A shrinking jobs market

The pandemic has resulted in a surge of redundancies.  This means many people are applying for jobs for which they are overqualified.   It can be tempting for employers who are employing overqualified employees, to image these people will move on as soon as the job market improves. However, it doesn’t need to be the outcome.  Inspiring these people might mean encourage them to stay.

Overqualified fact or fiction?

It’s human nature for most people to believe that they are above average in a number of ways.  They may believe they are more intelligent, attractive, and likeable. How else does our self-esteem get established?

This illusion of superiority is perhaps best demonstrated in the famous study from psychologist J. Walton Bathurst.  This study found that ninety per cent of drivers believe they are better than the average driver. A mathematical contradiction.

The CIPD Employee Outlook report contained a similar anomaly. According to the report, a third of employees think that they are overqualified for their current job. Interestingly, senior managers actually see a significant skills gap in their workforce. With only 8 per cent believing the reason is that candidates are overqualified.

There is an incentive for management to incentivise the overqualified employee.  Heightened skills, greater responsibility and broader experience can be tapped into.  An employer must harness this experience, through challenging these valuable people.  Here’s an overview of the best ways to do that in your organisation.

Ensure access to training

If an independent project isn’t suitable for the type of work you do, then set challenges via formal or ad hoc training. There’s an old movie saying that an audience would much rather be confused than bored, and this applies quite well to the work environment. Offering training programs to further career prospects, or providing regular challenges where the employee has to use their own initiative, can ensure they remain enthusiastic and driven.

If there are no opportunities for relevant training, why not get the overqualified employee to conduct their own training or mentoring of newly hired employees? Placing them in a managerial role ensures their skills are tested, whilst providing added-value work experience.

Allow employees space to grow

Every employee wants to feel like their work is worthwhile. They need to know their role fits well into the team dynamic. But knowing how to strategically place, supervise and train an overqualified employee, to ensure they’re adequately challenged, simply takes a little more thought and engagement from upper management.

The big challenge comes from empowering these individual so that they overcome the negative impact of disadvantaged overqualification. Avoid micro-managing and grant them a degree of autonomy to grow and change their work environment as they see fit. By allowing them to expand their job duties (within reason) you make them masters of their own domain and thus ensure their work schedule remains stimulating.

Understand what drives engagement in your company

Ultimately, every work environment is unique, and so each HR department will be able to provide different opportunities. Before you set out your plan for motivating your overqualified employees, it’s first worth taking the time to understand the factors that contribute to disengagement in your organisation.

The CIPD Outlook Engagement Index shows that overqualified employees are more likely to be disengaged or neutral than engaged, and so maybe the most vocal sources for understanding employee disengagement as a whole within your organization. A useful and anonymous way to get this feedback is via a pulse survey, which provides the hard data on areas of your workforce that are struggling, and what the causes of this could be.

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Hugh is the CEO of Thymometrics, a supplier of employee engagement surveys. He has over 34 years’ experience in IT in various roles, with a patent relating to Virtual Worlds, and he holds an MA in Computer Science from the University of Cambridge.