Happy with your work?
Job satisfaction has dropped to a record low, with a particularly sharp fall among young people, according to a report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development that is reported in today’s FT.
The report blames the pressures of the recession, including job insecurity and stress. These factors will undoubtedly have taken a heavy toll on the morale and even the health of workers, although the CIPD highlights a lack of consultation over change, and pay freezes or cuts, as other, contributory factors to this phenomenon.
Low satisfaction at work is bad for all. Instead of being a source of inspiration and creativity, going to work becomes a drudge for the worker concerned. That worker is inevitably less productive, which means his or her employer suffers too. And if enough workplaces are in this position, the productivity of the whole economy falls behind.
The Government knows this and is trying to do something about it. The MacLeod Review, produced by David MacLeod and Nita Clarke, tries to get under the skin of employee engagement, exploring how to promote higher levels of engagement, leading to better workplaces, higher satisfaction and a more productive economy.
The Government is now seeking ways to help employers along this road, producing evidence of how higher engagement can provide real benefits and signposting best practice in bringing this about.
So far, so good, but there is an important role for trade unions here. Encouraging employers to do the right thing is valuable, but where trade unions are organised within the workplace, issues of job satisfaction, and creating higher value work experiences, are an important topic for negotiations. Likewise, in the modern world, change is inevitable, but where change can be introduced with the support of trade unions, who have had a say in how it is designed, so that it is of maximum benefit to trade union members, that change will be both more sustainable and more likely to succeed.
The Government won’t go as far as to say that employee voice must come through a union. It will try to find examples of non-union companies engaging with their workforces, and no doubt some will exist, but the best outcomes will be those where an independent trade union has helped to bring them about. Those unions will be strong enough to negotiate hard for changes that may take longer and be no quick fix, but that will stand the pressure of time and will win the support of workers. In the long run, that’s a much better outcome.