Three-quarters of employees and decision makers at small UK businesses agree personal development of the workforce is important, according to new research, but staff remain unconvinced their leadership has staff interests at heart.
HR software provider breatheHR surveyed over 1,500 workers and founders to uncover attitudes and experiences towards in-house development, and findings showed Britain’s small company employees felt undersold.
Almost a third of workers had no personal development meetings outside of annual appraisals, while a fifth received feedback every few months. Fewer than one in ten had monthly discussions regarding progress.
Worryingly, the appraisal process itself was found wanting as an effective tool. A quarter of workers said the system was “a waste of time”, while even less found it motivating.
Demonstrating the detachment between founders and their workforce, almost half of bosses felt the system was useful.
Meanwhile, over one in ten staff claimed their employer arrived at annual appraisals unprepared.
Commenting on the findings, Jonathan Richards, breatheHR CEO, said a “big gap” was evident between the level of feedback employees wanted and what bosses were delivering.
“It’s not enough to have a system in place: you’ve got to walk the walk and talk the talk,” he said.
“If you take a moment to Google ‘what employees want’ – the results will point to one similar area: they want feedback, they want a clear career progression, to develop, goals and most importantly – purpose.
“Employees want a dynamic process that allows for ongoing and continuous development, but what they’re getting falls well short of their expectations.”
When asked on key company priorities, founders ranked their employees’ personal development below most other concerns.
Customer retention, new clients and cash flow were all cited as more important to a business owner than staff satisfaction, which came just above supplier relationships.
The research suggested younger employers were most receptive to the personal development expectations of workers, putting it in their top three business priorities.
“Businesses that dismiss personal development as ‘the fluffy stuff’ are gravely underestimating the impact it has on motivation and morale,” Richards added.
“Your people are your competitive advantage; the very soul of your company. They want to know that you understand their ambitions and support them. Personal development is key to that.
“The choice is simple: continue with things as they are and see the chasm between leadership and employees widen, or pioneer a new way and reap the rewards.”
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