More than a quarter of UK workers ‘not performing their best’

Experts say HR could play a strategic role in motivating staff and increasing business productivity

More than one in four (27 per cent) employees are ‘not performing their best’ and are giving less than 100 per cent at work, according to a new report. 

Of the more than 2,000 UK people polled by Deloitte for its Voice of the Workforce in Europe report, a third (32 per cent) said they were ‘not stimulated by what they do’ and almost two in five (36 per cent) said their work was ‘not meaningful’. 

The report, which surveyed a total of more than 15,000 workers across Europe, also found the UK lagged behind its European counterparts. On average, just one in five employees across Europe said they were not performing at their best.

Anne-Marie Malley, UK human capital leader at Deloitte, said that for the UK to remain a globally competitive economy, more needed to be done to address productivity and the “ever-widening” skills gap in the workplace. 

“Businesses are facing an uphill struggle to address these factors which is leading to dissatisfaction, disengagement and despondency among employees,” Malley said. “Employers must offer more support to strengthen their workers’ skills and communicate the value their roles are bringing to their company, the economy and ultimately society as a whole.”

Building new skills was critical for many UK workers when it came to their job satisfaction. Three in five (61 per cent) said advanced IT was a key competence for them to remain employable, a third (35 per cent) said problem-solving skills would be needed and 31 per cent cited teamwork. 

Jenn Fenwick, career transition ​and onboarding coach at Rebel Road Coaching, said HR departments already knew the importance of investing in skills-related training in order to boost motivation, but were being let down by organisations that failed to invest in their employees. 

“I think this is where HR could play a really strategic role in businesses,” Fenwick said. “For them to get the budget, it’s important for HR to investigate what’s impacting staff productivity, put monetary value on it and present that number to senior leaders as a worthwhile place to put funding.”

Ros Toynbee, director and lead coach at The Career Coach, told People Management a simple way for employers to engage staff in their jobs was by showing kindness. 

“It’s about showing your staff you live the values of your business and putting people and relationships first,” Toynbee said. “It’s not about tasks, metrics and measuring outcomes at the expense of people – that’s not a sustainable way for a business to live and thrive.”

She added employers should communicate with staff the broader purpose of what they do and articulate that their role is essential. “[Let them know] without them, the other parts of the business would not happen.”

Deloitte’s research also found older workers were the most motivated. Almost nine in 10 (87 per cent) of those aged over 55 said they went the extra mile to deliver good work, with fewer than one in five (18 per cent) reporting that what they do doesn’t stimulate them.

This compares to three in 10 (28 per cent) of those aged under 35 who reported feeling unmotivated by their jobs, and a similar number (27 per cent) saying they did not ‘bring their best self’ to their role. 

Laurell Hector, managing director of McManus HRD, said it was important for businesses to invest in skills development for older generations in addition to younger workers. Senior business leaders need to understand older workers are “not dead yet” and want to add value, she said.

Businesses also need to look to develop all people in the business to drive performance, not just “spotting talent in younger workers”, Hector added.