1.1 Introduction

A very famous quote on the workforce of companies is that “People are the most important resource in any company. The people make the company” (Cottrell, 2002, p.56). This statement cannot be considered as completely accurate since it fails to signify a very important fact. This is that not all employees are crucial for companies but it is the ‘right’ employees who play this role. The right employees can be signified as those employees who are not just smart and hardworking but also those who are satisfied with their jobs in the companies. It is attracting such employees and retaining in long term, which paves the way of success for companies. Organisations that constitute of inefficient employees with less employee motivation and job satisfaction do not attain success (Cottrell, 2002, p.56).

In the current changing climates, it has become more and more difficult for people to find jobs which match their skills and their area of education (Diane Publishing Company, 1995), thus making it crucial for them to opt for available jobs over jobs which they would choose willingly. Schools have been criticised in the past for not being able to provide students with the required skills and knowledge. Due to this, students are not able to cope with the changing demands of the job market. However, there is also the devaluation of education where it is not considered as crucial in today’s market to hire students who have actually graduated in the job roles discipline over those who have not. All of these factors have created a generous population who do not pursue their career or job roles in the same discipline in which they are educated (Diane Publishing Company, 1995). The increase in globalisation has also increased the supply of employees who are highly trained for various job roles thus reducing the importance of local education even more as there are adequate people with relevant education and experience to fulfil the employer needs from other nations (Macleod, 2004). The increasing rate of unemployment that was estimated to be 9% in 2006 and the need of local population to gain an income has also led to a significant number of people opting for the job roles that do not match their educational qualifications (Hardy, 2006). There are however others who realise after they have completed their education that they do not want to pursue a career in the same area and opt for employment in different sectors due to various other reasons. This study will review the employment satisfaction levels of these two sets of employee work force. The first, being those who unwilling chose to work in a job role which does not match their education and secondly those who willingly made this choice.

1.2 Scope of Research

This topic of research has been chosen for many reasons. The various literature and journals that have been written in this area have only focused on the overall unemployment phenomenon as being the reason for people not being able to find jobs that they are not skilled at. There are other studies which have criticised the current education system and its inability to meet the changing the needs of the job markets (Cote and Levine, 2000; Lockwood, 2006). Other existing literatures discuss employee job satisfaction from the perspective of the overall job satisfaction among all industries or in a single industry. While there is existing research focusing on the region of Saudi Arabia on employee job satisfaction, none of this research looks at employees specifically working in job roles that are not related to their field of education.

Hence this study will be different when compared to previous studies as it looks at the employees’ job satisfaction from of their job roles being different from their educational qualifications. It also focuses on determining if there was a difference in the employee job satisfaction when employees chose willingly to work in areas which are different from their educational backgrounds than the employees who did not willingly choose. The aims and objectives which this research paper aims to achieve are provided below:

1.3 Research Aim

This research aims to identify the job satisfaction levels of employees in Saudi Arabia who are working in jobs that not connected to their academic background.

1.4 Research Objectives

In order to realise the above aim, the below objectives will need to be realised during this research study.

  • To determine the factors that result in people seeking jobs that are not in sync with their formal educational qualifications?
  • To identify if this trend vary across industry sectors?

[Between:  manufacturing and processing, technical services and professional services – spread in organizations across and a formal classification will be developed in detailed approach and methodology. The sample may not be equal distributed but a fair spread would be attempted]

  • To understand the impact of incongruence between job requirements and educational background on employee satisfaction.
  • To investigate the resultant employee satisfaction levels impact performance and HRM strategies in businesses.

1.5 Structure of Dissertation

This dissertation comprises of 5 chapters

  • Chapter 1 provides an introduction to role of people in a company and how it is crucial for them to be satisfied with their jobs to perform effectively. It also discusses why this study is being conducted and what are the research aims and objectives which will be achieved through this study. The structure of the overall study will also be provided in this chapter.
  • The second chapter reviews the recent literature on the topics of employee job satisfaction, factors which influence people’s occupational decisions; contribute to people applying for jobs unrelated to their education etc. It will then review concepts such as Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, Herzberg’s two factor theory and the intrinsic and extrinsic factors which impact the employees’ motivation to work thus improving or reducing employee job satisfaction. It will also discuss the role played by HR team and their strategies in companies impacted by employees with low levels of employment satisfaction.
  • Chapter 3 is the methodology chapter. It is divided into three parts. The first section discusses the philosophical aspects such as the research position and research approach to be adopted in the study. The second section will list the data collection methods to be used, their benefits and the way in which their limitations will be reduced in the study. The third section will discuss the ethics policy and how it will be maintained during the study.
  • Chapter 4 is the Data analysis and discussion chapter. In this chapter, the researcher will highlight the key trends identified in the data collected. The analysis results will also be listed and an insight into how the research findings are generated will be provided in the discussion section.
  • Chapter 5 is the Conclusion and Recommendations chapter. This chapter will list the research findings, generate recommendations and determine if the research aim has been realised. Any limitations of the study will also be provided in this chapter.
  • The research references and appendices will be listed in the final part of the study.

