Third of workers hiding ‘secret skills’ from employers, professional body says

Figures show many staff are underemployed, with businesses urged to invest in ‘fostering and upskilling’ existing talent

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Nearly a third of employees are actively holding back skills from their employer because they are not part of their job description, a survey has found.

A poll of 2,000 UK workers, conducted in June by the Association for Project Management (APM), found 30 per cent had ‘secret skills’ they were keeping from their organisation, many of which were in high demand.

Of those hiding skills from their employer, two in five (40 per cent) said they were holding back leadership skills, while 39 per cent said communication skills, 38 per cent had project and time management skills, and 32 per cent said they were hiding teamwork skills.


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Adam Boddison, chief executive of the APM, said bosses were “missing a trick” given the difficulties many organisations were experiencing when hiring and retaining staff: “There’s a vast pool of untapped talent within British businesses that isn’t being harnessed to its full potential.

“So many people clearly feel they are not being used to their full potential… Employers’ best investment looks likely to be in quality training to empower their people to fulfil their potential.” 

The research also found 45 per cent of those polled had not been offered any training in areas such as communication, team work or time management by their employer, with a third (32 per cent) saying they had received no formal training in their current role.


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Similarly, half (52 per cent) reported there was “nowhere to go” in their current role, with three-quarters (76 per cent) of this group saying this was because of a lack of opportunity for progression.

This was despite 38 per cent of respondents saying they would prefer to work their way up in their current company, increasing to half (50 per cent) among those aged 18-24.

Kirstie Donnelly, chief executive of City & Guilds, said record-high vacancy levels were masking the fact that many people in the workforce were “underemployed”. She urged employers to “look within their companies first to identify where hidden potential lies, and invest in fostering and upskilling their talent”. 

“Coaching to help with career progression, training or reskilling to advance their skillset further, or movement to a different role that uses a different set of skills,” can all help to utilise employees’ full potential, Donnelly said.