Introduction

As we face a future of greater automation, an ageing workforce, continual change and dynamism across sectors, creating good work and quality jobs is a priority. This may be affected by a range of factors, including HR practices, the quality of people management as well as the workers themselves. The CIPD’s annual UK Working Lives survey sets out to examine these factors, using seven critical dimensions of job quality. The resulting work equips policy makers, business leaders and managers as well as individuals, with evidence and recommendations by which they can raise job quality and improve working lives.

This concise briefing is a supplement to the main report and is designed to provide people practitioners with an overview of the key findings, as contextualised for the East of England. By drawing out the most notable data for each aspect of job quality, together with charts and ‘practice pointers’, this briefing directs focus towards the most essential issues for action. We encourage organisations to use these insights alongside the more detailed analysis of the main report to drive engagement and improvement in these critical aspects of practice, which in turn will support the growth of quality jobs for all.


1. Work-life balance and flexible working

  • The East of England ranks best among UK nations and regions for allowing workers time off to deal with family matters – 67% say this is easy to do compared with 62% UK average. 

  • Workers are least likely to want to work compressed hours (45% would not want this even if available, compared with 39% UK average). They are also least likely to want to work only during term times (84% would not use compared with 77% UK average). 

  • East of England workers are generally less warm towards flexible working options.

Practice pointers

  • Review the business case and objectives for flexible working at your organisation. Is what you currently have in place fit for purpose? 

  • Identify facilitators and barriers to flexible working and actionable solutions. 

  • Review the flexible working options you offer and compare them with the options actually used. 

  • Redesign jobs to allow for flexible working as part of your core strategy. 

  • Ensure policies, communications, and guidelines around flexible working are clear, consistent, and provide channels for feedback and ideas.   

2. Pay and benefits

  • Workers’ median annual earnings are second behind London at £26,000, above the UK average of £24,000. 

  • The East of England is slightly above the UK average (22% vs 21%) in having access to final salary pensions.

  • The region is above the UK average (37% vs 34%) in having access to subsidised food benefits.

Practice pointers

  • Update your pay and benefits strategy/approach relative to the marketplace, based on your current and expected demand for talent. Ensure they are fair and equitable across your workforce.

  • Review your pay and benefit structure against organisational objectives and realign where required.

  • Check your pay practices against the National Living Wage and take action as required.

  • Update your workforce planning to take account of variations in pay and benefit levels in different locations.

  • Particularly if raising pay is not an option, consider boosting your benefits package through partnerships with suppliers etc.

  • Pay attention to pensions. Make sure your employees are aware of the need to save for the future and the proportions they need to save. 

3. Contracts

  • Workers in the East of England report the highest level of permanent employment of all UK nations and regions except Northern Ireland (80% vs 78% UK average).

  • Again with the exception of Northern Ireland, the East of England has the highest proportion of part-time workers (27% vs 25% UK average).

  • The East of England has a lower than average proportion of people running their own business (7% vs 11% UK average).

Practice pointers

  • Ensure written employment contracts capture all key terms and conditions of employment, including employment status and associated rights, and are kept up to date.

  • Align employment contracts with your organisational objectives, values, and workforce planning.

  • Have clear policies and guidelines for managers on when to use different types of contracts.

  • If zero-hours contracts are used, ensure responsible use and be aware of the legal issues.

  • If additional capacity is needed, bring in the underemployed on more hours first. It will save on recruitment while providing enhanced employment and earnings opportunities.

4. Skills, autonomy and development

  • Workers in the East of England are most likely to say their jobs provide no opportunities to develop their careers (46% vs 41% UK average) or skills (with the exception of Northern Ireland).

  • They are less likely than average (30% vs 32%) to view themselves as overqualified for their jobs.

  • Workers are most likely to say they have a good connection with their organisation’s purpose (76% vs 73% UK average).

Practice pointers

  • Audit your workforce skills and capabilities; where possible, capture information on learning activities, their application, and impact on job to drive learning analytics. If you are a small firm this may be a spreadsheet with people’s skills and qualifications. In any setting, note any special abilities, interests, volunteering commitments etc as these may unlock additional opportunities and capabilities.