Chapter 2-Literature Review

‘The choice of a career is possibly one of the most critical decisions to make, yet, for several reasons, it is most often made on the basis of chance and not choice’ (Ramchandani, 2000).  It is evident based upon various studies that job roles which are selected by choice seem to have increased employee commitment and employee motivation when compared to those careers opted based upon chance (Blau, 2011). This is due to various internal and external factors which contribute to the employment decisions of individuals (Ramchandani, 2000). In this chapter, the existing literature on the factors which contribute to decisions for employment and careers by people will be discussed initially. It is crucial to understand why and under what circumstances (if any) do people chose to work in jobs which are not aligned to their educational degree or diplomas. Once this is determined, various models on employee job satisfaction and motivation will be discussed in the later parts. Any existing studies which discuss employee job satisfaction in job roles unrelated to their educational qualifications will also be reviewed in this chapter.

2.1 Factors Contributing to Occupational Choices of Individuals

Internal reasons:

The key factors which influence the occupational choices of people have been researched to be the following. The first factor is the personality factors of individuals. This can be their inner traits as a person, their various interests, their values in life etc. Each of these personality factors plays a crucial role in the choices of individuals to pursue a specific career. A good example is a student whose interests are to paint or repair machinery. These factors can contribute to their choices to be a painter or a mechanic accordingly (Cook et.al, 1996, Johnson, 2002 & Steinberg et.al, 2010). Various studies have been developed to gain an understanding of how the big five personality dimensions of an individual play a crucial role in their career choice, job satisfaction and success (Gill & Hodgkinson, 2007). It has been determined that extraversion plays a positive role in the employee job satisfaction, positive career choices and salary improvements however factors such as neuroticism plays a negative role in how the employees feel about their career choices. The trait of agreeableness was identified as a factor which made people feel dissatisfied in their careers while the trait of openness was not in favour of employees’ salaries. This means that employees’ who carried the personality trait of openness were unable to find highly paid jobs. There was also the awareness that certain traits played a higher significance in certain jobs roles such as openness in people oriented roles and stronger traits in occupations requiring leadership or decision making roles etc (Seibert & Kraimer, 2001). It has also been identified that these five personality traits are influential across all types of job roles and have a strong correlation of 0.41 in how the employees feel about their jobs (Timothy et.al, 2002).

The second key factor which has been identified to be a key contributor to people’s decisions on career choices is interaction with others. This can be social influence form other people, individual preferences which are aligned with the preferences of others and other forces in a person’s social environment (Cook et.al, 1996). The final key factor which plays a key role in an individual’s career choice is their want to achieve the socio-economic status achieved by others. This is one of the biggest influential factors for one’s decision to choose a specific career. The people gain their ambition and need to achieve success from the ambitions and successes of those around them. Hence this contributes significantly to their career choices (Cook et.al, 1996, Johnson, 2002 & Steinberg et.al, 2010).

One of the key reasons for people choosing jobs which do not meet their educational qualifications are since there are limited jobs available in their educated discipline and they have conducted very little analysis to look into their employability once they complete the course they are choosing. Most people as students do not adopt courses such as engineering, architecture and doctors’ degrees since these courses require a high level of discipline and learning in the work intensive topics of maths and science. They look for easier topics so they do not have to spend more years in the college and do not have to work as hard either. However, they do not consider their ability to find a suitable job in their discipline after college. They are neither being guided properly in their university years or during school since they do not provide an accurate picture of what the recent graduates who had opted for similar courses actually achieved. One of the reasons for this could be the teacher’s view that the students’ employability after the completion of the courses and their actual ability to strive in the job market is not part of their roles in the schools or universities (Shenk, 1997).

The above analysis is a study conducted by a Texas University to determine which of their alumni actually work in roles which are relevant to their education. It is clearly evident in the study that students who work in medicine, administration and engineering roles have over 80% of students employed in roles similar to their educational qualifications. Among students who pursue courses such as liberal arts, general studies, humanities etc have less than 20% of them actually pursue a career in the same field as their course (Shenk, 1997).

