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Ireland has the most over-qualified employees in EU

Posted on March 18, 2015 by administrator

The European Commission is considering a report that shows that one-third (33%) of Ireland’s workers are overqualified for their current jobs. This is the highest level in the European Union and compares with just 14% in Sweden, 17% in France and 18% in Germany and Denmark.

The study of over-education suggests that we have had far too many people going to third-level colleges and universities for the types of jobs available. This, in turn, boosts the trend for better-educated, younger graduates to emigrate bringing their skills and training overseas.

The study of ‘Over-education in Europe’ was conducted by Seamus McGuinness, a research professor at the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), assisted by economists, Adele Bergin and Adele Whelan. It was done as part of the EU’s Strategic Transitions for Youth Labour programme and will be published shortly.

Over-education describes the extent to which an individual possesses a level of education in excess of that which is required for their particular job or that is most common among other workers doing the same job.

Young people with honours degrees working in ‘dead-beat’ call centres or in minimum-wage hospitality jobs has grown in recent years. Many who were encouraged to go to university, especially to do fairly high-points courses, are now in jobs which would at most require a Leaving Cert qualification.
This weekend Prof McGuinness said that the research shows that over-education for employment is not a new factor in Ireland and that both EU labour force data and OECD education studies show Ireland top of the league. He added it may be influenced by Irish parents pushing teenagers into third-level courses rather than industrial and technical training opportunities.

It may also reflect a shift over the past 15 years by Vocational Colleges and Institutes of Technology away from work-related courses to more academic options combined with fewer industrial apprenticeship opportunities.

At an individual level over-education means lower wages, lower levels of job satisfaction and higher levels of job mobility though not necessarily to an improved job match. For the employing firm it results in lower productivity and less contented employees always looking for, if not finding, a better job.

Prof McGuinness added that over-education in employment is more of a phenomenon for graduates from poorer, or less well-connected, households. Wealthier parents with degrees in Ireland often have connections to ensure that their children get the pick of the better jobs or they have the resources to subsidise them taking unpaid ‘intern’ opportunities.

He suggested that another factor in Ireland may be a miss-match between third-level courses with the newer jobs coming on stream. Also there could be frictions or information-gaps between education options and the reality of the types of jobs being created.

Some of our colleges are churning out high-points graduates in astro-physics who end up working in banking and asset-management. Also there was a huge boost in the number of student therapists and nurses up to the health recruitment embargo in 2010 which just fed into youth migration.

Traditionally, the 26-year-old, with a first class degree in philosophy flipping meat patties in Burger King, was the popular image of ‘over-education’ but this new study shows it is running much deeper. It may be acceptable that the sweet, aspiring actress might work as a café waitress between stage jobs but having a burly molecular scientist working as a pub bouncer, or marshalling taxis at an airport terminal, is probably a waste of resources.

The problem may be getting worse as more people who cannot get a job, avail of ‘back-to-education’ courses or opt to do masters degrees for a further year or two. Having the “best and brightest in Europe” in dead-end and undemanding jobs is a recipe for serious social problems. It also leads to lower productivity and, in turn, to lower wages.

It is hard to focus on collecting rubbish bins for Greyhound or stacking warehouse shelves in Ikea when your mind is on comparative international relations or micro-biological organisms. This is the reality for one-third of those now working in Ireland.

Prof McGuinness noted that “the Inter-cert (now Group-cert) is still the standard qualification for many jobs”, based on the modal or most common education level of current employees in those positions.

Ten do’s and don’ts for Irish managers – Sunday Business Post

Posted on January 27, 2014 by Gerald Flynn

Ten Do’s and Don’ts of People Management

[Published in Sunday Business Post’s ‘Your Business’ magazine – 26 January 2014]

By Gerald Flynn

1.       Do take all problems very seriously

People problems always arise in the workplace and may call for corrective action, performance reviews or disciplinary action. These are fraught with procedural hazards a bit like the years of legal loopholes used to get around drink-driving legislation.

Take time to think about how serious this problem actually is. It is a matter of time-keeping, personal/health issues, misbehaviour, inter-personal grievances, or under-performance? Then plan your response and intervention by being very careful to document clearly each step you are taking.

Never accuse anybody of wrong-doing unless you have clear evidence and not just an anonymous or vague complaint. Try a mediating approach first before invoking any formal disciplinary hearing and ensure that your behaviour is reasonable because, if you don’t, the Employment Appeals Tribunal or a Right Commissioner may very well do so some months later.

2.       Do tell people when they’re doing a good job

We are all inclined to take consistent, trouble-free behaviour for granted. Good people managers, as a rule of thumb, should be giving praise or encouragement on a ratio of five to one for every criticism or short-comings they might raise.

The old adage: ‘You’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar’, applies very much in a work environment.

3.       Do remember that change cannot be achieved without communication

This is a big organisational problem. The boss or the senior team have a ‘bright idea’ which they expect will boost profits/slash costs/ increase market share/ develop new products. They then come down from the boardroom mountain, like Moses, and announce their great ideas which will take shape from next month.

Communication is a two-way street and as many people likely to be affected should be included in consultation.  Share information and evidence so that ownership of the change spreads to many more people.

