How to improve employee retention – Part 5 – Opportunity for Growth

13th November 2023

This article is part of a series of articles on how to improve employee wellbeing and employee retention. The structure is based on the The US Surgeon General’s Framework for Workplace Mental Health and Well‑Being, and each week we are looking at each “essential” in the framework. 

The full list of articles is:

  1. An introduction to the US Surgeon General’s framework
  2. Protection From Harm
  3. Connection & Community
  4. Work-Life Harmony
  5. Mattering at Work
  6. Opportunity for Growth – you’re reading it 🙂

This week we are looking at “Opportunity For Growth” and the research that shows that, in order to feel happy at work, employees need training, a clear career path and help along the way. This requirement is rooted in the human need for learning and feeling a sense of accomplishment.

Just to be clear, providing opportunities for growth is not just offering the occasional pay rise to your team. Employees need to feel they have opportunities to learn and they need to understand how that training can positively affect their career. Companies need to be proactive. 

“When organisations create more opportunities for learning, accomplishment, and growth, workers become more optimistic about their abilities and more enthusiastic about contributing to the organisation1

According to the Surgeon General’s report, companies need to:

  • Offer quality training, education, and mentoring
  • Foster clear, equitable pathways for career advancement
  • Ensure relevant, reciprocal feedback

Many companies neglect this essential, believing that an occasional pay rise will patch over any employee needs. Secret Source was no exception. In our early days we focused all our effort into creating an amazing “family-like” culture, we believed that by making work fun and by supporting all our team like a best friend, the rest would just fall into place. 

However, we soon realised just how naive we were. When we were two years old we sent out a survey to our team which included the question “do you see yourself working here in one year’s time?” over half our staff said they didn’t! (It’s a small problem when half your team says they want to leave in the next year). 

When we interviewed everyone afterwards the reasons they gave for their answer were because they saw no career in our company, they didn’t know how to earn more and they felt they weren’t progressing professionally.

Over the following year we built our own professional ladder. A matrix that outlined the characteristics of all the different levels of developers in our company, from technical knowledge to communication skills. It showed everyone why they earned the salary they did at the time and what they needed to do to earn more. 

We then built training plans for every developer and set up a mentorship program so everyone had the help they needed to move up the career ladder if they wanted.

Most of the staff who filled out that survey in 2018 are still with Secret Source today.

The hidden benefits of providing staff training

Providing career opportunities does not just increase employee wellbeing. When organisations provide transparent career pathways and advancement opportunities for all workers, it also fosters inclusion and diversity in the workplace. By providing equal training for all employees it eliminates barriers that may otherwise have prevented growth for many individuals in the company.

Creating a plan and giving your team the resources to learn is an amazing start if you’re not doing anything before. But you can’t stop there. Even if you build the training resources necessary, employees still need the support required to advance in that learning. 

Don’t forget your managers!

Companies are usually pretty good about providing their team with line managers and mentors; however, more often than not, because they’re so worried about the training of their core team they often neglect the training of those very managers who are looking after them! 

When you start your career at 21 years old you are not trained to be a manager and, more often, than not you arrive in that position without any training. How are you supposed to manage effectively if you’ve never been taught how to do it?

So, in addition to making sure all your staff have learning opportunities, you also need to ensure that those managers overseeing the training are also educated. At Secret Source we run management workshops, career planning workshops and all our managers have access to the resources they require to perform their role. It’s transformed the professional development in our company.

And that’s it. That’s the end of our series on how to improve employee retention. If you can’t remember everything we’ve talked about, in summary, if you want a happy, engaged workforce that will stay a long time you need to make sure your team:

  1. Feel safe at work, both physically and psychologically
  2. Feel they are part of a community and have the support they need
  3. Have a good work / life balance with clear boundaries
  4. Feel that their work has meaning and an ultimate purpose
  5. Have a clear career path and learning opportunities 

Do this and not only will your team feel happier, do better work and stay longer. Your company will become more productive and your share performance will improve!

If you are struggling with employee retention in your IT team and want to share your experiences and get some practical advice, feel free to get in touch. It’s our mission to share our knowledge, and we love to help – just email our CEO at [email protected].

Alternatively, if you are looking to augment your existing team or outsource some of your development, contact us at [email protected], or just book an appointment with our CEO, Rachel, at Calendly.

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    1. High stress can be costly. (n.d.). American Psychiatric Association Foundation: Center for Workplace Mental Health. Retrieved from  ↩︎