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 Wales. 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

Work-life balance and flexible working options are key to building quality jobs. Wales’ overall performance in this area is well below the rest of the UK.

  • Wales has less access to flexitime with 60% of respondents saying it is not available to them (compared with 51% UK average). Access to flexitime is the most widespread and desired flexible working option around the UK.

  • Working compressed hours is much less of an option in Wales than elsewhere in the UK (9% vs 11% UK average).

  • Wales has the least access to the option of working reduced hours (54% do not have the option compared with 48% on average for the UK as a whole).

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

Pay and benefits are key to better job quality. Wales again trails the rest of the UK, compounded by poor performance on pension provision.

  • Wales has the lowest median pay at £20,000, 20% lower than the UK median of £24,000.

  • Yet having the lowest level of pay also comes with the highest level of pay satisfaction, comparable with the South of England. 47% say they are satisfied with their level of pay compared with 45% average for UK.

  • Wales has the lowest numbers reporting that they have any kind of pension provision (67% vs 73% UK average).

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

  • Wales has the second lowest level of full-time workers (58%) behind the South of England (57%). The UK average is 61% with London highest at 72%.

  • Levels of atypical work are highest in Wales (6%) and zero-hours contracts account for about 40% of atypical employment. (The UK average is 4%).

  • However, nearly all respondents in Wales are satisfied with their contract status, with only 3% saying they have a contract that doesn’t suit them.

  • Wales has the highest level of self-employment (13% compared with the UK average of 11%).

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

Wales' performance on autonomy is patchy.

  • Workers in Wales are more likely to consider themselves lacking in task autonomy (21% say they have ‘none’ compared with 16% UK average).

  • They are also most likely to think that they are overqualified for their roles (35% compared with 32% UK average).

  • They are most likely to rate their working environments positively and more likely to get their work done within the allocated time (66% vs 33% 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

  • Workers in Wales are most likely to feel supported if they make a mistake – only 14% say their manager would hold mistakes against them compared with 18% UK average.

  • They are most likely to say that ‘people in my team reject others for being different’ (23% compared with 21% UK average).

  • While generally very positive about their direct/managers, workers are least likely to express confidence in senior managers and executives’ ability to lead their organisation. (43% vs 45% 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

  • Wales is second lowest across the UK nations and regions in having access to a channel for voice, behind Northern Ireland (77% compared with 81% UK average).

  • Managers are seen as responding better to employee suggestions (40% vs UK average of 37%).

  • Workers see unions as good at representing them to management (39% v UK average 36%) but slightly less so at seeking their views (37% v 39% 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

  • Workers in Wales are more positive and least negative about the impacts of work on mental health (44% compared to 40% UK average). But they are slightly less positive on the impact of work on physical health (34% vs 30% UK average).

  • They are most likely to suffer from muscular-skeletal problems (35% compared with 29% UK average).

  • Wales has the worst sleepers (31% v 28%) and the highest level of repetitive strain injury (10% compared to 7% 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; identifying 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 Wales 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 Wales to benchmark your progress?

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