Nearly two-thirds of employees say a lack of career development with their current employer would be enough to make them start looking for a new job – Penna, 2017

The unfortunate reality for many, particularly those on low wages, is that progressing in a workplace is extremely difficult. Often there are obstacles that are personal and professional to be overcome to progress in employment.

Many challenges that employees find as they try to progress are created unintentionally by their employer. As employers, it is important to recognise the most common barriers for individuals looking to progress in employment, and the role you should play in minimising these barriers.

Awareness of these barriers can allow you to improve staff progression at your organisation.


Employers often focus on recruiting the ‘right candidate’. For larger organisations, this can often mean a focus on graduate schemes or training programmes aimed at younger people.


Training is often provided to either younger backgrounds or those in senior positions. When offered organisation wide, certain individuals are more likely to take part than others.


Individuals who require a degree of flexibility in work are less likely to progress in employment than others.


Organisations can often have common routes to senior leadership in their organisation. Individuals not on those pathways can find it much harder to progress in an organisation.


Line managers play a crucial role in the development of staff at an organisation. A fractious relationship with a line manager often has a significant impact on mental health and career progression.


Not everyone is a right fit for an organisation. Sometimes individuals are not comfortable with the culture in a sector of work. For example, work environments that encourage long hours or late evenings.

Employees of the future will need to have highly developed yet generic skill sets – project management, problem solving, the ability to analyse complex data and more – that can be applied in different circumstances. If organisations want to be adaptable and competitive in the future, the evidence suggest they need to take a leading role in developing their current staff, as under half (46%) of businesses state that their organisation cannot recruit the skilled individuals they need.