A job quality survey reveals that 40 percent of low-skilled workers in the United Kingdom are “stuck and unable to progress” in their careers because they have no opportunities for training and development.
The 2018 U.K. Working Lives Survey from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) offers a “comprehensive measure of job quality” in the U.K.
CIPD recommend making paths for career progression clearer and flexible working more accessible. Image: pixabay 2457732
The survey sampled 6,000 workers in different sectors and seeks to be representative of the U.K. workforce.
Overall, it found that two-thirds of workers are satisfied with their jobs.
However, a more detailed look suggests that there are some “systemic and structural” problems, particularly in positions held by low-skilled workers and middle managers.
In the case of middle managers, the concerns are mostly to do with overwork, as confirmed by more than a third of respondents in this category saying that they had too much on their plate.
In contrast, the main issues for low-skilled workers are lack of opportunity for skill development and training.
The survey finds that 37 percent of low-skilled workers say that they have not had any training at all in the last 12 months, while 43 percent are of the view that their jobs offer no opportunities for development.
The survey is the first of its kind and was prompted by the independent report Good work: the Taylor review of modern working practices that was commissioned by the government and published in July 2017.
It assesses seven dimensions of “good work” that “employees, employers, and policy makers” can use to measure and “raise job quality and improve working lives.”
The survey uses the NRS system to classify jobs.
Low-skilled workers refers to people holding jobs in grades D and E, which includes: semi-skilled, unskilled manual, and casual work.
The following summarizes the key findings for each dimension.
There is a strong sense in the U.K. workforce that work has a value in its own right.
Nearly half (47 percent) of respondents believe that their jobs are “not just a way of earning money,” and more than half (59 percent) said that they would still work “even if they did not need the money.”
Nevertheless, this is against a background in which one in four workers earns less than the national living wage, which at the time of the survey was £7.50 per hour for workers aged 25 and over.
The survey also found that 45 percent of workers believe that their pay is “appropriate” for the job that they do in contrast to 36 percent who said that it was not.
Terms of employment and types of contract
Surprisingly, despite the frequency with which new ways of working like the gig economy and zero-hours contracts appear in the headlines, the survey finds that many workers still work a conventional “9 to 5” and “receive regular monthly payslips.”
Only 2.7 percent of workers have had jobs in the gig economy, and 2.9 percent are on zero-hours contracts, while 74 percent have full- or part-time permanent employment contracts, and 19 percent are self-employed.
However, there are some interesting patterns that are more common in certain groups. For example, those aged 18-24 are more likely to have unconventional contracts, while those aged 65 and over are most likely to hold a portfolio of jobs, including self-employment, temporary, short- or zero-hours contracts.
While this is not necessarily a cause for concern, the finding that one in six workers is “underemployed” and nearly half of all jobs have no “decent career development” perhaps should be.
Job design and nature of work
The main finding in this area was that people generally “feel overworked and overloaded,” and the CIPD suggest that this should be seen as a “substantial problem” for the U.K.
The problem is “most acute” in middle managers, who are under daily pressure to deliver, and cannot simply ignore it to focus on loftier issues and “strategic concerns.”
Specifically, the survey results showed that 30 percent of workers have largely “unmanageable” workloads, and 6 percent feel “swamped” by their day-to-day tasks.
Social support and cohesion
The survey found that most workers feel positive about their work relationships, especially with team members, and that the culture at their place of work is safe and not blame-oriented.
Relationships with line managers are, on the whole, seen as positive. The survey found that 80 percent of workers would say that they had a positive relationship with their manager.
However, many managers are also seen as weak when it comes to supporting learning, giving feedback, running a close-knit team, and trustworthiness.
In addition, within this overall picture, there are some distinct, less positive patterns in certain demographic groups.
For example, men are slightly less likely to experience social support than women, as are workers with disabilities compared to those without.
Ethnic minorities are also less likely to receive social support compared with white British workers.
Health and well-being
The CIPD suggest that “health and well-being is the single most important aspect of job quality in terms of key outcomes.”
The survey found that 44 percent of workers feel that work has a positive impact on their health and well-being.
But, in contrast to the 30 percent who said that they “often or always” felt “full of energy” at work, 55 percent said that their work pressure was excessive, and that they felt exhausted or miserable on a regular basis.
In addition, a substantial proportion of the U.K. workforce have serious work-related health problems, with “musculoskeletal conditions” at the top of the list, followed by “anxiety or depression.”
The survey finds that workers in the U.K. typically work a longer week than workers in Europe and about 5 hours per week more than they would prefer; indeed, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of respondents said that they would like to work fewer hours.
Formal human resource practices that support work-life balance seem to be quite common, but not as common as working cultures that support work-life balance less formally.
In comparison to the other dimensions, workers tended to place less importance on work-life balance.
While working 5 hours a week more than one would like might not be a great cause for concern, the fact that one in four respondents said that they work 10 hours or more per week more than they would wish perhaps should be.
Voice and representation
The most common way that employees in the U.K. make their voice heard is through informal and direct channels through team meetings and meetings with their line managers.
However, the survey reveals that while managers tend to be good at inviting and listening to opinion, they are less effective at responding to them or allowing them to inform their decisions.
Yet, despite this, most workers said that they get sufficient opportunity to let senior managers know how they feel.
The CIPD recommend the following actions for employers and policymakers to address the issues raised by the survey:
– clarify paths for development and career progression
– make flexible working more accessible
– improve line manager and human resource capability
– redesign jobs and culture to make workloads more manageable
– vigorously support mental health and general well-being
In the report’s foreword, Peter Cheese Chief Executive of the CIPD, says that the Taylor Review “reminded us of the importance of better work for all as a key economic and social driver,” and he acknowledges the government’s “commitment to that agenda.”
“We hope,” Cheese concludes, “that the UK Working Lives survey will make an important and sustained contribution to improving job quality.