This highlights the fact this phenomenon of employee working in the same job roles as their careers is a phenomenon more commonly related to certain courses and cannot be generalised across all courses. However, this will be looked into further during the data collection process.

External reasons

There are other various reasons which contribute to people’s decisions to opt for careers which are unrelated to education. These are pressures from the external societies, the need to meet the expectation from their parents and peers, the material considerations such as money etc, the lack of available suitable training organisations in the local regions, the limited guidance as mentioned above. As per research the jobs which are selected by individuals due to the above mentioned reasons can lead to be lacking challenging work, in other scenarios lacking adequate money and hence less job satisfaction. They will thus be frustrated and unhappy both in their employment and personal life since they are not working on jobs which use their actual talents and skills and allow them to contribute to the best of their abilities (Ramchandani, 2000). The other key factors such as the family life, cultural context such as collectivism and individualistic behaviours, parental encouragement and support are also other possible factors which play a key role in the individuals’ decisions to make career choices which are unrelated to their past education (Agarwala, 2008 & Ferry et.al, 2000). In addition to the above, the possible assumed career barriers when aiming for specific choice of career related to their educational qualifications also plays a key contributing factor in deciding a career choice which is not in alignment with their past studies (Lent et.al, 2000).  In most scenarios, it has been identified in these scenarios that the individuals prefer to opt for choices which are not related to their studies, make choices based upon the output expectancy. When the expectation that the job role which is not the same as their past education, is high, they opt for such jobs so that they can gain employment with ease (Ferry et.al, 2000).

Thus in the above section, the factors which contribute to people choosing job roles which are unrelated to their educational qualifications are listed. The next section will discuss various motivational models and also identify through these models the techniques to improve employee job satisfaction in companies.

2.2 Motivational Models

Motivation can be defined as ‘the direction and persistence of action’. It is always identified as the reasons for people’s behaviour and their decisions to opt for certain personal and professional decisions in a persistent manner. Motivation is a crucial factor for employees to feel satisfied in their employment. If people feel that they are moving closer to their goal, they feel motivated else they are de-motivated. If this is viewed from the perspective of employment, the people who are motivated at their jobs are those who feel their job roles are helping them either move towards or achieve their goals. This in-turn ensures their job satisfaction is high and their performance is better (Mullins, 2008). The formula which was provided by Mullin to describe motivation is

Performance = function (ability -> motivation).

(Mullins, 2008).

The first step for managers to motivate their employees is the need to understand what are their expectations and goals. It is only after they are aware of the employees motivational interests will they be able to work towards providing them and improving the job satisfaction and employment experience of their employees.  As per Mullins, the employees’ motivation is divided into two types, intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation. The expectations to motivate on these two levels is provided in the below paragraphs.

Extrinsic Motivation:This motivation type is governed bythe external factors. These factors can be employee rewards, employment promotions, good pay, proper contracts, employee tenure prices, health and safety conditions etc. These factors in most companies are defined on an organisational level and implemented on a managerial level. Hence, the success or failures in the employees’ extrinsic motivational level across teams in a company are determined by line managers (Mullins, 2008).

Intrinsic Motivation:This motivation type is internal as suggested by the name and focuses on the non-tangible benefits which the employees aim to attain through their jobs.  The example factors are good employee treatment, employee praise, good work culture, employee recognition, task identity and respect. These factors can be implemented both at an organisational level and team level. However their implementation and success factors are based only on the line managers’ implementation in their relevant teams. Most of these motivational factors are tied with the company and line manager through the psychological contract of the individuals. This makes it crucial for the line managers to maintain and deliver on these psychological contracts to improve employee motivational and job satisfaction levels in companies (Mullins, 2008).

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs model: One of the key models which can provide an insight into the different levels at which employees can gain job satisfaction is the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs model. In this model, Abraham Maslow indicated that the highest level a human being can reach in their life is self-actualisation where humans are able to determine their abilities and work on improving them to bring happiness to themselves and benefit the community simultaneously. This is where the job satisfaction from their job roles would also be highest leading them to contribute to their personal growth and the growth of the company significantly. However, before this stage can be reached, they need to fulfil their more basic needs, which is where most people are stuck and do no end up with any self-realisation. These needs mentioned in the model are listed below in the ascending order (Zastro & Kirst-Ashman, 2009).

