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Workplace disaffection threatens productivity

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R and D, investment in technology, and product innovation won’t be enough to bridge Britain’s widening productivity gap unless employers address the growing disaffection of their employees, according to the Work Foundation, formerly The Industrial Society, in its founding report.

“Working Capital, intangible assets and the productivity gap” reveals how employee job satisfaction has plummeted over the past decade. In 1992, 22% of employees stated that they were very or completely satisfied with job prospects, but by 2000 this figure had fallen to 15%. Similarly those expressing satisfaction with pay fell from 25% to 13% over the same period; with job security from 43% to 39%; hours 44% to 24%; and with the work itself from 54% to 41%.

In fact, satisfaction levels have fallen against every measure defining the economic and psychological contract between employees and their workplace. This steady decline has occurred despite the increased practice of so-called high performance management techniques over the same period.

As job satisfaction has roughly halved, productivity per head has remained stagnant. Employees in the UK’s main competitor nations are around 30% more productive than the average British worker.

The report suggests that the “soft options” of rewarding creative potential, delivering service-centred leadership, creating a coaching culture and holding true to social responsibilities, can deliver the hard result of improved productivity. As such, The Work Foundation argues that the government should consider a new centre to research productivity and work and a Minister for Management who can spearhead an overhaul of workplace relations designed to tap into the economy’s largest and most intangible asset – people.

“Working Capital” also demonstrates how:
– Working mothers have experienced the greatest increase in the numbers of hours worked compared to women generally or their male colleagues.
– Managers and professionals are accepting long working hours as a necessary evil to achieving job satisfaction
– The culture of clocking in and time monitoring is still a reality for a third of the workforce.

Will Hutton, Chief Executive, The Work Foundation said:
“The UK’s yawning productivity gap has dogged successive governments and continues to present major obstacles to Britain’s productivity. Yet the solution lies within easy reach in our offices, shop floors and other workplaces. People: their creativity, ideas and talent hold the key to making Britain a more productive nation. But we need a cultural shift and a new kind of manager that can make use of this resource and transform our working lives.”

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