The UK has seen growing employment levels after the global recession despite the uncertainty surrounding Brexit. This said we should consider the health of the labour market and the well-being of our workforce. We have many more people in work, but are they working in jobs they find meaningful and rewarding?
The CIPD, for their UK Working Lives report, surveyed a sample of workers in many occupations and sectors, looking at the work and jobs they do against various criteria of good work. They compared it with data from other countries to see how UK measure up, finding, inter alia, that for work–life balance the UK ranks 24th out of 25 comparator economies.
What constitutes ‘good work’ may be a matter for debate and, sadly, many employers don’t seem to concern themselves too much with instituting employee-centred HR policies and procedures. This is short-sighted, since sourcing and retaining talent is going to a major challenge in the near future.
Voice and choice
At 10Eighty we believe good work enables workers to develop skills and career while providing a sense of fulfilment. It gives them the voice and choices needed to shape their career path and work-life balance while achieving their aspirations in a supportive, collaborative environment.
We know, from personal experience, that job quality is improved when employees have access to flexible working arrangements and can exercise autonomy and accountability in their relationships with team members and management. The CIPD think that more employers need to address stereotypical attitudes towards alternative work arrangements and level the playing field for workers, as success in delivering on this contributes substantially to people’s quality of life.
The survey found that workload is major problem for UK workers. One-third of workers feel they are over-worked, and one in five workers say they cannot complete tasks in their allocated hours, while one in twenty feel overloaded. Choice in work arrangements can mitigate some of this stress.
Engage and empower
A big factor affecting worker’s ability to cope with pressure is work autonomy, how much they can control what work they do and how and when they do it. I firmly believe that you should hire good people and give them the resources to get on. Micro-management alienates most employees, especially those we term ‘knowledge workers’, who need the scope and opportunity to explore options, to collaborate with co-workers, and experiment in order to achieve innovative and creative solutions to the challenges we face in a competitive and volatile business environment.
Also ‘voice’ is important for engaged employees. The willingness of some managers to genuinely consult on decision-making, to keep workers informed about organisational developments and to respond to suggestions, is debateable. Workers want to see their contribution is valued and they deserve a meaningful voice on matters that affect them; giving people voice is a way of treating them as human beings, rather than as ’resources’, or cost centre, and a means to an end.
To foster innovation, creativity and productivity, we need employers who design good jobs for empowered, committed and engaged employees and who provide supportive working conditions to enable their workers to grow and develop in following their career paths.
The CIPD point out that some changes to the way we work will bring immediate mutual gains for workers and employers, while other improvements will undoubtedly have cost implications in the short run, they are likely to deliver longer-term returns for employers through more productive and committed workers.