The effectiveness with which skills are being used and developed in the workplace has important economic and social ramifications for individuals, organisations and more broadly for society. Those who are able to use their skills fully experience better job satisfaction, have increased earning potential and are more resilient to change. Businesses whose workers are well matched to their roles benefit from a more productive workforce and increased profitability.

Our research, Over-skilled and underused: Investigating the untapped potential of UK skills, aims to provide an up-to-date picture of the state of the UK’s skills base and how well workers’ skills are being used and developed at work. It examines the extent of skills and qualifications mismatches, the availability of and access to in-work training and development, as well as career progression and the role of workplace culture and line managers within this context.

The results are based on a representative survey of 3,700 employees along with three online focus groups. Accompanying the report is a focused guide for employers and managers to counter skills mismatches through good people management practice.

Download the report and practice guidance:

Key findings

Roles and qualifications needed

  • A large proportion of roles (44%) required no or only school-level qualifications for entry. 
  • Almost a third (30%) that needed a higher-level degree to get their jobs say lower qualifications are actually needed to perform their roles.

Extent and impact of skills mismatch

  • Nearly half of workers report being mismatched in their roles, with 37% over-skilled and 12% under-skilled.
  • Over-skilled workers are less satisfied and nearly twice as likely to want to quit than those in well-matched roles.
  • Over-skilled workers are also more likely to say their job offers poor prospects for career advancement, training and skills development.
  • Well-matched workers are much more likely to agree there is trust between management and employees.

Progression, training and development

  • Over a quarter (26%) report ‘lack of opportunities’ as the biggest barrier to progression, followed by ‘lack of confidence’ (14%).
  • Low-paid workers have less labour market mobility — only 12% of those earning <£20,000 p.a. have been promoted in their current organisation, compared with 45% of those on £40,000 or more.
  • Almost a quarter (24%) of workers had undertaken no training in the past year, with older, low-wage or part-time workers and also self-employed the worst affected.
  • Line managers were seen as gatekeepers to opportunities but were viewed to have neither the time nor experience to fulfil their roles effectively.

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Skills mismatches in the workplace

Training received in the past 12 months and usefulness of training

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