More education means higher stress, engagement at work

Overall engagement varies significantly by age, industry and managerial level: Survey
||Last Updated: 06/22/2011

As the workforce emerges from the recession and we move from an assembly line economy to a knowledge-and-creative economy, the highest educated employees are experiencing increased stress levels and a challenge managing the work-life balance, according to a survey.

One-third (33 per cent) of Canadians with master's degrees have concerns with work-life balance compared to 23 per cent of high school graduates, found a survey of more than 2,000 employees. One-third (33 per cent) of master's grads also feel they lack resources to do their job effectively, compared to 21 per cent of those with a high school education.

In addition, 56 per cent of master's graduates are actively looking for a job, compared to 33 per cent of high school grads, found the survey, part of a global study of 30,556 employees in 29 countries by GfK Research Dynamics. That may be because of greater optimism among those with higher education — 63 per cent of people with a master's degree said there are plenty of job opportunities available, compared to 42 per cent of high school graduates.

In North America, employees with a PhD were the most engaged (38 per cent highly engaged), while those employees who had less than a high school education were the least engaged with their jobs (only 25 per cent highly engaged). However, those same employees with a PhD reported the highest levels of pressure about job security (30 per cent), having the resources to do their jobs effectively (30 per cent), stress at work (29 per cent) and struggling to maintain a work-life balance (33 per cent). In addition, 30 per cent frequently worry about the pressure to work long hours, found GfK.

"Having more education may mean an employee is more sought after in the job market, however, these educated employees are also feeling job stress and pressure," said Annie Balant, director of employee research at GfK Research Dynamics. "It is critical for employers to realize that their success is tied to retaining key staff and the expertise they hold."

Age and industry also play a significant role in the level of engagement. Employees aged 60 years and over are the most engaged (35 per cent highly engaged), while the youngest members of the workforce, employees aged 18 to 29, were the least engaged (24 per cent highly engaged), found the survey.

"A strengthening economy means more job opportunities, particularly for well trained employees," said Balant. "When companies focus on engaging their employees, they decrease the inclination for knowledgeable staff to depart as soon as opportunities arise."

Voluntary turnover is rising in professional and business services, despite high engagement. The reason appears to be fallout from decisions made by employees in this knowledge-intensive sector during the recession — 45 per cent reported they were forced to change life plans during the recession. Job changes may be their way of allowing them to negotiate changes that bring their life back on track, said GfK.

Additional findings from the survey:

• The top five industries with engaged employees were construction (41 per cent highly engaged), professional and business services (34 per cent), information technology (33 per cent) and public utilities (32 per cent).

• Disengagement is highest in the retail sector (40 per cent neutral or disengaged), followed by real estate (38 per cent), public administration (38 per cent), education (32 per cent) and manufacturing (31 per cent).

• Managers are more engaged (35 per cent highly engaged) than people with no managerial responsibilities (21 per cent highly engaged) but those who manage other managers have the highest level of engagement (60 per cent highly engaged).

• Employees of small companies are far more engaged (37 per cent highly engaged) than those at large companies (23 per cent highly engaged).

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