Could a lack of development be driving down job satisfaction?

Written by
Claire McCartney

06 Jul 2016

06 Jul 2016 • by Claire McCartney

The survey, which asks 2,000 employees questions on a range of topics including satisfaction, engagement, ethics, wellbeing, pay and development, found that employee job satisfaction rates have dropped to a two-year low and job-seeking intentions are at a two-year high.

Although wider global economic uncertainty has likely shaken the labour market, and the ‘Leave’ result in the UK’s EU Referendum will have only acted to heighten this, the world of work is undoubtedly changing too.

It’s therefore imperative that organisations rethink their approach to employee development and job satisfaction, in order to engage and retain staff, whatever the future holds.

Employees are dissatisfied with opportunities to learn and grow

Exploring a range of employee issues that could affect job satisfaction, our survey finds that almost a third (30%) of employees don’t feel that their organisation provides them with opportunities to learn and grow and over a quarter (27%) are dissatisfied with the opportunity to develop their skills in their job.

A closer look shows that private sector employees are most likely to feel that they don’t have opportunities to learn and grow, while younger employees and those in the voluntary sector are the most likely to be satisfied with the development of skills in their jobs. We have also seen a rise in the number of employees who say they are unlikely to fulfil their career aspirations in their current organisation, from 32% in autumn 2015 to 36% now.

Motivation is currently low across sectors, but particularly so for public sector employees. Organisations need to try to help connect their staff with the core purpose of the organisation by creating a clear and motivating vision of what the organisation is there to do and to consult with employees when it comes to important decisions. 

A growing challenge of over-qualification

There are increasing concerns about over-qualification, with 33% of employees feeling over-qualified for their roles, up from 29% in the autumn 2015 survey.

Our previous research has shown the damage that this skills mismatch does to the economy, and we remain concerned that many are not realising the potential of significant investments in higher education. There is also a strong correlation between over-qualification and job satisfaction, with just 27% of those identifying a skills mismatch saying they are happy with their role, compared with 67% satisfaction for those who believe they are well qualified.

While it might not be straightforward to immediately put employees into roles that match their skills and qualifications, there is often scope for broadening employee roles and responsibilities and for further empowerment. Encourage line managers therefore to involve employees in discussions around job design, creating more opportunities for interesting and challenging work and empowering employees wherever possible, so that they feel trusted to make decisions.

Line managers need to take a more active role in employee development

Line managers have a vital role to play in ensuring that employee’s wellbeing is being considered, that they are happy and engaged and their potential is being fulfilled.

There’s good news here: our survey reveals that net satisfaction with line managers has risen to +47 (up from +44 in Autumn 2015). Employees in the voluntary sector are most satisfied with their managers (+53), followed by those in the public (+48) and then the private sector (+46).

Employees also say that their line managers are most likely to be committed to their organisation, treat employees fairly, make clear what is expected of them, are supportive if they have a problem and listen to their suggestions. However, line managers were reported as less likely to coach employees on the job, act as a role model, discuss training and development needs, provide feedback on performance and keep them in touch with what is going on. 

It’s clear that line managers are addressing the wellbeing element of their role and ensuring that employees are looked after at work. The next step is to balance this with a commitment to their team’s development and ensure that they have the support, direction and skills needed to fulfil their potential.

Employers and the HR profession need to start to engage line managers in discussions about the importance of continuous and lifelong learning and development. Encourage line managers to hold regular one-to-one catch-ups with employees about immediate opportunities to develop their skills and longer-term conversations around careers.

Driving up job satisfaction: what can employers and HR professionals do differently?

Redefine your approach to careers...

The notion of a clear career path is becoming less and less relevant. Organisations are often flatter in structure and hierarchical progression routes typically common in the past are not always available. As such, people’s careers paths now often include sideways and diagonal moves, rather than a straight path.  

It’s therefore important for employers to be on the front foot and think about career growth in the round, providing a breadth of diverse experiences and opportunities that maximise employee skills and their employability going forward. These might include opportunities for cross-function working, special projects and short internal and external secondments.

Download a full copy of the report here.

Reference: CIPD (2015) Over-qualification and skills mismatch in the graduate labour market