The Great British skills mismatch: Half of employees are working at the wrong skill level

A survey by Personnel Today has revealed that 49% of UK workers are in the wrong job for their skill level. It also revealed that those with mis-matched skills are more likely to want to quit their jobs, and that a quarter of workers are dissatisfied with their prospects of progression.

Over- and underskilled employees

The survey covered a sample of 3,700 British employees, as well as three online focus groups. It found that out of the 49% of respondents who felt their skills did not match their job roles, 37% felt overskilled and 12% felt underskilled.

Reports of feeling overskilled may stem from the fact that 17% of survey respondents said that no qualifications were needed to carry out their role, while 27% said that only school-level qualifications were needed. That means just 56% of UK jobs require further or higher education qualifications.

That said, employers may still be favouring graduates for these roles. Almost a third of respondents claimed that while a degree was required for entry into their job, degree-level skills are not actually needed to carry out the work.

Mismatched work skills: demographics

Unsurprisingly, those who see themselves as overqualified for the work they do are more likely to be graduates.

Young people, it seems, are also frequently placed in roles that are a poor fit for their skillset. 15% of young workers feel they lack the necessary skills to carry out their job effectively, while as many as 42% feel their skills could be utilised more effectively.

Part-time workers and those in low-wage industries, such as hospitality and retail, are also more likely to be subject to skill mismatching.

The study also found that the longer an employee has been in a job, the more likely they are to feel their abilities match their duties.

The risks of skill mismatching

By recruiting employees that are over- or underskilled, employers run the risk of increasing staff turnover. This is due to higher levels of job dissatisfaction among those who feel they’re not being utilised to their full potential. More than half (53%) of this group report being dissatisfied or very dissatisfied at work, with 22% actively wanting to quit.

Skill mismatching is also associated with poorer scope for progression, higher stress levels, fewer training opportunities, greater risk of unemployment and lower earnings, which can have long-term implications for workers’ prosperity.

The skills gap versus the skills mismatch

Earlier this year, the British Chambers of Commerce reported that the UK is facing a skills shortage crisis, with more employers struggling to recruit. So why are so many employees feeling under-utilised in the face of a growing skills gap?

The two are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Could it be that employers are failing to recognise the pool of untapped expertise that already exists within their organisations? By getting smarter in discovering and developing internal talent, employers may find they don’t always have to recruit to meet emerging business needs.

How to reduce the risks around skill mismatching

In order to reduce the risks associated with skill mismatching, employers need to first recognise there is a problem. The issue has remained somewhat under the radar, despite its being a potential source of disengagement and higher turnover.

The first step is to gain a better understanding of your employees’ skills, experience, qualifications and aspirations. This will enable you to start mapping out a strategy. Where skills are lacking, a robust training programme – one that is based not only on your business needs, but your employees’ capabilities – can be developed. And a review of your structure for progression and development could help you to retain and fully utilise overskilled workers.

If you’re concerned about skill gaps or untapped potential within your organisation, get in touch. Here at Knight’s Agency, we specialise in helping businesses develop meaningful training strategies to leverage internal talent. We can also deliver business skills training on a wide variety of topics. Contact us via the form below or call 0207 112 8412.


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