Jobs versus careers: What does your organization offer?

Employee retention hinges on more than just opportunities for advancement

Do your employees feel they can have a career with your organization, or do they feel they just have a job?

The notion of job versus career is an important distinction to the extent that it influences employee retention and commitment. Employees who see themselves as having opportunities beyond their current positions may be more likely to stay with an organization, and may potentially be more engaged because they want to demonstrate they are worthy of a promotion.

But it’s important not to over-generalize this. In this day and age of lean organizational structures, many employees may not see a lot of opportunity for upward mobility. Still others may be quite happy doing what they’re doing and have no burning desire to move into a more senior role.

In either case, employees can still be strong performers with no intentions to seek job opportunities elsewhere.

And that’s a good thing, because a recent survey by found nearly three out of five Canadian workers (58 per cent) feel they have “just a job” versus a career. The survey covered responses from 426 full-time, private sector employees across industries and company sizes.

Nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of respondents said they plan to change jobs this year, up from 17 per cent last year.

What’s interesting about the survey findings is that they underscore what matters most to employees. This helps highlight what organizations should focus on if they want to retain and engage top talent.

Those who report being dissatisfied with their jobs (18 per cent of respondents) cite some common concerns:

  • Don’t feel valued, I feel like just a number (61 per cent).
  • My salary (56 per cent).
  • I don’t like my boss (43 per cent).
  • Inability to make a difference (33 per cent).
  • No training/learning opportunities (31 per cent).
  • I don’t have a good work/life balance (27 per cent).
  • I don’t feel challenged (26 per cent).

Those who indicate they are satisfied with their current jobs (57 per cent) also cite their key reasons:

  • I like the people I work with (80 per cent).
  • Benefits (62 per cent).
  • I have a good work/life balance (58 per cent).
  • I like my boss (54 per cent).
  • I feel valued/my accomplishments are recognized (48 per cent).
  • My salary (42 per cent).

The survey also asked respondents to indicate what they saw as the best ways for organizations to increase employee retention. Top responses included:

  • Raising salaries (74 per cent).
  • Increasing benefits (55 per cent).
  • Ask employees what changes they want to see and put feedback into action (52 per cent).
  • Provide flexible work schedules (51 per cent).
  • Increase training/learning opportunities (40 per cent).
  • Provide special perks – free lunches, concierge services, game room, etc. (32 per cent).

Notably, a greater emphasis on training opportunities did not rank as high as other elements, and there was no mention of advancement opportunities – although that may not have been one of the choices in the survey.

This suggests organizations can benefit from delivering great jobs, even if they cannot offer lavish career paths.

Although foundational elements such as compensation and benefits are essential, so too is attention to the relationship side of the equation – including the quality of supervision, opportunities for input, recognition, and a positive and flexible work environment.

These aren’t new revelations, but they may be reassuring to organizations contending with limited opportunities for advancement. Employees may well be satisfied with having a job versus a career if that job is a good one.

Claudine Kapel

Claudine Kapel is principal of Kapel and Associates Inc., a human resources consulting firm specializing in compensation design, performance management, and employee communications. Claudine is also the co-author of The HR Manager’s Guide to Total Rewards and Straight Talk on Managing Human Resources.
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