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Public sector employees can’t get no (job) satisfaction…

Source: PSE Jun/Jul 16

Claire McCartney, research adviser - Resourcing and Talent Planning, at the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, explains why public sector employers should consider redefining their approach to careers.

The latest CIPD/Halogen Employee Outlook survey of over 2,000 employees shows that job satisfaction in the UK has dropped to its lowest level for over two years. It also appears to be impacting on current job-seeking intentions, with almost a quarter (24%) of employees looking for a new role, representing a two-and-a-half year high. 

Despite a fall in satisfaction across all sectors, the report found that employees in the public sector have the lowest job satisfaction rating and are significantly more likely to be dissatisfied than employees in the private sector. There has also been a rise in the number of people in the public sector currently looking for a new job, from 23% of employees in autumn 2015 to 27% in spring 2016. 

Lack of development opportunities 

While part of this drop in job satisfaction might well be related to ongoing economic pressures and austerity measures in the UK, several indicators in the survey reveal that employees are suffering from a real lack of development and progression opportunities. More than a quarter (27%) of employees are dissatisfied with the opportunity to develop their skills in their job, and over a third (36%) say they are unlikely to fulfil their career aspirations in their current organisation. Further, almost a third (30%) disagree that their organisation provides them with opportunities to learn and grow – public sector employees are significantly more likely to strongly disagree with this statement than employees in the private and voluntary sector. 

And it seems line managers have more to do when it comes to developing employees. Employees say that their line managers do well around employee wellbeing and support such as treating them fairly, making clear what is expected of them and being supportive if they have a problem. However, line managers are reported as less effective when it comes to development, including coaching employees on the job, discussing training and development needs and providing feedback on performance. 

Motivation also seems to be lacking, with almost as many employees disagreeing (34%) as agreeing (35%) that their organisation really inspires the very best of them in the way of job performance. Motivation is particularly low in the public sector with many more people disagreeing (41%) than agreeing (27%) with the statement that their organisation inspires the best of them when it comes to job performance. 

The survey also shows that whilst most employees have a good knowledge of their organisation’s core purpose, much fewer are highly motivated by it. While there are no significant sector differences when it comes to knowledge of the organisation’s core purpose, public and private sector employees are significantly more likely than those in the voluntary sector to disagree that they are highly motivated by their organisation’s core purpose. 

Redefine your approach to careers 

Public sector employers should consider their current approaches to employees’ careers, and look at evolving them to better suit the changing world of work. Organisations are often flatter in structure and hierarchical progression routes typically common in the past are not always available nowadays. 

It’s therefore important to think about career growth in the round and 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. 

Focus on motivation 

Motivation is currently low across sectors, but particularly so for public sector employees. Organisations need to try to help connect employees with the core purpose of the organisation by creating a clear and motivating vision of what the organisation is there to do, and try to consult with employees when it comes to important decisions. It is also important to involve employees in discussions wherever possible, but particularly around job design and empowerment. 

Engage line managers in learning and development 

Our survey findings show that although satisfaction with line managers is high, and while employees feel line managers are considerate of their wellbeing, they are less likely to focus on employee development. Start to engage line managers in discussions about the importance of continuous and lifelong learning and development. Encourage them to hold regular one-to-one catch-ups with employees about immediate opportunities to develop their skills and longer-term conversations around careers.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email [email protected]



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