The physiological needs are the needs which are crucial to be able to live their life. These are needs such as water, food, heat, shelter, rest and sleep. These needs need to be satisfied among people before they are given any other needs to motivate people to do anything in life. The next set of needs is security or safety needs which means the needs to be free from any danger let it be physical danger of an accident etc or a psychological danger such as losing a job, being unable to find shelter etc. The third set of needs which humans can focus on, once the two sets of needs have been met are, affiliation or acceptance needs (Koontz & Weihrich, 1990, Rowan, 2007 and Maslow, 1970). These needs are related to humans’ attributes of being a social animal. These needs are crucial for humans since they always need a belonging to places and acceptance from others. The fourth set of needs is the self-esteem needs. These needs come in to place once people feel they belong to a place since these needs require people to feel that they are held in higher esteem among these people that they belong to. These kinds of needs are due to the want for power, prestige, status and self-confidence among people that they now belong to. After fulfilling each of these levels of needs can people achieve the final stage which is the self-actualisation stage. This stage is where everyone maximises their potential and can aim to be successful at what they want while also feeling that they have reached out to be what they want to be in life (Koontz & Weihrich, 1990 and Maslow, 1970).

The above model provides an insight into employee job satisfaction. If the employees’ most crucial needs such as basic pay conditions, work place or health & safety conditions are not satisfied, they will not be receiving any job satisfaction or employee motivation by receiving rewards or recognition across the company. Also it signifies that if the employees do not feel respected or they do not feel acceptance in their work environment or teams, it equally contributes to their job role dissatisfaction hence affects their performance (Koontz & Weihrich, 1990 and Maslow, 1970).

Herzberg’s two factors theory:

In order to improve the employee job satisfaction, managers have been presented with various motivational theories across the years by researchers. One of the most famous models on motivational factors is the Herzberg’s two factors theory. This theory highlights the motivational factors which managers across companies should focus on so that they can improve the motivational level of their employees and the other factors which managers should ensure that they exist in companies so that they can reduce employees from being de-motivated (Mullins, 2008). As per this theory, the reason for such significance on employee motivation is since it can influence the level of job satisfaction or job dissatisfaction which is experienced by employees. The motivational factors have been referred to as ‘motivators’ while the second set of factors whose absence can lead to employee de-motivation have been termed as ‘hygienes’ (Davies, 2007).

As per Herzberg, the priority among the two factors should be given to the hygiene factors as the first step towards improving motivation and job satisfaction among employees is to eliminate factors which can lead to de-motivation. The hygiene factors include the basic needs of employees which they need to complete their day to day professional and personal activities. The examples are basic pay conditions, effective and good management, safe working conditions, effective health and safety rules etc. Each of these factors is managed adequately provide an enriching environment to work in thus leading to employee job satisfaction where they are neither increasingly satisfied nor dissatisfied. The factors which are motivators and need to be implemented in companies to improve their employees from just being satisfied but motivated to perform better are factors such as employee promotion plans, reward structure, regular yet deserved praise of employees and developing a good work culture while also increasing business profits etc. Each of these factors will inspire employees to work harder than just complete the tasks assigned to them. This theory suggests that if a company has the hygiene factors the employees will be satisfied with their work however.

As per the above listed formula, five key characteristics can improve the employee motivation or reduce it. It states that among companies where there is zero autonomy or zero feedback, the motivational score is also zero as there can be no motivation without any autonomy or feedback. This implies that managers will need to provide their employees with autonomy to work on their own rather than micromanage and also implies that for tasks completed regular feedback will only improve the employees motivation to work better. The formula also signifies that employees are motivated when one or more of the three attributes of – skill variety, task significance and task motivation – are part of the employee job design. Hence it is crucial for employees to have at least one of these factors as part of their job roles to enhance job satisfaction and gain a high potential motivation score (Hodgetts & Hegar, 2007).

This means that all companies need to ensure that their employees are provided autonomy to complete tasks, they are provided with relevant feedback to work at all times and they should be provided with skill variety, task significance or task identity, so that their motivation and thus job satisfaction is high in companies.

2.3 HR Strategies

Recruitment and Selection of employees whose educational qualifications differ from their job roles

The underlying reason for many HR teams to recruit employees from different educational backgrounds irrelevant from their job roles is since there is an increasing need for diversity in the teams. The HR officials are not looking for educational qualifications alone, they are looking for skills such as being flexible, personally driven, commercial knowledge of the market and analytical skills to target problems. These skills are not relevant to the individual’s qualification of a master’s degree in politics or commerce etc but are just relevant to the fact that an individual has a master’s degree. This can lead to various people being recruited in roles which are not related to their academic background at all since the companies they are applying for aim to have diversity in the organisation. The second key reason is when the recruitment consultants across companies have a specific target to meet every month. When these consultants are unable to find any more people whose qualifications meet the job role educational requirements, they use the relevant experience and/or skills as the reason for recruiting thus again leading to recruiting employees whose skills are not relevant to the employee job roles (Sluis & Bunt-Kokhuis, 2009). The other reason to recruit employees with different educational backgrounds is since companies sometimes have too many similar employees with similar qualifications and thinking style and recruiting some employees from different backgrounds so that they can reduce the standardisation which is created by recruiting the same types of employees at all times (Alvesson, 1995). 

