A recent study by digital learning provider GoodHabitz has shed light on a concerning trend in the United Kingdom’s workforce: 25 percent of employees still do not have access to essential personal development opportunities, despite their crucial role in employee retention.

The research, which surveyed 13,000 employees across Europe, including more than 2,600 senior learning and development decision-makers, unveils a stark contrast between employee expectations and the reality of personal development access in the UK.

While only 43 percent of UK employees have the privilege of accessing both online and offline training courses, European countries like Denmark (55%) and the Netherlands (51%) are ahead in providing comprehensive personal development opportunities.

Interestingly, despite the limited access to training resources, UK employees appear to be less proactive in approaching their employers for additional opportunities.

Only 15 percent of UK workers have actively reached out to their employers for more personal development, lagging significantly behind their European counterparts at 39 percent.

It’s key to professional growth

Nevertheless, a resounding 81 percent of the UK workforce believes that learning and development are crucial components of their professional growth.

This mismatch between employee expectations and employer actions is a critical concern. While a striking 85 percent of employers in the UK believe they take their employees’ requests for personal development seriously, only 41 percent of employees agree with this assessment.

Mark Thompson, the UK Manager of GoodHabitz, expressed his concern about this disparity, saying, “Creating a learning culture within an organisation cannot ever be one person’s job. It needs community with individual, team, and organisational commitment. It’s discouraging to see that almost a quarter of UK employees still don’t have access to development training. Perhaps UK employers feel like there’s no time to invest in personal development, that it is not a priority.”

Thompson continued, “UK employees are showing signs of reluctance too. Given that 65 percent of UK employees claim a lack of personal development opportunities is a reason to seek out a new employer, it’s surprising that more HR and L&D managers aren’t addressing personal development opportunities, especially when skill-building can be the answer to closing the talent gap.”

The study highlights the high stakes for UK employers as they struggle to meet their employees’ personal development needs. In a competitive job market, where 65 percent of UK employees see a lack of personal development opportunities as a reason to explore new employment opportunities, addressing this issue becomes paramount for businesses aiming to retain their workforce.

What about automation?

Thompson also emphasised the importance of personal development in the age of automation, stating, “The cost of labour is very high, and organisations’ usual approach to hiring talent to plug gaps is not always the solution – increasingly, HR and L&D managers are looking to personal development, especially in the age of automation where having strong human or soft skills will be highly sought after as we continue integrating technology into every aspect of our lives.”

When surveying employers, the research found that 85 percent of UK organisations felt they were taking employee requests for online training seriously. However, over 59 percent of employees didn’t believe this to be true.

“Compared to other countries, the UK scores quite low. Other countries such as Germany (90%), Italy (91%), and Spain (96%) perform better in bridging this gap, so UK employees can learn from their European counterparts by listening to the employee feedback and taking action,” said Thompson.

In addition to addressing the access issue, the study also highlighted the importance of accessibility in personal development, with 50 percent of UK employees preferring to work on their professional growth both at work and at home.

As the workforce continues to evolve, the study’s findings underscore the urgent need for UK employers to bridge the gap between employee expectations and reality when it comes to personal development opportunities, recognizing the critical role such opportunities play in employee retention and overall success in the modern job market.





Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.