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Helping those who feel ‘stuck’ in their careers: A better way forward for business


How can businesses support those employees who feel ‘stuck’ in their career? At our recent Virtual Roundtable – ‘What stops self-driven careers in their tracks?’ – David North identified the key reasons why organisations can fall short in this area and the remedies that they can pursue.

David identified a spectrum of ‘stuckness’ in career development. At one end, some feel well and truly stuck through underlying and deep psychological factors. At the other end, one finds employees who know how to self-drive their careers but feel they’re not progressing within an organisation. Businesses can do so much to help the latter, but they often need to address their own challenges to do so.

Here are six of the many challenges that in our experience organisations face, alongside some suggested remedies.

  1. Mismatches in the availability and types of career resources. Many employees find it difficult to navigate the career resources available to them. Sometimes, organisations have just thrown too much information at them, and this can feel overwhelming. In other cases, resources are increasingly being provided online, even though some employees may not work in a way that allows them to connect effectively. Businesses therefore need to provide resources in ways more personalised to the individual’s needs. And they also need to find a variety of ways to deliver them, such as notice boards, all hands meetings and career events.
  2. A lack of clarity around how careers are built. Employees have a dearth of information and insights into how careers are built internally. This is a gap that organisations need to fill with relevant and easy to understand guidance. It’s important to set clear expectations for employees and line leaders about their respective responsibilities. And it also really helps to introduce skills taxonomies that enable people to match their capabilities with job and project requirements in other parts of the organisation.
  3. A variety of success stories. In our work with clients, we’re often told that employees don’t see examples of other people, like them, who are pursuing careers successfully. Businesses need to inspire people through career success stories from a wide range of employee backgrounds. Otherwise, an ongoing focus on key talent simply leaves others feeling excluded from career development support.
  4. Little or no feedback. When using internal platforms to apply for development opportunities or jobs, unsuccessful applicants can get understandably frustrated when they receive little or no feedback. Feedback is needed to help people review their options, identify development needs and bridge the skills or experience gap for when the next opportunity comes along.
  5. Managers favour external candidates. When filling vacancies, managers often favour external candidates with more immediate experience of the role. The desire for experience is understandable, but it comes at the price of discouraging internal candidates. Developing in-company talent requires patience, but in the long term gives a strategic, reputational, and cost-saving benefit.
  6. Senior leaders and line managers hoard talent. This can sometimes take the form of disinterest or even resistance, should an employee indicate a desire to broaden their experience in another area. Part of the answer is to engage, recognise and reward leaders and line managers for doing the right thing, combined with annual mobility targets, and accountability for delivering results. Offering employees access to a wider network of career supporters, such as career champions, mentors and coaches, can help them develop the personal agency they need.

Fortunately, all of the above challenges have remedies that any organisation can use. And by working on these, organisations can make all the difference in helping those employees who feel stuck in their careers.

For more information about how our career strategy and development solutions can help in this process, please contact Racquel Perry at

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