Some more key contributing factors are the nature of industry and the business size which can lead to employee being hired from unrelated educational backgrounds (Saunders & Mark, 2003).  Inconsistency in hiring for education is most common in professions and businesses where the job role of the employees is more relevant to the job training provided internally in the company than the education received during their courses. In this regard, the employees recruited will not be reviewed for their education but for their ability to complete the on job training provided and the tasks at hand. This will also lead to play a role in how employees feel satisfied about their jobs (Maslach et al., 2002; MacCleod and Parent, 1999).

The various HR officials have also moved on to specifically designing roles which can be internally trained in the company completely and will only need generic skills thus eliminating the overall need to look for educational qualifications when recruiting employees. This eases the pressure on them to hire a specific number of employees for a role in a limited time scale as they have a large pool to choose from (Schaufeli et al., 2006; Storney, 1992).

Job satisfaction and HR strategies

Employee recruitment is another key process which plays a key role in the employee job satisfaction since it is during the initial recruitment phase that the employee expectations from their job role are established. Once the employee is hired, the ability of the company and its management to fulfil these initially set expectations determines the level of job satisfaction experienced by the employee when working on that role. Sometimes, the recruitment teams’ only stress on the positive aspects of the job thus setting very high job expectations which later lead to lower job satisfaction since the employees can see the negative aspects of the role once employed. They sometimes even feel cheated into being recruited by the company thus leading into increased job dissatisfaction which can end in them leaving the job. The key to achieve adequate job satisfaction is to set correct job expectations by the HR teams during the recruitment process. It is also identified through research that employees recruited through informal recruitment methods such as employee referrals or direct application to the company are employees who have a better understanding of the role and the company they are applying for. Thus, their level of expectation from the job role applied for is adequate and their selection usually leads to adequate job satisfaction (Anderson et.al, 2005).

Diversity also plays a key role in the increase of job satisfaction since hiring employees who come from different age, backgrounds or ethnicity promotes the element of fairness in the company’s culture. It also shows that the company does follow its employee related policies thus leading to higher job satisfaction from their roles (Mathis & Jackson, 2008). The implementation of strategic HRM methods, which will ensure that the employees are able to see how their day-to-day activities contribute to the overall profitability and success of the organisation, is another factor. Employees are allowed to feel how their work contributes to the community and their business which will lead to increased motivation to perform better and hence achieve job satisfaction (Harvard Business School Press, 2006).

Training of employees is another key motivator of employees and will increase employee job satisfaction. The employees have career goals which need additional skills for them to achieve. If the companies HR teams are able to identify the requirements of the employees and provide them with training facilities to gain these skills, they will automatically improve the satisfaction level of employees as they are another step closer to achieving their goals. There are other employees who have moved to different departments or have been recently promoted. In these scenarios, they need new training so that they can perform their new role effectively. Providing adequate orientation and training to employees also play a crucial role in increasing employee job satisfaction (Ranganayakulu, 2005).

Herzberg indicated five key ways through which the employees’ job satisfaction can be significantly improved in any industry as below. Achievement: increasing the employees’ responsibilities from their roles or difficulty of their tasks regularly only improves their sense of achievement. Recognition: providing employees with an authority to control their work tasks and their outcomes ensures that they feel they are being recognised and are provided autonomy. Growth: this is achieved through adding certain new tasks to the overall employee roles which can be completed by employees only through additional training and gaining new skills. Responsibility: this is provided to employees by either giving them direct reports. This can be certain sections of team or other individual employees. Performance: This can be improved in employees through assigning them specific roles which require them to use their particular core skills and competencies (Bohlander & Snell, 2009). If managers implemented these five skills in companies, which would improve employee motivation and thus increase job satisfaction.

2.4 Chapter Summary

In the literature review section, the existing literatures on the factors which contribute to occupational decisions of people are discussed. The factors which lead them to gain employment in jobs unrelated to their educational background are also looked into. The various models on employee job satisfaction and motivation have been discussed in the second segment of the study. It is determined how these models will contribute to increasing the employee job satisfaction and employee motivation in companies. The HR strategies which lead to hiring employees who do not have the same educational backgrounds as their employment are also looked into. Finally, the HR strategies which can lead to employee job satisfaction or improving it have been listed.

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