‘the Great Resignation’. Many workers are re-evaluating and prioritising job satisfaction since returning to the office after the pandemic.

More than a quarter (28%) of UK employees surveyed said that they had previously changed careers due to a lack of upward mobility. A further 35% said they had seriously considered a career change in order to have more opportunities for progression. Most businesses have altered their working practices since Covid-19, to provide more flexibility and greater employee benefits. Despite this, although 40% of employees believe they have leadership qualities and 38% feel they have project management skills hidden below the surface of what they present at work, the survey suggests that very little development is being offered to UK workers to help them further hone and use these qualities.

Furthermore, when shown a list of training courses in areas like communication, teamwork and time management, 45% of employees said they were currently being offered no training in any of these areas. As a result, a third of employees actively hold back their ‘secret skills’ because they are not part of their current job description.

Such is the appetite for development that one in ten employees reported pursuing skills development courses in their own time, saying that taking this initiative has made them more confident in applying for roles at other companies that offer a better salary. The research indicates that if businesses do not take employee development into account, they might find that workers will take it upon themselves to train up and get out.

Despite this, a significant 38% of survey respondents said they would prefer to advance within their current workplace. This disjunction highlights a widely overlooked solution to both the skills gap crisis and employee dissatisfaction, whereby investing time into the existing workforce to promote these secret skills just might be the answer, APM claims.

The process of sourcing, recruiting and onboarding a new employee is costly and resource-intensive, putting pressure on businesses at a time when their attention could better be focused elsewhere. A 2022 study by the Society of Human Resource Management asserts that the cost of replacing an employee can cost a business an average of six to nine months of their salary, so staff retention must be prioritised over replacement.

Professor Adam Boddison, Chief Executive at APM, says there is a clear solution to the job market predicament, commenting “It’s a win-win situation. Employees are seeking out new roles to match their changing demands and aspirations, and businesses want to retain talent in their workforce as tight margins continue to pinch nearly every industry.

“Adapting working models to meet employee needs, by offering more training, is a crucial step for businesses to take if they want to keep workers happy, mitigating the costs of re-hiring or being left short-staffed.”