How to effectively challenge overqualified employees (so they don’t get bored)

The CIPD Employee Outlook report is a comprehensive quarterly summary of the work issues that are most frustrating to employees, and what companies need to do to boost engagement and productivity in their workforce.

In this quarter’s review, the consensus is that employees seem to be becoming much more particular about their job responsibilities. Top of employees’ wish lists is being granted work that they find interesting, whilst being able to use their own initiative. In addition, a quarter of employees believe that they would be more productive if they were given tasks that complement their skills.

According to the same report, a third of employees also believe they are overqualified for their current job. Interestingly, senior managers actually see a significant skills gap in their workforce, with only 8 percent believing the reason is that candidates are overqualified.

Surely there’s an incentive here for management to start placing and challenging their employees more effectively? Here’s how.

Provide Individual Projects

The average employee appreciates regular challenges – as the old movie business proverb goes, a person would rather be confused than bored – and so it stands to be even more crucial that overqualified have their abilities regularly stretched.

For an employee who often gets frustrated by the limitations of their role, consider assigning them an individual project. The Google HR programme known as “20 percent time” (assigning 20 percent of employees work time to dedicate to a project of their own interest) is frequently cited as one of the most innovative ways to engage high achieving employees, but how many HR teams have actually poached this initiative?

By doing so, you might end up adding some fresh perspective or value to the organisation – not to mention improving the overqualified individual’s attitude towards their own work and career ambitions.

Offer Training

Individual projects are often the opus of disruptive new tech, and may not be for everyone (Google itself has even cut back on the policy as the business has evolved). If, for one reason or another, an independent project just doesn’t suit your corporate environment, then you could alternatively set goals for your employees via formal or ad hoc training. Offering training programs to further career prospects, or providing regular challenges where the employee has to use their own initiative, can ensure they remain enthusiastic and committed to their position.

Perhaps even better, if there aren’t opportunities for training a particular overqualified individual, why not make that person a trainer themselves? Placing them in a role where they are responsible for mentoring new hires ensures their own skills are tested, whilst providing them with valuable managerial experience.

Understand Employee Engagement

Every employee wants to feel like their work is worthwhile and that their role fits well into the team dynamic. But knowing how to strategically place, supervise and train overqualified employees to ensure they’re adequately challenged takes a little more thought and engagement from upper management.

Ultimately, each work environment is unique, and so understanding what leads to disengagement will rely on feedback from you own employees. A useful and anonymous way to get this feedback is via staff surveys or mood monitoring apps, like emooter. This software provides data on the causes for disengagement, and by understanding what leads to disengagement, you can learn how to empower individuals so that they overcome the negative impact of perceived over qualification.



Author: Luke Rees

Luke is a digital marketing executive from London who writes extensively about management and HR tech.

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