Lack of career clarity hinders employee retention

Most workers would stay with current employers longer if the workers had a clear vision of their career path. The problem: Only 40% of employees say they have a well-defined path, and more than half say they receive little to no input from managers about how to perform better in their jobs.

Those are key takeaways from a new survey by Mercer of 1,520 North American workers, who also say their companies are often inconsistent when it comes to transparency about opportunities for advancement.

Employee engagement is a continued concern for organisations; less than 30% of workers in one annual US survey are considered highly engaged, and the percentage of disengaged workers has risen since 2011. In a global survey by Aon Hewitt, the overall work experience of employees is in decline, tied mainly to perception about the programmes and resources that can help workers’ growth and performance.

Employers often talk about their most important assets being people, but they don’t always follow through with concrete actions.

That’s led to a hefty portion of workers feeling less than enthusiastic about their current position. In the Mercer survey, 32% said they have a job, not a career. In a separate question, 78% said they would remain longer with their employer if they saw a career path with the current organisation.

Instead of clarity, there is uncertainty; 26% said their employer does not make it easy to understand opportunities for advancement within the organisation, and another 27% said those opportunities are conveyed only from time to time. Fifty-one per cent said they receive no input (22%) or only occasional input (29%) from superiors about how to perform better.

“Clearly, lack of communication from managers along with lack of transparency about career progression within the organisation is impacting employee loyalty and hampering retention efforts,” Ilene Siscovick, partner and North America talent and career leader at Mercer, said in a news release. “By defining advancement opportunities and conveying related competencies, companies can equip employees with the necessary information to grow professionally and financially.”

It’s not only employers who struggle with some parts of employee development. The workers themselves are not necessarily set on their next move; about half (53%) said they will be with their current employer one year from now.

Related CGMA Magazine content:

Companies Aware of, but Not Acting On, Need to Alter Engagement Strategies”: Most companies are aware of the need to focus more on employee engagement, but few say they are doing enough to adapt to coming changes.

4 Ways to Unlock Employee Performance”: Companies that encourage collaboration boost employee productivity, but corporate culture frequently works against employees helping each other make company-wide accomplishments, research suggests. Find out four ways to overcome these hurdles and unlock employee performance.

Neil Amato ( is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.