Half of UK employees feel their employer doesn’t understand them or their potential

04 December, 2018

  • 50% of UK workers report feeling misunderstood or that their potential isn’t being realised by their employer
  • The study also showed what motivates UK’s workforce: why they go to work and what keeps them there

London, UK – 04 December 2018: Half of the UK’s workforce feels misunderstood by their bosses according to research from ADP (Automatic Data Processing). The study, which surveyed over 2,000 workers across the UK, France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, found that 50% of UK employees feel their employers don’t understand them or their potential – higher than the European average of 46%. The survey also showed that 40% of UK workers are unhappy with the quality of leadership – again showing a significant disconnect between employees and employers.

UK employees were some of the most likely in Europe to feel this way, with only France reporting slightly higher figures where 52% saying they feel misunderstood by their employer. This was followed closely by Italy (48%) and Germany (46%), while the Netherlands reported the most positive results with only a third stating such feelings (35%).

However, UK and European employees are more likely to feel their direct reports understand them better, with 61% reporting that their managers know and support them, and want to see them succeed. This shows that those working more closely together enjoy better relationships, which in turn is likely to lead to better quality of work and greater productivity. The lesson for businesses is that close relations between all staff, regardless of seniority, matter.

These findings are supported by other aspects of the study which demonstrate what motivates employees, what keeps them happy and engaged at work, and what makes them want to stay. For example, the research found while cash is the primary motivator for UK workers, over a third (38%) say they go to work for other reasons such as personal development, job satisfaction and workplace relationships.

Evaluating where a lack of motivation can turn into disengagement, the study also found that 41% of UK employees feel like quitting at least every few months – significantly higher than the European average of 28%. Two-fifths (19%) consider it on a weekly basis or more, again considerably higher than the European average of 13%.

Jeff Phipps, Managing Director at ADP UK, commented: “This research points to a worrying issue: British bosses do not truly understand their people and what they could offer businesses. If employees don’t feel valued and understood, they are far less likely to be engaged in their role and productive in their work. As this research shows, money isn’t always the primary motivator for many people, and workers are often motivated by more personal reasons such as work relationships and career growth.”

Phipps continued: “While it requires time and investment, which employers may feel reluctant to give when they don’t see direct returns, it is always important to invest attention and effort in understanding employees. This allows businesses not only to learn how to utilise their talent in the best way possible, but to ensure employees feel their potential is realised and feel motivated to do their best work. Employers who fail to do this risk a disengaged workforce that doesn’t deliver, and potentially a high turn-over of staff.”

About the Research

ADP and Circle Research conducted an online quantitative survey in April 2018 of 2518 employees across 5 different countries (France, UK, Germany, Netherlands and Italy). The sample was a representative mix of employees by age, gender, full-time / part-time workers, salary brackets and seniority.


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Media Contact:

Claire Nelson, Flagship Consulting
Natasha Cobby, Flagship Consulting
020 7680 7104