When it comes to the workplace, there’s probably a degree of truth to the idea of the British stiff upper lip. There’s an implicit attitude that striving for job satisfaction goes against the fundamental nature of work, whilst putting one’s own fulfilment ahead of business needs is considered a cardinal sin. However, the revelation that Britain has one of the lowest levels of job satisfaction in Europe and the English-speaking world, falling far behind economic powerhouses like Germany, raises the question whether stoicism in the face of adversity really is all it’s cracked up to be.
As a part of its new campaign to address fulfilment in the workplace entitled How I Became, recruitment firm Randstad conducted some research with its Fulfilment@Work report, interviewing 45,000 employees internationally to assess how Britain compared to its contemporaries. Rather disturbingly, British employees have had the lowest levels of job satisfaction when compared to its closest European rivals in nine out of the last 13 quarters; it also came bottom when compared to other Anglophone countries in nine of the last 11 quarters.
In terms of hard figures, only 67% of UK workers indicated that they felt satisfied with their current employer during Q3 2013. Compared with our closest geographic rivals, this placed us at a notable disadvantage – both Germany and France polled at 68%, whilst The Netherlands and Belgium reached fulfilment levels of 73% and 74% respectively.
It may be tempting to view this as a quirk of the Eurozone economies, which are perhaps seen as a more employee-centric than others on the global stage. However, stacking Britain against other English-speaking nations simply compounds the European picture. Q3 2013 saw our antipodean cousins in Australia and New Zealand feeling 70% and 73% fulfilled, whilst across the pond other English-speakers are feeling positively beatific, with satisfaction Stateside hitting 74% and in Canada reaching as high as 77%.
So do we just need to accept that Britain can’t get no satisfaction? Fortunately not. Randstad provides some hints to help employers address the needs of the 9.85 million employees who may not be feeling all that engaged in their work. First of all, the recruiter found a positive correlation between age and job satisfaction, with both younger and older employees showing the highest level of fulfilment in their work at two-thirds, whilst just 57% of those in the middle of their careers felt satisfied in their current position. Additionally, doing something to suture up the gender gap can have a real effect, with 17% of women feeling very fulfilled in their work compared to 16% of men.
Mark Bull, CEO of Randstad, commented: “We are issuing a rallying call to employers to join us in action to address the state of fulfilment at work in the UK. Our report is designed to provoke debate but we have identified a number of practical solutions to these issues, and give employers an outline of what needs to change going forward to increase the professional fulfilment of their workforce. Our campaign for employees How I Became is designed to help and inspire everyone to be more fulfilled.
Addressing the satisfaction of your workforce can have a significant trickle-down effect, particularly for small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that depend so much on their employees remaining committed and effective. Clearly, meeting staff dissatisfaction with that stiff upper lip simply won’t cut it.