War on talent | Are you helping your talent to blossom?


As the war on talent wages on, it’s getting harder and harder to retain top talent. Therefore, it is vital to understand what determines whether a high potential employee stays long enough for that potential to be realised or leaves to develop their career elsewhere.

Senior development director Rachel Burlton of leadership development organisation Common Purpose reveals the barriers that limit junior managers from fulfilling their potential as leaders of tomorrow.

Rachel Burlton, senior development director at leadership development organisation Common Purpose:

“Worryingly, research we recently conducted found that over half of junior managers are not fulfilled by their work, and that employers are failing to respond to this unhappiness and frustration – leading to a mass haemorrhaging of junior managers, with over half either actively searching for or thinking about a new job…

Asked what their employers could do to make them stay, there was widespread certainty that continuing professional development could make their roles more fulfilling, but while nearly all had received training, only a third found it rewarding in terms of job fulfillment. The training was perceived to enhance career prospects, but fell short in addressing wider aspirations and life goals.”

So what type of training did they think would help them develop their careers and enable them to feel fulfilled in their job?

“There was a strong belief that peer-to-peer learning and external experiences would help them, with over half of junior managers wanting increased access to diverse experiences and new connections outside their own sector. Common Purpose believes that emerging leaders need to be able to interact with a diverse range of leaders by taking them out into the wider society to grapple with real life problems first-hand.

However, with such a clear understanding of the type of training needed to enrich their jobs, there was a striking lack of awareness of how to access it. While three quarters of junior managers have considered ways to make their jobs more fulfilling, nearly one in three say they don’t know where to go for training and development opportunities.

This is not surprising considering that 84% of respondents say they lack support from their employer in helping them to seek this training. The answer is clear, the most successful and dynamic organisations are those that nurture the people they depend on for future success. It’s easy to talk about encouraging emerging talent to blossom, but employers need to truly commit to making this happen.”

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18 Responses to War on talent | Are you helping your talent to blossom?

  1. Heather Reagan 2 November 2007 at 1:08 pm #

    There is definitely a need for more innovative ways of training staff. I know that I am probably too focused on skills development and don’t consider enough what staff can get out of it too.

    It is worrying that so many are unhappy.

  2. Claire Pennington 2 November 2007 at 1:15 pm #

    How are we not aware of this?

    I think that junior mangers need to get better at communicating their frustration instead of leaving, and probably ending up in the same position.

    There are many reasons why a person might be unhappy in their job, and some of them are worth leaving for, but if an employee knows how to make it better, they need to say so!

    Of course they want fulfilling jobs, all they need to do if say when they aren’t fulfilled and we can do something about it.

    We want to keep our top talent, and are happy to find ways to help them stay.

  3. Maeve Sheehy 2 November 2007 at 1:35 pm #

    With tightening training budgets, it can be hard to justify training that isn’t absolutely necessary, which gives employees more than just the skills they need to do their job. But this is way too short-sighted, and will be to our detriment. This research shows how we have to be more strategic in our choice of training, otherwise we are ‘training to stand still’ and not developing the other competencies we need for the long-term good of the organization. As someone who sources, designs, and delivers training, I understand that the impact on the bottom-line is the most important thing when measuring training, and so it probably should be. However, the focus should now move to impact on the bottom line in five years time and not in the next year.

  4. Mark Joyner 2 November 2007 at 2:22 pm #

    “84% saying they lack support from their employer in helping them to seek this training.”

    That might seem like a high statistic, but it is true. Well if my friends and I are anything to go by:-)

    You work hard at university. Manage to get on a fast-track graduate trainee scheme. Get a job with a nice title. Earn a good salary (for your age). Are ready to move to the next stage……… and then boom. You find your nose pressed against a glass ceiling that you didn’t know was there.

    You are ready to grow and develop as a manager and finally arrive at a place that you think will be fulfilling, but nobody tells you that you don’t have a visa to go there, or even how to get one.

    So yes, many of us so-called ‘high fliers’ and ‘top talent’ are incredibly frustrated. We want more than just mundane work and are ready to take it on, but we need help in realising it.

    I would relish the chance to have more interesting training that would expose me to new experiences and people. I am ready to grow and stretched, I just can’t do it without a little help from my friends in HR.


  5. Jackie 2 November 2007 at 2:36 pm #

    I have just graduated from a programme that allowed me to meet people I normally wouldn’t, not only the speakers, but participants too, and I can honestly say that it was one of the most exciting and rewarding things I have ever done. I have unearthed strengths that I didn’t know I had, and have many ideas that I have already put into practice.

    I guess I am one of the lucky 16% as I was already fulfilled in my job, but not all my colleagues feel this way, but at least I now have the competencies and know-how to help make things better for them.

