Nearly half (49%) of UK employees desire a career change but are unsure of which direction to take, with one in five spending time each week contemplating their career plans.

This insight comes from LHH’s Global Workforce of the Future Report 2024. The report also reveals that 54% of UK workers feel that external factors such as the economy, company strategy, and performance have more control over their career than they do.

Upskilling and Career Development

Despite these challenges, UK employees are optimistic about upskilling. Over half (58%) feel that the possibility of a new career inspires them to learn new skills outside of their current job. Additionally, nearly half (47%) of the 2,000+ UK respondents expressed a desire to move into management roles but are hindered by a lack of leadership development opportunities.

The research highlights that UK workers are the most likely among the 10 countries surveyed to be held back by a “fear of the unknown.” Fifty-nine per cent of UK workers cited this fear, compared to just 43% in Japan. The global average stands at 51%.

Emphasis on Internal Development

The report underscores a strong interest in internal development, with 68% of UK respondents advocating for companies to train, upskill, and develop existing employees for different roles within the organisation before hiring external candidates.

Leadership development remains a significant priority among HR leaders. LHH’s International Centre for Executive Options 2024 research found that 69% of HR senior leaders in the UK have formal executive development programmes in place. However, challenges persist, with 20% noting the underrepresentation of women and other diverse groups in senior executive ranks. Despite these barriers, 36% of HR leaders feel they have the necessary support to overcome current leadership challenges.

Gaëlle de la Fosse, President of LHH, commented on the findings, “While global uncertainty is causing workers to stay put in the short-term, it’s clear that the majority are still eager for new opportunities and are prepared to change jobs to make the most of their potential. A significant ‘passive talent pool’ in need of a nudge has emerged. Now is the time for companies to invest in their talent, or risk falling behind, burdened with disengaged employees or those lacking the skills for the future of the business.”

The Great Resignation and Beyond

De la Fosse also reflected on the recent past. “Not too long ago, employers were experiencing the largest employee resignation spike on record. Workers felt empowered to reject certain jobs based on pay levels and working conditions — and increasingly pursued new endeavours that more closely aligned with their work-life priorities. While this ‘Great Resignation’ has quietly passed, questions around what the new normal looks like are still prevalent. Are employees suddenly happy? Not exactly.”

Amid rising prices, international conflict, and the emergence of AI, professional workers are seeking more control over their future. These employees, particularly high performers, are hungry for skilled leadership, more training, and more opportunities. In 2024, learning on the job is the new perk. This is evident from the annual survey of 30,000 workers in 23 countries about their jobs, skills, employers, and potential.

Realising Potential Through Investment

To realise this ‘Great Potential’ and address the biggest business challenges of the next decade, companies must invest in developing stronger leaders, skills training, internal mobility for existing staff, and non-linear career pathing. This approach can help workers find their footing in today’s constantly evolving job market. By investing in their workforce, companies can turn their holistic talent acquisition and retention strategies into their biggest competitive advantage.