37% of workers’ skills underused

Office Worker


More than a third of workers have the skills to cope with more demanding duties than they currently have, according to new research.

The study, ‘Over-skilled and underused: Investigating the untapped potential of UK skills’ , by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development is based on a survey of 3,700 UK employees.

In addition to the 37% of people who were underused, one in ten (12%) employees said they lacked all the skills needed to carry out their job effectively.

The CIPD calculates that this means that as many as half (49%) of UK workers could be in the wrong job, based on their skill level.

Jobs which don’t require a degree

Its survey reveals that many graduates are in jobs which do not require degree level qualifications. Almost a third (30%) of respondents said that while a higher level degree would be required in order to get their job, lower qualifications are actually needed to do their job effectively.

The report also shows that having a university degree is no guarantee of being prepared for the workplace. More employees with a university degree said they were under-skilled for their role (14%) compared to those without one (10%).

This highlights the importance of ongoing training and development in the workplace. Despite this, a quarter (24%) of respondents said they had not received training in the last year, with older employees, low wage workers, those on part-time contracts and the self-employed most likely to say this.

Negative consequences of being over-skilled

The CIPD’s survey also found that being over-skilled can have a number of negative consequences on employees. Just 53% of over-skilled workers said they are satisfied with their jobs compared to 74% of people whose skills are well-suited to their role.

Moreover just 22% of workers who say they are over-skilled have been promoted to a higher position in their current organisation compared with almost a third (31%) of workers in well-matched roles.

The survey also shows more than a quarter of over-skilled workers earn less than £20,000 a year compared with just 15% of those whose say their skills are well matched to their jobs.

People development

The CIPD is calling for organisations to improve how they manage and develop their people and for Government to work in partnership with employers, unions, and local areas to provide bespoke, practical support to enable smaller firms in particular to improve their people management practices.

Lizzie Crowley, Skills Adviser at the CIPD, said: “How skills are used, or not used, in the workplace has important economic and social implications, and is a key factor in tackling the UK’s productivity crisis.“Individuals who report using their skills fully in the workplace have higher levels of job satisfaction, earn more and are more resilient to change, while businesses benefit from a more productive workforce and increased profitability.

“However, we have ended up in a situation where our economy isn’t creating nearly enough high-skilled jobs, while the proportion of low-skilled roles remains stubbornly high. This leaves many workers trapped in low skill work, which doesn’t match their ability, offers poorer pay and progression prospects and does little to boost the productivity of organisations.

“There needs to be a much greater emphasis on how well existing skills and capabilities of individuals are harnessed and developed at work, through better people management practices and access to development opportunities. For too long, skills policy in the UK has been fixated on increasing the supply of skills coming into the labour market.

“This has failed as an approach. To address stagnant productivity and stimulate the economy, the industrial strategy must prioritise better use of existing skills, built on the foundation of better quality jobs and business models that deliver high value goods and service. Without real and impactful change to the UK’s skills strategy, the UK’s productivity puzzle will prove impossible to solve.”

Guidance in schools

The CIPD wants to see high quality careers advice and guidance offered in schools, and more high quality vocational routes into work created; investment in formal training for all line managers to ensure that they have the skills they need to support employee development; and partnerships between Government, employers, unions, sector bodies, Local Enterprise Partnerships and local authorities at a national, sector and local level to provide practical support that encourages small employers in particular to improve their people management practices.

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