Hard reality is that ‘soft’ issues matter

Comments are closed. Related posts:No related photos. Previous Article Next Article For more than 80 years, The Industrial Society campaigned to improve thequality of working life, emphasising the high performance potential of anyorganisation that had the capacity to enthuse its workforce by respecting itshumanity. The Industrial Society’s renewal as The Work Foundation takes that visionand places it at the heart of the productivity debate. How to increase the productivity levels of our workforce has become theGovernment’s core economic problem. The apparent health of the UK economy – lowunemployment and commendable job creation – masks a dangerous and growingproductivity deficit compared to the US and our principal European tradingpartners. The UK has more work, but the majority of our workplaces are not especiallyproductive. Nor are they especially happy. Yesterday, The Work Foundationreleased research showing that the level of worker satisfaction with theirprospects, pay levels, hours worked, and workload have all roughly halved –some from a very low base. The largest fall has been in satisfaction withworking hours. The next largest has been in satisfaction with workload. Thereis not a single item defining the core of their economic and psychologicalcontract on which satisfaction levels have not deteriorated. The accepted solution to the productivity challenge has been to focus on theinput base and supply side of the economy – investments in new technology andpeople, and the growth of knowledge work, for example. That these have notgenerated the step changes that we have been led to expect indicates that onlyhalf the story is being told. The Work Foundation’s contention is that poor productivity and workplaceorganisation leading to disaffected workforces are different sides of the samecoin. What is needed is a workplace that binds employees, shareholders and otherstakeholders to a common vision, with the resulting commitment to theorganisation’s performance becoming the fulcrum of the business rather thanimmediate high returns to shareholders. Unfortunately, in too manyorganisations, the toolbox of social capabilities to help to produce such anoutcome – time and place sovereignty for workers, recognising and rewardingtheir creative potential, service-centred leadership, a coaching culture andsocial responsibilities – are dismissed as ‘soft’ against the ‘hard’proposition of maximising the bottom line. The paradox is that companies that are built to last and generate sustainedprofits all instinctively find ways to boost employee commitment by taking such‘soft’ propositions seriously. By Will Hutton, Chief executive, The Work Foundation Hard reality is that ‘soft’ issues matterOn 9 Apr 2002 in Personnel Today read more