Careers-driven retention: it takes more than just a framework

Careers-driven retention: it takes more than just a framework

Posted byTim Johanson on

Let's talk about retention.

We know 82% of employees are open for new opportunities[1]. We know each time someone leaves it costs you up to 200% of their salary[2]. And we know that 27% of people listed a lack of career opportunities as the reason they would leave in the next year (number 1 reason)[3]. It's a big big problem.

Think about the last exit interviews you conducted. Does this sound familiar?

I love the company but I can't see how to progress here

Or maybe you haven't yet had significant churn, but you're getting the indicators. People are asking...

What do I have to do to get into the next role?


I'm not sure what I'm going to do next...

So what do you do?

You build a progression framework right?

You can show people what skills are expected in each role in the business. Once they've got visibility they'll be happy that's what they're asking for. And actually, having detailed job descriptions will be useful moving forward with hiring. And it'd be great to be able to map the missing skills in the team. Perhaps it'll allow you to provide specific feedback to Mike about his attention to detail and communication.

We see this all the time. But what's happened here? You've forgotten why you set out on this task. Providing Mike with feedback about the things he's not doing might be important as a manager, but is it going to help with preventing him look elsewhere for a new opportunity?

Let's start again.

If retention is your goal. Then focus on the team member. And keep your focus on the team member.

What does an employee focus mean?

To show your employee there's internal progression you need to show them where they could go, but also how they might get there and then help them to do that.

  • Where. Build a progression framework. Absolutely. But build a simple one. This is not about mapping every skill they might need, or creating the perfect job description. This is about providing them with a framework to progress. Someone being able to engage with 10 skills is achievable. Being able to engage with 25...not achievable. And this is about them. Take a team member centric view, prioritise the progression conversation that is the key to making team members feel like they're progressing, and keep the framework simple.

  • How. Hold progression conversations and look forward not back. Progression should be about where are your skills at and how can we move them forward. This is not performance management. No-one stopped looking for a new role externally because of a performance review, so don't use progression conversations for that. It doesn't matter if this is a high flyer, or someone who is struggling, everyone has goals, so make the progression conversations:

    • Forward looking - about where they're at and what they can do to move forward.
    • Positive - the team member should enjoy, feel energised by, and wants to repeat.
    • Frequent - by keeping the number of skills in the framework low conversations can be faster and more frequent.

    Remember this is about them. Because we're here for other reason.

  • Help them. Track their progress. Encourage them to track their own progress. Log their wins big or small. Get your team members thinking about their progress every week, or even every day. By building habits around tracking progress you'll highlight all the good work they're already doing but aren't logging. Frequent consideration of progression leads to positive conversations around progression leads to...progression.


Retention is key. Making people feel like they're doing meaningful work and are progressing their career, are the biggest things you can do to make them find their next opportunity internally rather than externally.

Progression frameworks will help you. But only if they're centred on the team member. Not on management or HR. Make it about the team member, make it clear how they can move forward and where they can go, and watch your satisfaction scores rise. And in time, you will smash your retention targets and never hear "I can't see how to progress here" in an exit interview ever again.

  1. Jobseeker nation report 2018 ↩︎

  2. CAP study ↩︎

  3. Talent 2020 Deloite ↩︎

Picture of Tim Johanson

Posted by Tim Johanson

Tim works in operations at Progression


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