There’s nothing worse than the dread of uncertainty and insecurity – especially when you have dedicated significant time and effort to prove your personal value. Years ago, I employee retentionworked for a company where either you or someone close to you was guaranteed a pink slip when they walked into the office after the New Year or the July 4th weekend. I kid you not. For two years straight, this fear hung over my head – like a big, gray cloud with no silver lining. Even though this experience happened 10 years ago and I was never personally let go, there are moments when I still feel anxious and believe that nothing is certain when it comes to work.

According to Workforce 2020, a study conducted by Oxford Economics and sponsored by SAP, it seems I am not alone. The study revealed that a top concern among employees is job obsolescence. They’re afraid they won’t have the necessary skills and abilities to support their employers over the next five years. And if employees can’t provide value, the employer had no need for them. Hello, unemployment line.

Although news of widespread buyouts and layoffs may be fading away, the fear of losing a job still lingers over everyone’s head – and it’s still impacting engagement, productivity, and business performance. People are more likely to look for new employment whenever they feel job loss is looming. For the business, that can spell trouble if any of those employees happen to be someone of high potential.

Make sure employees have a future they can see

In a world full of positions and possibilities that didn’t exist a de­cade or two ago, most people don’t know how they can excel or what opportunities are available to them. Employees must be encouraged to ignore the traditional notion of a predetermined career ladder and focus on where their talents might be valuable.

Making sure employees have a future within an organization is as much HR’s responsibility as theirs. This new approach to career building calls for the expertise of the HR organization to identify the roles and skills needed now and in the future, create a learning plan to develop employees, and combine self-led career management with targeted development programs for high potentials.

Changing your employees’ perception of a secure future with your company may seem like a daunting task. We recently interviewed experts for the report 5 Bad Habits HR Needs to Break in 2015 that includes this action plan.

  1. Make employees aware of what’s available. Offer workshops and mentoring programs that motivate employees and provide awareness and practical guidance on achieving personal career goals.
  1. Create job rotations and fellowships that provide hands-on experience. Offer temporary positions that allow employees from other business units build cross-organizational knowledge. These opportunities can open up new career options that no one – not even leadership – may have thought about previously.
  1. Actively prepare people for leadership roles. No longer are people being promoted based on seniority, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Identify behaviors that make good managers and develop programs that prepare people to step into “senior” positions as they become available.
  1. Embed learning. Foster a company culture that supports continuous development and learning at every level. And I don’t mean just classroom learning. Don’t get me wrong, formal training is – without a doubt – necessary. However, it doesn’t give talent an opportunity to put the new knowledge into practice over the long term. Instead, HR must find a variety of ways to nurture and continuously develop skills.

Need more ideas on how you can transform your HR organization and prepare for the Future of Work? Read the in-depth report 5 Bad Habits HR Needs to Break in 2015.