With quantity of work in the UK economy now relatively under control, it’s now time to focus on the quality, according to the Royal Society of Arts (RSA).
In a new report from its Measuring Job Quality Working Group,  the organisation lists a set of new measures that it says should be added to the existing Labour Force Survey, with the aim of building a comprehensive knowledge base about workers’ experiences of their jobs. The report notes: “The government must place equal importance on the quality of work as it does on the quantity, by making the Secretary of State for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy responsible for the quality of work in the British economy.”
The report is a sequel of sorts to last year’s Taylor Review of employment in the UK,  spearheaded by RSA chief executive Matthew Taylor. Announcing the report’s release, Taylor said: “A focus on record employment levels and the quantity of work only tells us so much: we do not know whether workers feel happy, well-treated, have opportunities for progression, work the number of hours they want to, or feel they have control over their working lives. To manage this problem, we must measure this problem.”
Working Group co-chair and Carnegie UK Trust CEO Martyn Evans added: “The detailed measurement framework [we have] proposed … will help us track who in the UK does and does not enjoy good work – and provide a platform for change. This is only the beginning of a journey toward improving work in the UK, which will need commitment from government, employers, trade unions and campaigners.
“We hope our proposed metrics will make an important and sustained contribution, helping the UK track and deliver progress towards the ambition of good for work for all.”
Is the Working Group’s plan a step in the right direction, and does its practical element make sense?
The Institute of Leadership & Management's head of research, policy and standards Kate Cooper says: “Taylor’s report last year made a valuable contribution by defining what good work means. What concerns me about these new recommendations from the Working Group is that they’re more about measuring and finding out than they are about making practical improvements. Surely they know enough already about the basic parameters of job quality to be able to form more direct proposals?
“As I hopefully made clear in our blog last week about pay-gap reporting around BAME and disabled staff, I’m normally a big fan of efforts to gather data about complex matters. But since the original Taylor Review was produced with input from a set of insightful consultants – and doubtless at no small expense – it provides more than a few clues as to what good work is, and how many people are experiencing it.
Cooper adds: “If you look at statistics such as one that emerged from Deloitte in 2014, which indicated that almost 88% of Americans weren’t passionate about their work,  why do you need further metrics to tell you what is already evident? It’s so much easier to engage in measuring that it is to engage in doing, and making a difference.
“The problem is that research bodies don’t have access to the relevant policies, procedures and management teams through which change can be effected. So the real challenge is: how do we help employers to make work intrinsically more satisfying? That’s a much more complex question, as it requires us to engage with the concrete, rather than the abstract.”
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