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Staff want to feel they are continuously improving

The three basic workplace needs are ‘purpose, mastery and autonomy’

What motivates someone to leave their job or change career?

Money, surprisingly, is not the top answer. Instead, the three basic needs in any workplace are purpose, mastery and autonomy, according to a framework developed by author Daniel Pink.

People want to feel that their job has a purpose, they want to master that purpose, and they don’t want to be micromanaged in getting there.

“It’s a tight labour market out there and the balance of power has shifted to the employee or potential new hire,” says Dr Mary Collins, a chartered psychologist and professional executive coach. “The number one reason why someone leaves their job is because of their relationship with the line manager, but the second reason is because they want more opportunities for personal growth and development. They want to develop their skills and network, so it’s important for companies to have an authentic culture of learning and development.”

Today, companies that prioritise learning are not only more likely to retain staff, they also gain a competitive advantage. Recent research from Bersin by Deloitte found that organisations with a strong learning culture are 46 per cent more likely to be first to market with innovations, have 37 per cent greater employee productivity, are 34 per cent more responsive to customer needs and have a 26 per cent greater ability to deliver quality products and services.

“It’s fair to say that this improved productivity is because their employees are happier,” says Collins. “Research into what the younger generations want at work always points towards development opportunities: they want supportive managers and a positive workplace culture. The over-50s, too, are more than just great mentors with good skills: they also want to learn and develop, to feel they are continuously improving and not being left behind.”


Solas, the further education and training agency, has been developing a suite of learning options for learners from the teenage years right through to mid and late-career workers.

Mary Lyons, director of enterprise, employees and skills at Solas, says that education makes employees – and potential entrepreneurs – more aware of the business impact they can have.

“They come back with a new awareness of business development potential and an ability to develop new ideas for markets. It increases productivity and creates good morale among a team who can see their own career prospects expanding.”

Previously, Solas was more focused on supporting the unemployed or those returning to the workplace.

“Over the past 30 months, however, we have been rolling out Skills to Advance, which includes upskilling opportunities for people who may not have a higher education qualification,” says Lyons. “These are people who were traditionally less likely to be offered training by their employer or to seek it out themselves. We’ve reached out to 25,000 people through this so far, including 10,000 this year alone.”

Lyons says that this change is driven by workers who see the effects of digitisation and automation around them, as well as those impacted by Brexit. “Employers are in a tighter labour market than before the pandemic, so they can identify themselves as employers of choice by offering career development opportunities,” Lyons says. “Retention is key for employers.”


One initiative developed by Solas in association with the Irish Hotels Federation is developing opportunities for staff to upskill and develop as team leaders and supervisors. “The idea here was to motivate and retain key workers to develop careers within hospitality,” says Lyons.

Like many continuous professional development, upskilling and retraining programmes, the course is highly subsidised and delivered by blended learning so as to fit in with the busy schedules of people in the workplace.

“We also ran a more general programme in leadership and management, and there is particular demand at the moment for team leader and supervisor training,” says Lyons. “We work with companies, primarily small to medium enterprises but also larger firms, to help identify their education and training needs and we can adapt the course to them.”

Collins says that learning in the workplace takes many forms, and points to the 70/20/10 model.

“This sees 70 per cent of learning taking place through on-the-job experience; 20 per cent through mentoring, coaching and collaboration; and 10 per cent through formal learning,” she says. “I’d say that it is a red flag if a job advertisement doesn’t mention that there are opportunities to learn and progress, and it is certainly something worth exploring at an interview stage.

“Ask if there is a learning policy, what the learning opportunities are and if there is a budget for learning. Some companies will support learning opportunities at third level or through other learning programmes, although they may have a clause requiring you to stay with them for three years or pay back the costs.

“Ultimately, the highest-performing, most engaged people are committed to their own development and don’t want to stand still.”

SkillsToAdvance.ie has sections for employers or employees interested in these courses, with one key contact in each of the country’s 16 education and training boards (ETBs).

Opportunities at the IMI

David Magee, head of sales and corporate membership at the Irish Management Institute (IMI), says that employees see a future-focused skillset and mindset as esse’ntial to keep thriving in a competitive market.

So what type of courses do they offer?

“The importance of negotiating as a key business skill cannot be overstated,” says Magee. “Our advanced negotiation skills programme focuses on the strategies and tactics needed to maximise the value and impact of your negotiations.

For those seeking to improve their knowledge of the financial side of things, our finance for non-financial managers programme equips participants with the skills to build an all-weather financial tool kit. And with our facilitation skills programme, participants can learn to harness the power of people, generating great ideas and unlocking the power of group engagement to inspire performance.”