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The Importance of In Work Progression

7 min read

In work progression is also known as ‘career progression’, ‘job progression’, ‘career advancement’ or ‘career growth’.  It can also sometimes be referred to as ‘climbing the ladder’. This essentially looks at the employee’s journey within their company and the roles they move into. It’s all about internal promotion and how this leads to increases in pay and responsibilities. Work progression is an integral part of a company’s talent management strategy.

In this article, we’ll guide you through: 

Benefits of In Work Progression

Improves retention rates

When organisations promote from within, individuals are less likely to look elsewhere for their career development. A study revealed that 63% of employees perceive lack of career advancement opportunities as a reason to resign. Making opportunities visible and reachable to employees will help to build company loyalty and you will see a drop in employee turnover metrics. This also helps with minimising recruitment costs. 


Increases profit 

When organisations retain top talent, they also retain their valuable industry and company-specific knowledge. This means that you’re not having to repeatedly train someone to do the same thing. Valuable knowledge about how the organisation operates also means that individuals promoted internally have a headstart compared to those recruited externally. They know how your company works. They might even know how to make it better. 

Creates a culture of high performance and personal development

By offering opportunities for career progression, you will cultivate a team of individuals who strive for personal development. This will create a culture of high performance across your team and will, in turn, build morale and motivation. 

Improves employee engagement

Similarly, showing your team that you believe in them and want to invest in them will build employee engagement across your workforce. Having a team who are highly engaged will mean that they are more receptive to changes with the view of driving business. Engaged employees will also help leaders understand what needs to change to improve operations. 

Morally, it’s the right thing to do

A government press release highlights that low-paid workers are stuck in their jobs, unable to progress and escape ‘in work poverty’ and earn enough to meet the cost of living. When we talk about ‘low-paid’ jobs, we mean people who are paid at or around minimum wage. 

This is a serious issue and one organisations need to think seriously about. It doesn’t mean that employers should take pity on their workers, but they should take ownership over helping those individuals who want to progress receive the right training and opportunities. 


Barriers to In Work Progression 

Despite these benefits, some organisations fail to acknowledge the value of developing their teams. Let’s look at some of the main blockers to career advancement: 

Organisations are busy

Operationally, organisations often find it hard to take a step back and look forward instead of looking inward at day-to-day activities. It’s important from a strategic perspective to plan your workforce and consider succession planning too. However, when you have deadlines looming and clients chasing, personal development sometimes struggles to work its way up the priority list. 

Misunderstanding personality types

Another barrier can be attributed to the way we are as individuals. Are extroverts more confidently able to communicate where they want to go in your organisation? Are introverts, conversely, incorrectly seen as hiding away and not wanting to put their head above the parapet? It can leave people feeling vulnerable when they talk about their wishes to progress in work. Introverts can feel unsure about how their ambitions are going to be received and whether their manager feels they are ready for that next step. 

Employees with outside work commitments 

Individuals with caring responsibilities struggle to offer flexibility to their employers. This can be a barrier to career progression opportunities. ‘Going above and beyond’ is often rewarded with promotion. Having to leave on the dot to race to collect the children from school can sometimes be misinterpreted as a lack of commitment. This puts lots of people at a disadvantage when it comes to career advancement, particularly working parents. 

Workplace discrimination 

There are a whole host of different ways individuals are discriminated against in the workplace. UK Employment law safeguards individuals with ‘protected characteristics’, but discrimination is still prevalent in organisations today. For example, a promotion might not be offered to a pregnant woman due to concerns about backfilling for maternity leave.  Although employers may see this as a ‘commercial’ decision, it’s actually illegal.  

Sadly, unconscious bias, racism, sexism, ageism and more are also present in the workplace. These prevent extremely capable individuals from progressing in their careers. Some organisations only promote if your “face fits”, which can be extremely damaging to morale and employee wellbeing. The value of workplace diversity should be recognised. 

Promoting Career Advancement in Your Company

Managers and leaders within organisations are responsible for driving in work progression. Here we talk through what you should be doing to nurture your employees who want to develop and progress in the workplace: 

  • Build a career development framework 

Organisations should build a development framework so it is clear to employees what they need to do to climb the ladder. This should outline the steps necessary for employees and managers to follow to achieve career advancement. This could include stages such as identifying the objectives, defining the milestones, considering what additional support they need and regular progress reviews. 


  • Offer paid time off to study and fund qualifications

Organisations that have the financial ability to do so should consider paying for their employees to gain new qualifications. This won’t just benefit the employee, but the company too. The individual can use the new skills they’ve learned to advance your organisation. It’s a win-win. 

You could go one step further and offer paid time off to those individuals so they can study during their usual working hours. This would help to ensure that employees who work full-time don’t become overworked and burnt out. 

