Have people management practices helped orgs weather the challenges?

Steve Bridger

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Community Manager

15 Jun, 2021 11:00

I wanted to pick up on a blog post Melanie Green wrote last week following the publication of the Good Work Index 2021.

The survey finds that that job quality has generally remained stable in the past year. Interestingly - though unsurprisingly - Melanie says that the survey findings also suggest that engaging with employees to seek their views on workplace change has been vital for employers through the pandemic.

Peter Cheese also kicked off the Fistival of Work today with a focus on 'Good Work' and how it can and should be a force for good. He writes about this here.

The CIPD’s Good Work Index 2021 shows that job quality still falls short in a number of areas. Issues like lack of work-life balance, lack of development and high workloads are a real cause for concern. And for many, some of these concerns have been exacerbated with the challenges all businesses have faced through the pandemic. 

Peter goes on to say that the Good Work Index highlights inequalities and trade-offs in job quality.

We know there are real inequalities in job quality across occupations, with higher managerial and professional roles faring better than those in lower routine and manual roles. The pandemic has exacerbated some of these inequalities and trade-offs, with remote working being a good example.

Our data shows that remote workers (also predominately those in higher occupational groups) tend to fare better on most aspects of job design, such as having autonomy and opportunities to develop their skills. But they struggle with high workload and maintaining work life balance is also challenging (for example 29% of those working from home all the time say they find it difficult to relax in their personal time because of work, compared to 19% of those not working remotely). This was the case before the pandemic, but remote working can create additional workload and work–life balance challenges.

On the flip side, those working in lower occupational groups tend to fare slightly better on workload and maintaining work–life balance, but lack opportunities for skills development and tend to fare worse on other aspects of job design, like autonomy. These occupational groups were less likely to be able to work from home and also more likely to be furloughed and, not surprisingly therefore, also concerned about job security.

Do these findings resonate with your own experience during the pandemic? 

  • I have been thinking about culture and remote working recently. I am working with an SME that went into lockdown last year with 14 staff and now has over 50. So for the majority of the staff, their experience of the organisation and its culture is from the perspective of remote working, and yet, somehow the essential ethos of the organisation is still strongly felt. That has to be largely down to line managers as for most remote workers, their relationship with their line manager is their relationship with the organisation.

    I am not saying that HR had no role in this. I had to create procedures for line managers very quickly to support them to recruit, induct and manage staff remotely when all their previous experience was of managing a small team face to face. Creating procedures doesn't sound very exciting. It's not cutting edge HR to draft a manager's induction checklist that steers them through gathering right to work docs before someone starts, getting contracts signed etc, but it was badly needed and much appreciated. When everything you used to do doesn't work properly, people appreciate simple, clear guides that tell them what will work, and it is on the back of that kind of simple, practical support that works for people that HR gets invited to be at the table for the bigger discussions.
  • In reply to Elizabeth Divver:

    Thanks for sharing these insights Elizabeth. As Steve mentioned in his post above, voice has been key through the pandemic, but you’re right to note that good quality line management – and the role of the people profession in supporting this- has also been vital. Positively, we found that the vast majority of remote workers in the Good Work Index 2021 felt supported by their line manager, which will be invaluable as we navigate the coming months.

    What challenges (or opportunities!) are front of mind for you, and the line managers in your organisation, going forward? We identified several areas related to job quality in the Good Work Index – like getting the balance right with hybrid working to support work life balance and wellbeing, and ensuring flexibility is available throughout the workforce. Do these resonate with you, and what roles do you think line managers and the people profession play?