The latest Employee Outlook report, published by the CIPD in partnership with Halogen, reveals that while UK employees feel well-supported by their managers, lack of career progression is impacting job satisfaction and engagement. As a result, job-seeking intentions have hit a two-year high.
Research by Aon Hewitt and others show that formalising career management and employee development has a direct impact on employee engagement. And employee engagement matters because there is a clear link between higher levels of employee engagement and the financial performance of an organisation.
To dig into the CIPD Employee Outlook findings further, we reached out to Claire McCartney — Research Adviser, Resourcing and Talent Planning with the CIPD. Claire is responsible for research exploring different aspects of effective talent management strategies and manages the Institute’s Resourcing and Talent Forum. She also co-manages CIPD’s Employee Outlook research.
Here’s what Claire had to say about why employee job satisfaction in the UK has dropped so significantly, and what organisations can do about it.
Net job satisfaction decreased substantially from the autumn 2015 report –why?
Yes, job satisfaction is the lowest it has been in over two years, having dropped from +48 in the autumn to +40 now. Although wider global economic uncertainty and ongoing pressure from austerity measures at home, might be impacting on employees’ roles at work there are also a number of specific employee work issues that could be impacting on job satisfaction.
Overall there appear to be a lack of development and progression opportunities currently available to employees with over a quarter (27%) dissatisfied with opportunities to develop their skills in their jobs and over a third (36%) maintaining that it is unlikely that they will be able to fulfill their career aspirations in their current organisation.
Almost a fifth (23%) also believe that their performance management systems are unfair and this is likely to have an impact on both motivation at work and job satisfaction.
What are some simple steps organisations can take to help employees to develop and progress?
Yes more work is certainly needed around development and progression. However, organisations need to start thinking creatively about this. The world of work is changing and often our organisational approaches to career management have not kept a pace with that change. Increasingly organisations are flatter in structure and many have adopted matrix ways of working.
Many middle management layers have also been taken out of organisations, during the recession, making historical career paths blurred and less obvious. It’s therefore important that managers hold regular one-to-one’s with employees about their current development needs but also hold career conversations about the longer-term.
Organisations also need to think about providing a breadth of diverse opportunities and experiences for employees – such as cross-functional working, special projects and short work secondments that help to boost their employability going forward.
Employee motivation at work seems to be lacking - how can managers address this issue?
It is quite concerning that almost as many employees disagree (34%) as agree (35%) that their organisation inspires the very best of them in the way of job performance. It’s also important to note that while most employees have a good knowledge of their organisation’s core purpose – much fewer are highly motivated by it.
One way of boosting motivation therefore would be to help employees better connect to the core purpose of their businesses and in order to do that leaders need to create a clear and compelling vision for the organisation and communicate that with employees, whilst also providing consultation opportunities for employees around important decisions. Currently employees feel this is an area which is lacking in relation to their senior leaders.
Interestingly, employees also stated they feel cheerful most of the time - what is it about work that makes them cheerful?
There is a strong evidence base showing that work is generally good for physical and mental health and wellbeing and that work can even be therapeutic (Waddell and Burton (2006)).
Although job satisfaction has declined in the spring 2016 survey, the findings clearly indicate that work can provide opportunities to be cheerful whether that is through our interactions with our colleagues and friends at work or through the mental stimulation, routine and sense of purpose that some roles provide us with.
Support employee development and career progression
High employee satisfaction and engagement are linked to higher performance, productivity, retention and business results. This means that embracing career management best practices and supporting your employees’ career advancement just makes good business sense.
Embedding career management best practices into your talent management processes also makes it easier to support it (e.g. create a career management process that includes a step for regular employee-manager discussions, invite employees to document their skills and abilities as well as their career plans, or include a career planning section on your performance review form.
Take a deeper look at the findings in this latest CIPD Employee Outlook report to understand why people are dissatisfied with their jobs and looking for new opportunities elsewhere.