industry news Monday 22 May 2017 @ 15:27 Let’s Join the Campaign and Create More Good Work

The policy world may have taken a pause, with the calling of a snap election, but our work advancing the importance and value of good work must press ahead as nothing in the modern global economy ever stops.

In particular we have been delighted to support the #GoodWorkis… social media campaign initiated by Matthew Taylor, which seeks to recognise and celebrate the importance and value of creating more Good Work.

The review, which was launched by the Prime Minister in 2016, seeks to establish whether today’s ways of working are keeping pace with the changing world of work, or are holding us back. A strategic question of such national importance has inevitably ebbed and flowed across a variety of issues over the last few months. Indeed it has shifted from futuristic debates around technology, globalisation, and innovation to specific measures, ranging from employment rights changes, tax, enforcement and working practices such as forms of representation and skills. Yet one core theme has been consistent throughout. What is really vital to a modern economy is the importance of building a vision of all work as Good Work. This is undoubtedly crucial to achieving inclusive growth and prosperity for everyone and it’s important we contribute to the review and broader campaign.

The Work Foundation have been researching developments in the world of work for almost 100 years, from our origins in the turmoil following the First World War in 1918, through the Industrial Society, to today in partnership with Lancaster University. Building on this strong history, it is important to understand employment changes, not as an end in itself, nor because we are harping back to some sentimental notions of the past, but because there is a critical social as well as economic value to creating Good Work. Good Work is a vital component that has lasted the tests of time, decade after decade, bringing benefits not only to individuals, businesses, cities, and regions but the wider economy and society at large.

For us this campaign could not have come at a better time, when we have already launched our Commission on Good Work last December and we are now doing further work to progress the agenda as a core part of our strategy over the next two years. Although the Taylor report is not expected until June 2017, the campaign quite rightly seeks to raise the issue of Good Work to centre stage now. Most crucially, it is stimulating a debate amongst as many people as possible to crystallise exactly why good work is so important, and how we can create more of it. In a competitive global economy, driven by innovation, technological advances and better customisation of products and services, this increasingly calls for solutions that make the best of the human contribution. This is not just about creating jobs but quality work, after all its happy, healthy and motivated people who create the good ideas to support progression and continuous improvements.

Yet, whilst we are some years on from the deep economic crisis of 2008, and the intense recession that followed, we have failed to return to the strength of economic performance of the past. Whilst in principle people might potentially be our greatest asset, the reality seems to be that this is easy to say but much harder to deliver. So it remains that the great corporate challenge of the age is harnessing the creativity and the productive power of people.

Our economic position is fragile. Since the economic crisis we have experienced persistent problems with productivity, growing polarisation and precarious work. At the same time, we have seen a growth in stress, anxiety and wider health conditions at work, as well as in-work poverty where people are juggling more than one job to try to make ends meet. Furthermore, there are significant skills challenges, with growing skills-under-utilisation as well as persistent skills deficiencies right across the career ladder. So want’s gone wrong?

We have had no shortage of commentaries, discussing the powerful forces for change and megatrends affecting work. But, guidance about what this means, and practical steps to support a response are often less developed. Worse still, in a world awash with information, and an increasing focus on “fake news”, there have been lots of often contradictory narratives. Many of the claims and competing scenarios have a huge impact on peoples’ experience of quality work, so it is time for a reappraisal.

Crucially our Commission on Good Work seeks to understand the problems people are really facing on the ground at work, in all its multiplicity of forms so that actions can be appropriately targeted and we can get to the true scale of the problem.

We need to move beyond the “well-trodden” generalisations of the problem around the national picture, which seem to mean that the real underlying issues are not understood and remain unaddressed. Whether you are looking at productivity, the nature of job polarisation, levels of skills, attainment, skills shortages, and skills investment, or the effects of changing working practices, there is huge variation in different parts of the UK, different sectors and types of work. We need to get under the skin of developments at work and their effects for different communities and contexts, to ensure actions to improve are really targeted in areas where it is needed.

We need a more nuanced, granular assessment of the barriers preventing Good Work, which identifies the prevailing issues that genuinely challenge businesses locally, and continue to impede their performance over time. This will help provide the “burning platform” to support the long tail of businesses on the road to better performance.

If more employers in the future are to be supported in adopting better practices that create more Good Work, there is no single course of action that will be effective and no single perspective that can be taken in isolation from others.

We suggest developing a broad call to action that can inspire change on a number of fronts and we are working to put this in place through our Good Work Commission. At its heart this needs to be driven by a common understanding of the core principles that define Good Work in a way that unites multiple perspectives from employees, employers, society and Government. Importantly, it also needs to inspire action on the ground, beyond our successful frontier businesses, who are already achieving success through smarter practices that make the most of people. With an industrial strategy under-development, and a renewed policy focus on reviewing modern ways of working the time feels right to act. If you want to take part in shaping our Commission, then get in touch or join our events at the Work Foundation in July.

 

 

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