We asked people we helped to find new opportunities last year to tell us what makes a job, a really good job.

This is the second year we have run this survey in which we asked respondents to tell us what attracted them to their current role, why they decided to move from their previous role, and what they'll be looking for in their next role.

With over 100 responses, we've been able to dive deep into what is important to the digital workforce and pull out some key insights to share with our clients and candidates.

At a glance

  • You can't over-invest in learning and development
  • Support your employees – don't wait for them to ask for changes
  • Teamwork makes the dream work
  • The old saying – people don't leave jobs, they leave managers, is still as true as ever
  • Recruiting and retaining staff means keeping up with market rates

These are some of the further highlights from our findings:

Challenge & Responsibility

  • Progression into a role with more responsibility and future growth.
  • The challenge of having my own P&L

With all of this, it is important to note the number of people who left previous roles due to feeling burnt out due to workload or long hours. This seemed to be a particular issue for those working in product management, project management and areas like agile coaching.

  • There were lots of people moving on, everyone doing too much work – wasn't fun, and didn't seem to be changing
  • The culture was toxic, the founders were micro-managers, and the hours were ridiculous

It's clear from these responses, and indeed from almost everyone I've met in my digital recruitment career that people work hard and strive for continuous improvement. But this can spill into unreasonable workloads, and it is sadly an all too common cycle of overwork when someone in a small team leaves, pushing up demands on others. Our advice to every organisation is to keep an open dialogue with everyone – someone feeling that their only option is to resign is a very worrying sign of a lack of good workplace communication around stress and workload.

Development & Growth

  • A chance to put into practice what is learned from leadership courses and to make a difference
  • Always look to better myself, grade up
  • Opportunity to mentor and grow into leadership within the business

Whatever their industry or seniority, those working in digital are striving to find a career path, not just a destination. One person said that the key to their employer retaining them in the year ahead was to “make sure we put a career development plan and ensure I keep learning and building my skills”.

For employers looking to retain top talent, this means you have to invest in supporting your staff to improve their skills and progress up the ranks – or indeed sideways. For those working in digital, mapping your career path can be a challenge, especially with new job titles and industries emerging all the time, but spending some time thinking about this can be really useful, and help plot your future. And if your current company can't support you along the way, it may be time to look elsewhere.

For employers, it's important not to overlook development for existing employees. At Futureheads, we've seen a big increase in companies offering perks like a budget for development, which are a great start, but this shouldn't be a tickbox exercise. Managers should talk to their teams about other forms of development, whether that's connecting them with a mentor, or letting someone loose on a project to help them put new skills into practice. One reason that several people in product and design roles gave for moving on from their previous role was a lack of leadership development. While plenty of people want to focus on honing their hands-on skills, others are looking to move into leadership, or even exploring other disciplines. Employers need to work with their staff to build development programmes that work for their career goals, rather than just the needs of the company at that point in order to engage all your employees.

Meaning & Purpose

Lots of people talked about the importance of making a difference in their work, especially design and user experience practitioners.

  • I wanted stimulating, challenging and meaningful work
  • Working on something meaningful that will impact people's lives on a day to day basis
  • A chance to work on a project that actually helps others to achieve a better life on a huge scale
  • Give me a project where I can make a real difference

This was also something that people talked about in the context of what their employer has to do to retain them, which reflects the importance of keeping people challenged throughout their role – what gave someone a sense of purpose when they joined may not have the same impact a year or more later.

People also talked about the importance of values and vision in their career. It was interesting to see that twice as many women and those identifying as non-binary talked about this, compared to men.

  • Employer shares the same values as me
  • Great company ethos, step up role
  • A sense of shared ownership of a vision. A community. A positive, grown-up culture. No bullshit.

This aspect of work is unique to everyone, and every company, but investing some time into outlining your purpose as a business can be a powerful tool to engage employees, both current and future. You could approach this through an informal conversation, or perhaps in a more structured workshop that involves everyone in creating or updating a company mission or values. 

Of course, to be a genuinely significant tool in recruiting and retaining good employees, it needs to be more than lip service. Values need to actively extend into the day to day, and be revisited regularly. 

Flexibility & Location

Flexible working featured less than last years survey, as predominantly as an attractive reason to move to a new role, rather than a reason for leaving- perhaps that's because more businesses are bringing flexibility into their culture as standard, which is great to see. Here at Futureheads, we've certainly seen more businesses adapt – while some types of roles do require a certain amount of 'facetime' with users, internal teams or other stakeholders, the strict 9-5 life seems to be a thing of the past for many digital businesses, at long last.

We did see double the number of people relocating from overseas – and just one person mentioned that relocation was on their mind when thinking about future roles, and one person had chosen to move out of the UK to pursue a lower cost of living. With the current climate of uncertainty around the B word, we were pleasantly surprised to see that, for the majority of those in our survey, it's not something that's directly affecting their professional world. Let's hope it stays that way.

Culture & Team

Team and culture remain key drivers for people moving from one role to the next, especially for UX practitioners, designers and technologists. Comments for what appealed to people about their current role included:

  • Good team, focus on the right practices, ability to learn, grow and develop junior designers
  • Talented team, interesting projects
  • Culture, the support, diversity in the team that interviewed me, they made it so easy to talk to them and that was really great, flexible working hours

Last year almost a third of our technology respondents referred to a poor culture as a reason for deciding to move on from their previous role. This year only a couple of people referenced culture as a reason to leave a role. This suggests that more companies are investing some consistent energy into culture, which is great to see.

However, we saw a lot of people cite a lack of respect and support from management as a reason for changing jobs. Here are our thoughts on the impact of mismanagement on the market

Recognition & Value

This is the second year we’ve done this survey, asking all the people who we helped change jobs this year what had attracted them to their current role, why they’d left their previous job, and what they’d be looking for next. Last year only 3% of the people who responded to our survey mentioned salary or rate alone as a reason for taking a job. This year 5% said money was the only reason for changing job, and 15% said it was part of the reason.

However, except for one person who was motivated to move solely due to money, and another who had moved abroad due to rising living costs in London, our other respondents felt driven to move because they felt undervalued.

It’s a fiercely competitive environment out there for staff, and there’s no sign that’s going to change in the immediate future. So, to retain good people, employers need to make sure they are paying competitive rates – and reviewing these often. They also need to step up to invest in their employees' career and skills. All of which will bolster recruitment too. Here are some more of our insights on the importance of showing that you value your people.

If you'd like to discuss any of these insights, and what they mean for the changing world of work in more detail, please say hello at be@wearefutureheads.co.uk.


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