  • Talk to people directly and via their managers about their knowledge, skills, aspirations and development opportunities in their jobs. Commitment to growing talent internally can be an attractive employee value proposition.

  • Consider making more/better use of apprenticeships.

  • Ensure your learning and development strategy enables achievement of organisational objectives and makes the best use of emergent learning technologies and approaches.

  • Make it clear and easy for employees to access and sign up for learning and development supported/delivered by the organisation; identify and take advantage of relevant, applicable, free learning provided by third parties.

  • Innovation is critical. Skills, autonomy and development can drive innovation. Don’t be boxed in by titles and roles as you seek to innovate on products or processes. Tap into the insight and expertise of the whole workforce.

5. Relationships at work

  • East of England workers are most likely among all UK nations and regions to get on well with their other colleagues at work (77% vs 70% UK average). They are also most likely to report good relationships with staff they manage (81% vs 78% UK average).

  • They feel better supported if they make a mistake than the other nations and regions (21% vs 18% UK average).  

  • About 30% have experienced conflict at work, on par with the UK average. But workers are more likely to say that these issues have been fully resolved.

Practice pointers

  • Clearly articulate your organisation’s purpose and objectives, and ensure its values are current, relevant and memorable.

  • Encourage a learning culture and lead it from the top. Give room for people to experiment and try new methods. Celebrate successes, but also provide safety for sharing failures and growing from lessons learnt.

  • Develop, support and enable managers to be people-oriented in their role as team leaders.

  • Make sure your organisational development and change strategies recognise the value of relationships and networks, where real value can be cultivated.

6. Voice

  • Workers in the East of England are the most likely use focus groups as a form of encouraging employee voice (13% compared with 10% UK average).

  • Unions and staff associations are used as a means to voice their views to management by 26% of employees (UK average is 25%). Workers in the region are second-most likely behind London to think these are good at seeking the views of employees (42% vs 39% UK average). They are most likely to say these are also good at representing views to senior management (39% vs 36% UK average) and at keeping employees informed (37% vs 35% UK average).

  • While 42% say that managers are good at seeking employee views and 43% say they keep employees well informed, managers rate less well on allowing employees to influence the final decision (26% vs 29% UK average).

Practice pointers

  • Value employee voice. Emerging research shows that enabling people to speak up creates a better and more productive workplace.

  • Be mindful of managers’ role in enabling or inhibiting voice. One way is to remind leaders at big meetings to speak less and listen more. Run an open session on what’s good or bad around the workplace.

  • Consider supporting an organised form of employee voice and consult on whether this should be a union or an internal forum.

  • Look at your internal communications strategy and make sure it involves receiving as well as transmitting.

7. Health and well-being

  • The East of England ranks lowest for employees seeing positive impacts on physical health from their work (25% vs 29% UK average). Their perception of work’s impact on mental health is also lower than the UK average (38% vs 40%).

  • Workers are less likely than average (24% vs 28%) to experience work-related sleep problems. However, the East of England sees the highest level of work-related road traffic accidents (4% vs 2% UK average).

  • Along with those in the Midlands, workers in the East of England are least likely to find it difficult to relax due to their work demands (22% vs 24% UK average).

Practice pointers

  • Create a health and well-being strategy for your organisation and a communication plan to raise awareness; this is a key driver of candidate attraction and employee retention.

  • Launch regular campaigns focused on targeted areas of employee health and well-being, supported by employee health and well-being champions.

  • Provide guidance and support to leaders and managers on how to most effectively manage and support, the health and well-being of their teams.

  • Create opportunities for employee involvement in and feedback on health and well-being initiatives.

  • Gather and analyse data on the health and well-being of employees; identify risks and opportunities for action.

  • Ensure adequate support, enablement, and care for employees working with physical and/or mental health issues.

Conclusion

This short, practice-focused briefing outlines the major findings from CIPD’s UK Working Lives, highlighting the comparisons between the South of England and other UK nations and regions. Employers and people professionals can use the practice pointers to explore the dimensions of job quality within their teams and consider the recommended actions. Why not establish a ‘Job Quality’ group in your organisation and use the main report and these insights for the South of England to benchmark your progress?

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