  • Provide mentoring and develop succession plans 

Mentoring is an excellent way to develop your team internally. You should appoint willing managers to mentor individuals who want to learn more about what the manager does. This is a great approach to sharing knowledge within the business and also demonstrates to the employee that you’re investing in their development. 

Succession planning is another great way of nurturing top talent. Organisations should consider undertaking a skills gap analysis as part of this planning. A skills gap analysis basically looks at what your workforce is missing or might benefit from more of. Organisations then make a plan for how to rectify it. From there, organisations should look to identify potential within their existing teams and discuss development opportunities for those who might be suitable successors. 

  • Carry out effective 1:1s to understand career aspirations 

Sometimes it’s hard to extract ambitions from your employees as they may feel self-conscious sharing this information. Managers must hold regular 1:1s with their team members to encourage open conversations about where they see themselves within the organisation, or what their 5-year plan might look like. Organisations should work with individuals to craft their career plans. Setting SMART targets to identify how they will achieve their long-term goals will help break down the overall objective into more manageable steps. 


  • Offer work experience and apprenticeships

Cross-departmental work experience is a great way to expose your teams to different areas of the business. Individuals may not know what they want to do, but gaining experience through working with other teams could give them a flavour of different disciplines and different specialisms. A great by-product of this is that your teams will build strong relationships by working collaboratively. 

Another way to offer development is by offering apprenticeships in your workplace. This is a mix of theory-based learning and on-the-job training, which provides opportunities to individuals who may be early in their working life. An apprenticeship is a brilliant platform to then consider other roles within the organisation, i.e. career progression. 

Career Progression Examples

Career progression doesn’t always result in an employee being promoted to a managerial role. Here are some examples of how career progression might look in different organisations: 

Progression due to becoming qualified 

A trainee actuarial assistant worked particularly hard to pass her FIA qualification to become a qualified member of the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries. As a result, her employer was able to allocate her her own clients as she was now qualified to provide advice. Her employer internally promoted her to ‘actuarial consultant’ and she received a pay rise of 20%. 

Progression due to experience 

A warehouse operator had worked with their organisation for 2 years. They were extremely knowledgeable and efficient in their ways of working. The managers often relied on them and asked for their opinion about changes to processes. A warehouse supervisor opportunity became available and the warehouse operator was promoted to the supervisor role. They were responsible for a team of 5 and received £4 more an hour, as well as additional benefits. 

Progression due to structure change 

An organisation felt its sales team wasn’t operating effectively. There were lots of calls being missed which meant they were probably missing out on a high number of potential new customers. The senior leadership team decided they would restructure the team. The sales department was going to be divided into teams who would look after specific products. As a result, they also introduced a new management team to head up the new product sales teams. A sales advisor applied to one of the newly created manager positions and was given the job. The individual had great potential and enthusiasm and they felt they would be a great fit. 


Progression into a specialist role 

A scientist worked in a science lab developing health products. They were part of the operational team and produced the products for market. The scientist decided they would like to move into the area of research and development and applied for an R&D scientist role. As the role was a specialist role, it offered slightly more money. However, the scientist didn’t apply for the role to receive an increased salary, they applied to the role to develop their skills and experience in that particular area. 

Role of Skilled Leaders in Career Progression

Organisation leaders hold a great deal of responsibility in the area of in work progression. They hold the key to those metaphorical locked doors. It’s important for leaders to be progressive and have a growth mindset when it comes to employee learning and development. 

Leaders should be skilled at identifying potential in individuals and then nurturing this. They should also champion mentoring programmes and lead by example, showing their managers and supervisors that mentoring is a valuable business initiative. 

Leaders should also see the value in investing in their team, rather than just being focused on profit. This strategic mindset will mean that, in the long term, their profits will increase even more.  

Being able to see the positive impact of in work progression on company culture is key to being a strong leader. 

Cost-Effective Ways to Increase In Work Progression

Even for smaller organisations, supporting growth internally is possible. Mentoring and 1:1s are free.  

Cross-departmental collaboration will often lead to sideways moves. Remember, progression doesn’t have to be upwards. Not everyone wants to be a manager. Some want to progress into more specialist roles. Allowing them to develop during their working day will still contribute to your business. 

Managing In Work Progression With Factorial 

Our software enables you to monitor your teams’ performance at the click of a button. Use our performance management module to automate performance reviews and keep track of your employees’ SMART targets to check whether they are on track to reach that next internal promotion. 

Book a demo to see how Factorial can work for your company.


Amy is a knowledgeable People professional with over a decade of experience across a variety of private and public sector organisations. With a particular interest in employee engagement, Amy is an advocate for employee-centric approaches in all areas of HR which is reflected in her writing. Before a career in HR, Amy read English and Creative Writing at university and later studied for her CIPD, HR Management.

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