There is supposed to be consultation over collective job redundancies or transfers of undertakings, but it rarely happens. Managers just go through the legal motions rather than really asking people for their views and inviting them to raise any concerns or possible alternatives. Then they wonder: ‘Why do we have so many change blockers around here?’ and dismiss them as ‘Luddites’.

4.       Don’t slash training spend to zero

It is very tempting to cut all training and development spending as a first reaction to a downturn. In the short-term it seems much better and fairer than cutting jobs or wages. This was the immediate reaction of many private and public sector organisations after the asset bubble burst in 2008.

A bit like putting off painting your house or cleaning your gutters; you’ll get away with it for a while but the remedial costs after a few years will be much higher with structural problems due to water-seepage and rot.

Better to review learning and select key people for up-skilling and,if money is very tight, persuade them to undertake e-learning initiatives and to do some of it in the evenings or over weekends as ‘self-managed learning’. Ensure that it is job-relevant and tailored to the participants’ educational standards.

 5.       Do prepare thoroughly for an interview

Isn’t that what the applicants or candidates are supposed to do? Well, yes.  They have all read about reviewing your web-site, knowing about your products and services and wearing well-polished shoes.

The person conducting the interview needs to do much more work. Know the job-spec well and have read the CV of each short-listed interviewee noting follow-up questions.  Then plan how to sequence questions and consider where open or probing questions are more appropriate. Be sure that someone on your side of the table is taking notes of times and responses covered as you may need to show them to a third-party should any disappointed candidate take further action.

And, of course, do not ask if they are planning to have children or how old they are – I know you wouldn’t but a surprising number of managers actually do.

6.        Don’t allow a blame culture to take hold

Sadly, this has been a serious handicap in much of the HSE since its establishment ten years ago. It can kill initiative and responsibility in any workplace. The best weapon against it is ‘employee engagement’ so that mistakes are acknowledged, people have input into addressing problems and everyone is encouraged to learn from their mistakes.

This is reinforced by sharing information, having self-managing teams, and clearly including everyone is setting their own targets, goals and performance standards at regular performance conversations.

Delegating tasks and projects, while being there for back-up but not looking over their shoulders, is a great way to boost confidence and encourage initiative.

7.       Do examine underperformance in detail

During the First World War the French military generals were rather keen on shooting their own troops at dawn for underperformance at the front. They called is cowardice but later studies found that many of the conscripts, who spoke southern dialects, had not understood what they were being told to do.

If you feel the someone fails to measure-up, ask yourself is it because they just don’t know how to do it and lack the ability; or have not been trained and so do not have the required skills; or are they unwilling to do it due to poor attitude or motivation; or, finally, like the unfortunate French soldiers, have they not fully understood what they are supposed to do.

Often poor performance is just a reflection of inadequate management of the situation rather than employees trying to make sure you lose the war

8.       Don’t believe that bonuses and pay rises can cure problems

At its most basic employees trade their time and skills for a monthly, electronic cash transfer.  So the more money on offer, often as a performance bonus, should provide even greater motivation and success, or so the crude theory goes.

The reality is somewhat different unless, perhaps, you are a really greedy, senior finance sector executive who can persuade gullible directors that you have “created shareholder value”.  Sure a bonus cheque feels good but occupational psychologists have found that being valued as a professional and being recognised and respected by your manager is a more powerful and longer-term stimulus.

9.       Don’t always think you are captain of  your team

Good people managers are more co-ordinators than captains.  Even in football the manager does not run around the pitch. Instead managers watch individual and collective performance and adjust, where necessary, with repositions and using substitutes when extra support is needed or team players need a break.

Ask how well is this team working together; do we prioritise collectively; if there is disagreement on the tactics, are they openly discussed and considered;  and do we regularly review our team performance.

10.   Do really know yourself and your capacities

The aphorism ‘Know Thyself’ is most often associated with the Greek thinker Socrates and he, apparently, saw it inscribed at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. He was considered the wisest person in downtown Athens around 400BCE because he openly acknowledged how little he really knew.

We all spend so much time and effort presenting an image that we sometimes believe our own propaganda. Nobody is asking you to change your personality or have a ‘head transplant’ but know your own strengths and weaknesses and try to balance your behaviour to smooth these out.  Be open about what you prefer and respect that the workplace is made up of all sorts of personalities. Understanding yourself is the first step in understanding others.

There is nothing as sad as seeing ambitious, younger managers trying to become clones of their boss.

Gerald Flynn is an employment specialist with Align Management Solutions in Dublin and a former adviser to the CIPD.  E-mail:

DSP’s JobPath contracts put back – December 2013 World of Work update

Posted on November 28, 2013 by Gerald Flynn

The Department of Social Protection  [DSP] has decided to postpone its scheduled  JobPath request for tenders which was due to be published before the end of November.

According to the latest issue of Align Management’s ‘World of Work‘ newsbrief, the request for tenders will be issued in mid-December following an internal review. The newsletter also reveals that DSP Minister, Joan Burton has approved the tender documents, Download the newsletter here at: Dec 13- World of Work-2   You may  print it off should you wish to distribute it to colleagues.

Align Management is also working on a tender standards proposal which will benefit both prime bidders and service contractors in ensuring good business relations and problem-solving to enhance the reputation of the JobPath  welfare-to-work initiative.

In recent weeks many employment services people have been in touch seeking advice and support. You are welcome to join me through LinkedIn