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Is contribution of ‘generalists’ being overlooked?

“The problem is that generalists are all too easily overlooked for promotions and development opportunities as they don’t slot neatly into a box like specialists do.”

Employees with wide-ranging skills, knowledge and capabilities that span multiple disciplines – otherwise known as ‘generalists’ – are on the rise with 57 per cent of U.K. employees identifying as ‘generalists’. However, a report* has revealed that this group of employees aren’t being sufficiently supported by their organisations – 42 per cent of U.K. employees feel that the contributions of generalists are being overlooked with almost half (49 per cent) believing that generalists are forced to create their own career path.

O.C. Tanner’s 2023 Global Culture Report collected and analysed the perspectives of over 36,000 employees, leaders, HR practitioners, and business executives from 20 countries around the world, including 4,653 from the U.K.

“Generalists bring with them broad experiences and thinking, and are crucial for tackling the challenges found in today’s rapidly evolving workplaces”, says Robert Ordever, European MD of workplace culture specialist, O.C. Tanner. “The problem is that generalists are all too easily overlooked for promotions and development opportunities as they don’t slot neatly into a box like specialists do. Generalists are then forced to work that bit harder to fit in and carve a career path.”

According to the Culture Report, 47 per cent of U.K employees feel that specialists move up in the organisation quicker than generalists. Just 16 per cent feel that generalists have greater growth opportunities than specialists.

And due to the growing need for generalist employees but the lack of support provided to them, generalists are increasingly suffering with stress and anxiety, with the Report revealing that a massive 75 per cent of generalists are suffering from burnout.

Ordever says, “The creative thinking and problem-solving abilities of generalists are more important than ever, but if organisations don’t look after this group of employees they will lose them, ultimately damaging business results and company culture.”

The report advises that organisations must help their generalist employees to thrive by providing them with opportunities for growth and using their strengths, while giving them regular recognition for their efforts and results.

Ordever adds, “It’s time to give generalists the attention they deserve as they’re currently feeling unsupported, unloved and disconnected from their workplace communities. By giving generalists opportunities to shine, together with the encouragement and appreciation they need, businesses can enjoy greater success including increases in both employee engagement and retention rates.”

* O.C. Tanner’s 2023 Global Culture Report

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