CIPD UK Working Lives Index: Quality jobs for all?

Better support for stressed senior and middle managers, and helping lower-skilled and temporary workers access training, could boost workforce productivity finds the CIPD’s first survey into job quality.

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Following publication of the Taylor Review into modern employment practices and the government's commitment to measure job quality, the professional body for HR and people development canvassed the experiences of around 350,000 working adults during December 2017 to January 2018 to form an evidence base for what good work and quality jobs look like. “The government has been clear that it wants to improve job quality in the UK, but in order to create quality jobs you have to be able to know one when you see one," said Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD on publication of the first annual UK Working Lives report. "That is why we have undertaken the first comprehensive measure to help understand and clearly map job quality in the UK.” 

Headline findings from the CIPD Job Quality Index

Two-thirds of workers (64%) are satisfied with their job overall. One in five (18%) are dissatisfied, with one in ten (11%) reporting they regularly feel miserable at work.These, the CIPD believes, are relatively positive findings. However, considered in the context of the CIPD's seven dimensions of job quality, and when segregated by skill levels, the CIPD identifies areas for improvement.“Headline job satisfaction is reasonably strong, and that is to be welcomed," continued Peter Cheese. "However, it is clearly lacking for many people, and that headline masks some serious structural issues in the UK labour market."The Jobs Quality Index finds that people working in lower skilled jobs are far less likely to have access to skills and training, while those in middle management feeling significantly squeezed by their workload.How senior managers cope with stress and the organisational culture around wellbeing could have the most signification impact on the quality of work and jobs.
“Those in management positions are often overworked, which can not only lead to stress and poor mental health, but also means they are not able to manage their teams to the best of their ability," said Mr Cheese."Stress in the workplace passes down, and combined with the concerning lack of training and development opportunities for those in low-skilled work, is a heady mix which needs to be better understood and addressed to enable better productivity and well-being across all organisations."

Health, wellbeing, work-life balance and quality jobs

On health and wellbeing, one in four workers (25%) feel their job negatively affects their mental health. Nearly a third (30%) also say their workload is too much. This is particularly the case for middle managers. Here, three in ten (28%) workers say their work has a negative effect on their mental health, while more than a third (35%) say they have too much work to do.On work-life balance, more than a quarter (28%) of senior leaders say that they find it difficult to fulfil personal commitments because of their job. However, this group does have the greatest access to flexible working, with 60% of these workers having the option of working from home in normal working hours. 
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Pay, conditions and good work

For employment terms, one in four workers (27%) say that their job does not offer good opportunities to develop their skills. This increases to two in five (43%) for unskilled and casual workers. Among this group, more than a third (37%) say they have not received any training over the last year. This lack of development opportunities risks leaving workers stuck and unable to progress and is not effectively developing or utilising skills, says the CIPD. Among its recommendations, the CIPD is proposing employers and the government continue their renewed focus on supporting skills development in all types of work and for people beyond the age of 25, but also in the nature and design of jobs that help get the best out of people and show them progression paths for the future.

Well-being a turnkey issue for good work and quality jobs

Taking additional findings from an in-depth 6,000-strong study of employees' experiences together with existing research, the CIPD is also proposing employers continue to put greater emphasis on wellbeing.Stress in the workplace typically flows down the business. CIPD analysis of the seven dimensions that affect job quality shows improving the elements of work that most impact workers’ well-being has a greater effect on job quality than any of the other factors.Managing stress and better work-life balance from the top down is vital to healthy organisations and a culture of good work. It proposes that organisations looking for the first step in improving job quality should look at well-being as a starting point.Jonny Gifford, senior adviser for organisational behaviour at the CIPD, said: “In terms of overall solutions, the message is clear: healthy workers are happy and productive workers. If there’s one ultimate aim in job quality it should be to improve the well-being of our workers.
“We also need to look closely at the main factors that facilitate or get in the way of better quality jobs. “More extensive training and development must be part of the solution, so workers can develop in their careers and feel more fulfilled in their work. There are also many things employers can do that make a real difference – in particular, fostering better workplace relationships and giving employees voice and choice on aspects of their working lives.”

CIPD recommendations for employers on good work and quality jobs

To improve the quality of jobs and support the conditions for good work, the CIPD is advising employers to:
  • Offer clear pathways for progression (e.g. apprenticeships and mentoring schemes to ensure all their workers have the opportunity to develop)
  • Focus more on the design of jobs and work to ensure best use of skills and clearer progression paths
  • Ensure that all employees have a meaningful voice in the organisation through both individual and collective channels, and via formal and informal mechanisms
  • Increase the provision of flexible working practices across their workplace
  • Monitor workloads and deadlines to ensure people aren’t feeling under excessive pressure at work
  • Conduct a stress audit and direct resources to reduce or eliminate the sources of stress at work
  • Signpost support services to all staff and consider offering an employer-funded support programme
  • Adopt a clear approach to remote working and out-of-hours working and create a wider enabling culture where senior managers feel trusted and empowered to take ownership of their work.

CIPD recommendations for government on good work and quality jobs

Last year, business secretary Greg Clark committed to acting on the findings. The government is currently consulting on four key issues identified in the Taylor Review around employment status and rights.The CIPD is also recommending policymakers support the good work and quality jobs agenda, and:
  • Increase the quantity and quality of vocational education and training by reframing the Apprenticeship Levy as a more flexible training levy and ensuring that all the money raised is spent on adult skills and training
  • Promote lifelong learning. Government should revisit the potential for personal learning accounts, but with greater scope for individual and employer co-investment and a much closer link with high-quality careers information, advice, and guidance
  • Provide funding for better support for small firms at a local level to help them improve their people management and development practices. Small businesses often don’t even have the basics of good people management practice in place and too many owner managers lack the time, resources or knowledge to improve how they manage and invest in their people
  • Ensure the Health and Safety Executive has sufficient resources to encourage all employers to meet their existing legal duty to identify and manage the causes of work-related stress
  • Continue to promote the measurement and understanding of good work, building the evidence, and integrating into the thinking of the government’s Industrial Strategy.

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