Public sector job satisfaction hits four-year high despite Brexit

CIPD/Halogen survey finds post-referendum optimism among UK employees, but more work needed on development and career progression.

Job satisfaction in the public sector is at its highest level in four years and wider post-referendum optimism is evident among UK employees, according to the latest CIPD/Halogen Employee Outlook report.

However, there is still ample room for improvement in employee development and career progression which employers must address quickly so as not to lose valuable talent.

The survey of more than 2,000 employees found that 63 per cent of employees are satisfied with their jobs, rising to two-thirds (66 per cent) in the public sector, the highest level for that sector since autumn 2012.

Pressure is still on for the public sector

However, public sector employees still report higher levels of pressure and exhaustion at work than any other sector. Two in five public sector workers (43 per cent) say they are under excessive pressure at work at least once a week (all employees: 38 per cent), and nearly half (46 per cent) say they come home from work exhausted either always or often (all employees: 33 per cent).

The report finds evidence of post-referendum optimism among employees in all sectors as more than half of employees (57 per cent) believe it is unlikely they will lose their current main job, with one in ten (12 per cent) saying they think it is likely.

Almost half (48 per cent) feel there has been no change to their financial security since the start of 2016, and a similar number (47 per cent) feel there will be no change in the next 12 months.

The majority of employees believe the Brexit decision will make little or no difference to organisational costs (53 per cent), workforce training and skill development (60 per cent) and investment in equipment and technology (61 per cent).

Positive job satisfaction

Claire McCartney, associate research adviser at the CIPD, comments, ‘It’s fantastic to see such a leap in job satisfaction in the public sector since our last survey in the spring, especially in such uncertain times for the UK.’

McCartney is quick to clarify that despite this positive outlook from public sector employees, the fact remains that employees in this sector are most likely to suffer with excessive pressure at work and exhaustion. This shouldn’t be overlooked, as it can create real problems for employers and individuals.

Employees want progression

The survey also finds significant room for improvement in employee development and career progression across all sectors. A third of employees (33 per cent) say they are unlikely to fulfil their career aspirations in their current organisation, over a quarter (27 per cent) disagree that their organisation provides them with opportunities to learn and grow, and a similar number (24 per cent) are dissatisfied with the opportunity to develop their skills in their job.

There is also a noticeable implementation gap between the training that employees find useful, and the training they actually receive. For example, 92 per cent of employees said they find job rotation, secondment and shadowing useful, but only 6 per cent have received it in the last 12 months.

McCartney continues, ‘But in order to hold up their end of the deal, employers need to position line managers to support employees’ career progression. This should include having regular development conversations with employees to help them take the steps needed to develop and fulfil their potential.

‘They also need to choose training and development that is right for their staff, not just the most economical.’

Dominique Jones, chief people officer at Halogen Software, concludes, ‘To compete against rapidly changing market forces, organisations need to hire smarter, develop faster, and build a compelling and meaningful work experience for employees. They must start with a talent strategy aligned to the needs of both the organisation and its people to promote job satisfaction.

‘This approach will ensure that whatever context the labour market finds itself in, organisations are ready to attract, engage, and retain skilled people, motivated to deliver results.’

Further reading on Brexit confidence

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