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UK job satisfaction hits 2-year low

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Job satisfaction in the UK has dropped to its lowest level in more than 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 more than 2,000 UK employees in February and March this year. 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%). 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%.

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. 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%).

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.