Overqualified workers are in great supply.
The number of available workers with college degrees has increased in recent years, far outpacing the number of positions actually requiring degrees.
Tightened budgets have led many organizations to slash higher-level positions in favor of more low-level (and low-paying) positions.
And as an alternative to full retirement, many older and more experienced workers are taking on new jobs with fewer requirements and responsibilities.
How can managers bring out the best in these growing segments of the workforce?
How to engage overqualified workers
Person-environment fit theory
gives us the 3 steps that managers can take, and recent research
confirms that they can really make a difference.
1. Provide support
Provide your workers with the resources they need to get the job done.
This is the basic first step.
Effective employees are more valuable to you. And feeling ineffective at work is one of the leading causes of employee burnout
What if there isn’t anything extra in the budget? Keep in mind that support isn’t necessarily about spending more money.
It’s just as important to ensure that you are setting expectations for employees
that are manageable and realistic
, given the time and resources that you are able to provide.
2. Show appreciation
People want to feel appreciated for their contributions at work.
Of course, one of the main ways that employers show appreciation is with money. And overqualified employees might not feel truly appreciated if they are underpaid.
But keep in mind that money isn’t the only way to show appreciation, or even the most effective way to motivate employees
Showing sincere appreciation is often the most effective thing a manager can do.
Formal employee recognition initiatives can also be helpful, but keep in mind that some types are much more effective than others
3. Provide development opportunities
Even overqualified workers want to learn new things and develop new skills.
Providing opportunities for learning and development can have very positive effects, even for workers who are already overqualified for their current job.
Learning and development can boost motivation by providing a sense of meaning and purpose
, and ultimately increase creativity and performance
But overqualified employees will probably move on as soon as the next opportunity comes along.
Is it still worthwhile to invest in them? It probably is
According to a survey from CareerBuilder
, the majority of employees who are considered “job-hoppers” will typically stick around at a given job for at least 2 years.
Boosting motivation and performance during this time can still add tremendous value.
And an overqualified employee’s insights, creative ideas, and other contributions will often remain even after they have moved on to their next job.