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Productivity and career development

Published23.06.20
Updated08.07.20

Trialling the Be Bold in your Career programme (independent report)

Is there a link between productivity and career development? This government-funded trial looked at changes to ways of working as result of an intensive career coaching programme.

Productivity has been identified as a priority by the UK government since the 2008 economic downturn. Organisations large and small have their own definitions of productivity, crucial to their success. Invariably these are linked to good management, employee engagement, and the development of skills.

In April 2019 we completed a six month proof-of-concept trial, to study the productivity impact of the Be Bold in your Career online career development programme. The focus was on medium-sized professional services organisations (especially legal services) and the trial was funded by the UK government’s Innovate UK fund, and evaluated by the Institute of Employment Studies (IES). This summary provides highlights from the IES report.

Eleven organisations took part, with 30-160 staff. Reasons they gave for wanting to take part included:

  • Helping staff adjust to organisational change, in the face of anticipated automation and changing roles
  • Helping retain valued staff for longer
  • Helping reshape the annual review process to focus more on quality conversations

Results of the Be Bold in your Career programme

In total 93 people took part in the Be Bold programme. The most frequent reason for taking part was for ‘career progression’. In addition, 43 managers took part in a parallel Unlocking Potential programme, designed to support conversations with their staff. The evaluation used interviews, surveys, online polls and a workshop with stakeholders.

Before (the programme), I would have just thought ‘I don’t need to set goals, that’s fine, I just need to get on with it.’ But actually, by setting goals, it’s really good for professional development and assists me in my role.

The IES evaluation identified some barriers for smaller organisations:

  • Engaging organisations: Engaging firms proved particularly challenging, and could limit the potential for large numbers of SMEs to benefit, or take part in a large-scale trial.
  • Engaging individuals: Lack of time (workload) and lack of motivation or self-discipline were identified as barriers for individual participants.

Participants experienced a range of positive impacts. Their increased confidence and personal agency in particular had a number of direct and indirect organisational productivity benefits:

  • Greater confidence and agency with respect to their career and work.
  • Initiating more productive conversations with their managers.
  • Finding ways to do their job more effectively*.
  • More inclined to develop their careers within their organisation rather than outside.

Managers gained confidence to initiate more, better quality conversations with their reports.

*More than half of the participants who responded to the evaluation survey described finding ways to do their job more effectively. For example, one participant was encouraged to talk to their manager about opportunities for adopting new software that could speed up existing processes and help the business go paperless.

I’ve definitely been putting forward my thoughts and feelings more about how I could assist the firm, or how this might work better than something that’s already put in place. So it has given me a lot of confidence.

Overall, this trial showed encouraging signs of changes to behaviour that are likely to impact productivity. A larger, longer-term pilot would identify if online career coaching interventions result in long-term productivity gains.

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