  6. HR Handyman 2 November 2007 at 2:58 pm #

    There is no one size that fits all. Training needs to be tailored to the employee. So, while basic training with a narrow focus might be enough to satisfy some, that is rarely enough to satisfy high potentials. They need something more challenging, and different from what they are used to. I have seen so many bloom when they have been given the opportunity to take part in programmes that take them outside their comfort zone and challenge them, that is where they are most happy and comfortable.

    I think it boils down to that they are bored, and need a good challenge.

  7. Charlie Blizzard 2 November 2007 at 3:41 pm #

    This is really good point, and a clear way of enagaging staff at every level – I don’t think the problem is any less further up the food chain.

    But it can’t just be the inidividual deciding what training they need – any organisation needs to match individual training with its own business goals. People also miss areas they can improve themselves that their colleagues and line managers can spot.

  8. Cat Wood 2 November 2007 at 3:56 pm #

    It is a worrying statistic that ’84% say they lack support from their employer in helping them to seek this training’, however this represents a great opportunity for employers to take heed and provide training for their most important resource.

  9. Maeve Sheehy 2 November 2007 at 4:02 pm #

    That is true, but surely retaining top talent is a business goal.

    They are being very shortsighted if not.

  10. Mark Joyner 2 November 2007 at 4:24 pm #

    I second that Maeve! I wish my HR department thought more like you.


  11. Katie 2 November 2007 at 4:57 pm #

    Its not rocket science – if you don’t work hard at developing and motivating your talent, somebody else will.

  12. Cynthia D'Amour 3 November 2007 at 2:00 am #

    Allowing younger staff to get involved in their professional associations can be a way for them to get leadership training as well as build a professional network that can help them in their position.

    Another affordable training option may be some of the local community organizations. As staff makes a difference in the local area they may also help build the reputation of the business as a caring organization.

    At the Chapter Leaders Playground, we help leaders (both future and experienced) from across organizations connect to learn from each other. The diverse conversations have fueled participants’ enthusiasm for both what they are doing as volunteer leaders and their effectiveness at work.

  13. Glyn 5 November 2007 at 9:33 am #

    We need to wake up to the fact that this generation of emerging talent is different in it’s thinking and expectations to the previous generation. Most of the people in their thirties and forties I know who have worked at a high level for most of their lives are now suffering a real crisis of meaning (and confidence) we have to address this need for meaning and personal fulfillment in the workplace early on so that we don’t end up with a huge cohort of disengaged cynics further down the line!

  14. Peggy 5 November 2007 at 10:39 am #

    Training is great but often there isn’t the opportunity to put it into practise!!! Somehow we are all expected to attend training, keep on top of to do lists, produce the expected results and then introduce what we have learned!!!

    If we gave more time and space for planning in all departments inculding HR we might not give in and feel pressured into looking for new jobs in the hope of managing our work loads!!!

  15. tom glossop 5 November 2007 at 11:21 am #

    No one has mentioned performance management!
    This is surely the most important tool available to managers and staff as a way of identifying strengths and weaknesses and therefor training needs. When used properly ( not as a stick to beat employees) it gives both sides the opportunity to discuss training needs,successes/failures, frustrations and identify positive ways forward which is for the benefit of the junior worker and the advantage of the employer.

  16. Julie Warrington 5 November 2007 at 4:12 pm #

    I agree with the comment on perfomrance management. Coaching and development discssions are the arena for leaders to talk to their people about what training they need and for employees to be forthright about what they need to develop.

    We must be concious however that we are honest about our peoples’ aspirations and where possible we need as leaders to commit to developing our people into the talent of the future.

  17. Alwyn Onley 6 November 2007 at 9:09 am #

    I think that it would be more useful to examine the different approaches of the organisations that are successful in retaining and developing their talented staff. I think there is an annual survey of companies people most wish to work for. Learn from those who succeed rather than from those who don’t.
    May I also make a plea for consideration of the value of allowing middle managers to practice their potential roles by promoting secondments to charitable and voluntary sector organisations. It doesn’t have to be full time but even a couple of days a month can make a big difference to the skills base of the recipient organiasation and at the same time offer the secondee and opportunity to develop, use and transfer their skills. If the host organisation cannot yet provide vertical developmental opportunities, career enrichment can be obtained from such horizontal ones.

  18. Jackie Wright 7 November 2007 at 8:24 am #

    As someone who has just undertaken the very course you describe and who manages 50 staff I feel the research confirms what I have found. The training can be uplifting and inspiring but time must be given for participants to practise their newly aquired skills and not just be thrown back into day to day firefighting mode. The talent within our workforce must be nurtured and supported but shouldn’t that happen at all levels of management!