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 Midlands. 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 Midlands region is second behind London in the use of flexitime — the most popular form of flexible working (used by 36% vs UK average of 34%). East Midlands is much more likely to use this option (44%) compared with the West Midlands (33%). 

  • West Midlands workers are less likely to say that work gets in the way of their ability to relax (22% compared with a UK average of 24%).  

  • East Midlands workers are most likely to have the option of working from home (46% have either used this option or have it available). In the West Midlands, this is only at 33%, well below the UK average of 39%. 

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

  • 46% of Midlands workers view their pay as fair (above the UK average of 45%) while 35% say that it isn’t. East Midlands workers are much more likely to view their pay as fair (48%) than those in the West Midlands (44%).  

  • The Midlands as a whole sit below UK average in terms of reported earnings with a regional median of £23,000. Within the region, the East Midlands is notably higher with median earnings at £25,209 while for the West Midlands this is at £21,523.  

  • Along with those in Scotland, workers in the Midlands receive less social benefits than other UK nations and regions (48% don’t receive compared with 43% for the UK). Again, the East Midlands does better, with 32% having access to a festive work party, compared with 27% in the West. 

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

  • The East Midlands has the highest level of permanent employment (81%) among all UK nations and regions (apart from Northern Ireland where the sample size was small). The West Midlands at 78% is on par with the UK average. 

  • Midlands-based workers report a lower incidence of precarious work (zero- hours, casual employment and so on) than other UK nations and regions at only 3%. The figure for the East Midlands is slightly lower than the West (3% vs 4%). 

  • Workers in West Midlands are more likely than average (9% vs 6%) to say they are overworked. The East Midlands fares much better with only 4% sharing that view. 

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

  • Employees solve complex problems on their own more commonly than generally around the UK. More specifically, workers in the North East solve unforeseen problems on their own more commonly than elsewhere in the North (72% vs 65% average in the North) and the UK as a whole.

  • Workers in the Midlands have slightly more autonomy in how they do their tasks than the rest of the UK (27% say they have ‘a lot of influence’ over their tasks compared with 25% UK average). The East Midlands at 29% fares better than the West at 24%. 

  • Midlands workers also have greater than average (39% v 36%) autonomy over the pace at which they work.  

  • East Midlands workers are more likely than average (6% vs 4%) to see themselves as underqualified in their jobs. By contrast, 36% of employees in the West Midlands see themselves as overqualified, well above the national average of 32%, while only 29% in the East have a similar perception. 

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

  • Midlands employees are less likely than average (70% vs 74%) to view their work as useful work for their organisations. At 71%, the East Midlands is more positive on this than the West Midlands at 68%, the lowest among the UK nations and regions along with Northern Ireland. 

  • Fewer than average report positive relationships with other teams (65% vs 70% UK average). Workers are also less positive about other managers in their organisations (63% vs 66% UK average). 

  • The Midlands reports the lowest incidence of conflict at work (27% vs 30% UK average). This may be related to them also reporting the most trust in colleagues’ intentions — 58% saying that no-one in their team would deliberately undermine their efforts, compared with a 62% UK average. 

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

  • Those in the Midlands are slightly less likely than average (78% vs 81%) to have a channel for employee voice. Line managers are the main channel. 

  • Midlands managers are seen as less good at seeking the views of their employees (36% vs 41% UK average) and at responding to staff suggestions (35% vs 37% UK average). Within the region, 38% in the East think their ideas will be listened to, while in the West only 32% have such confidence. 

  • Unions and staff associations, though less common than in other UK nations and regions (23% vs 25% UK average), are viewed more favourably. 

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 Midlands is least likely to say work has a positive impact on mental (35% vs UK average 39%) and physical health (27% vs UK average 29%). 

  • Employees in the Midlands feel less energetic (28% vs 31%), and less enthusiastic (51% vs 54%) than average.  

  • A higher proportion of Midlands employees feel ‘excessive pressure’ at work (26% vs 22% UK average). This is even higher for those in the East Midlands (29%). 

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 Survey, highlighting the comparisons between the Midlands 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 Midlands to benchmark your progress?

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