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Job-seeking hits two-year high as employee satisfaction at work plummets

Managers score highly on well-being and support but need to be more active on progression.

Job satisfaction in the UK has dropped to its lowest level for over two years and job-seeking intentions have risen to almost a quarter (24%) of employees - a two and a half year high. Although wider global economic uncertainty has likely shaken the labour market, the world of work is changing too, and organisations therefore need to rethink their approach to employee career management, in order to engage and retain staff.

This is according to the latest CIPD/Halogen Employee Outlook report, which surveyed over 2,000 UK employees in February and March 2016. It found that job satisfaction has fallen across all sectors (net score = +40, compared to +48 in Autumn 2015), but particularly in the private sector (+41, compared +50 in Autumn 2015). Employees in micro businesses have the highest levels of job satisfaction by size of organisation at +49, but even this figure represents a substantial reduction from Autumn 2015 where job satisfaction was almost 30 points higher at +76.

Exploring a range of employee issues that could affect job satisfaction, the CIPD/Halogen survey finds that almost a fifth (23%) of employees believe their organisation’s performance management processes are unfair (an increase from 20% in Autumn 2015). Over a quarter (27%) are dissatisfied with the opportunity to develop their skills in their job and this is reflected in the number of employees who say they are unlikely to fulfil their career aspirations in their current organisation, which has also increased to 36% (32% in Autumn 2015).

Claire McCartney, research adviser for resourcing and talent planning at the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, comments: “Today’s research shows that our approaches to job design and career management have not kept pace with the rapidly changing world of work or with employee expectations. Although many organisations are flatter in structure and have adopted matrix ways of working, this can mean routes for career progression are not as clear. Despite wider global economic uncertainty, employers need to think of new ways to keep their employees engaged and committed.

“Organisations therefore need to redefine their approach to careers in the light of this new context in order to future-proof their workforce. They need to think about career growth in a more holistic way, rather than traditional, hierarchical progression, and instead give employees opportunities for a breadth of diverse experiences and opportunities that maximise their skills and their employability going forward.”

The survey also reveals that net satisfaction with line managers has risen to +47 (+44 in Autumn 2015). Employees in the voluntary sector (+53) are most satisfied with their managers, followed by those in the public (+48) and then the private sector (+46). Employees say that their line managers are most likely to be committed to their organisation (69%), treat employees fairly (67%), make clear what is expected of them (59%), are supportive if they have a problem (57%) and listen to their suggestions (55%). However, line managers were reported as less likely to coach employees on the job (24%), act as a role model (34%), discuss training and development needs (38%), provide feedback on performance (42%) and keep them in touch with what is going on (46%).

McCartney continues: “It’s really positive to see overall satisfaction with line managers increasing in this survey, and the findings point to the importance of quality communication and consultation between employees and line managers. However, although line managers are committing themselves to their duty of care and employee welfare, it seems they aren’t hitting the mark in terms of helping that individual develop and progress. With subsequent gaps in active management, learning and development, it’s not surprising that people are dissatisfied with their jobs and looking for new opportunities elsewhere.”

Dominique Jones, Chief People Officer at Halogen Software, said: “These figures demonstrate a clear need for employers to shift their approach to performance management — to make it an on-going part of the rhythm of work — not a separate, once-a year-burden. Regular one-on-one conversations between line managers and employees can help improve employee engagement and satisfaction when used to identify new opportunities for employees to develop, ensure clarity on goals and expectations, and to provide employees coaching and feedback related to performance outcomes. HR plays a critical role here in supporting line managers, guiding them and providing them with the right tools to enable them to listen, measure and act on employee needs.”

Further highlights of the survey include:

  • More employees are satisfied (41%) than dissatisfied (36%) with their current level of pay
  • Almost a third of employees (31%) say they come home from work exhausted either often (24%) or always (7%)
  • Employee knowledge of organisational core purpose is very high (+70), but the number of employees that are highly motivated by their organisation’s core purpose is much lower (+28)
  • Employees are most likely to say that work makes them feel ‘cheerful’ (24%), most or all of the time as opposed to any other feeling. This is followed jointly by ‘optimistic’ and ‘stressed’, with 18% respectively saying work makes them feel this way most or all of the time