A third of the UK’s small business workforce aren’t getting the input they need to further their career, according to research by SME HR software provider, Breathe.

Almost one-third (30%) of respondents never have meetings about their personal development outside of their annual appraisals – this is a potential 4.7 million of the 15.7 million people employed by SMEs – that are failing to get the input needed to further their career. To add to this, only one in five (19%) get feedback every couple of months and just 9% get monthly input.

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Despite this, a whopping three-quarters (75%) of the UK small business workforce consider personal development to be valuable. However, over one in ten (12%) employees don’t think their managers come well prepared for appraisals. This is in contradiction to employers who agreed that personal development was valuable (73%) but over half (58%) felt that they always came prepared to appraisals.

Jonathan Richards, CEO, at Breathe comments: “What we’re seeing is a big gap between what employees want from feedback and what employers are delivering. It’s not enough to have a system in place: you’ve got to walk the walk and talk the talk. If you take a moment to Google ‘what employees want’ – the results will point to one similar area: they want feedback, they want a clear career progression, to develop, goals and most importantly – purpose. Employees want a dynamic process that allows for ongoing and continuous development, but what they’re getting falls well short of their expectations.”

After surveying over 1,500 British SME workers and business owners (5-249 employees) via Opinium, Breathe found that a quarter (25%) of small business workers find the appraisal system to be a waste of time. And just one in five (20%) found the process motivating in comparison to almost half (46%) of business owners, further highlighting the disconnect between the two.

Despite the fact that companies sized 100 – 249 were more likely to prioritise employee satisfaction over new business acquisition and customer retention, 51% of employees in these businesses were dissatisfied with the appraisal process.

Other key findings:

  • The majority of employees that receive feedback say its positive (54%), while 30% get a mix of both positive and negative feedback. Only 2% receive purely negative feedback
  • 19% of employees believe appraisal processes are valuable for their personal development, 15% of employees feel anxious/nervous about appraisals
  • Almost half of those aged 18-34 find personal development very valuable (49%) and one-third (34%) of young people feel motivated by their appraisals
  • Younger employers also place a greater importance on employee satisfaction in their top three business priorities, above new business acquisition
  • Eight in ten (84%) business owners consider customer retention to be the utmost priority. This is followed by new business (69%) and in third place, cash flow (63%). Staff satisfaction ranks fourth, just above relationships with suppliers (26%).

Jonathan Richards, CEO, at Breathe comments:Businesses that dismiss personal development as ‘the fluffy stuff’ are gravely underestimating the impact it has on motivation and morale. Your people are your competitive advantage; the very soul of your company. They want to know that you understand their ambitions and support them. Personal development is key to that.   

“The choice is simple: continue with things as they are and see the chasm between leadership and employees widen, or pioneer a new way and reap the rewards.

breatheHR appraisal report