The government should develop a way to measure the quality of jobs, according to former Downing Street adviser and Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce CEO Matthew Taylor.
Taylor’s comments follow the publication of the Taylor Review into modern working practices last month, in which he recommended a new quality of work measure.
The review, which Taylor headed, mentioned that the Workplace Employment Relations Study (WERS) was a good metric into labour market quality. This looks at a range of workplace aspects including how workplaces are managed and organised, trade union recognition and membership, and dispute resolution. However, Taylor advised this should be published more frequently; around every five to three years rather than every six to eight years as is currently the case.
“The government develops a number of ways to reasonably and regularly report on the quantity of work,” he told HR magazine. “The issue is that we don’t have anything equivalent when it comes to the quality of work."
Taylor recommended the government build on existing data to identify a metric so that workplace improvements can be made. This would eventually span different geographical regions and industries. He said the Office for National Statistics (ONS) could oversee this metric. Alongside this, policymakers need to clarify what ‘quality of work’ means and how it might be analysed, he said.
Taylor highlighted the qualitative and quantitative data sets already available such as Best Companies and the Investors in People standard. This could be combined to give a more accurate picture of overall job market quality.
“There are certain statistics that already exist but we don’t put them together to form a metric on quality - such as figures on absenteeism, people leaving work because of ill health, and training offered,” he added. “One concrete thing is we need to carry out a job market quality metric more often. Beyond that we need to look at what data already exists, how we can bring that together better, assess where the data gaps are and how can we address those.”
Taylor recommended that employers and HR departments produce robust and independent reviews of employee engagement and satisfaction, publishing the top report lines and trends.
“This would encourage customers and investors to start to make decisions on whether the company has good staff ratings. It would also send a good indication of the efficiency of the company’s HR function,” Taylor said. “Equally, if it’s not done then companies are at the mercy of Glassdoor where individuals can express feelings that may not be an entirely accurate aggregate picture.”
Taylor added that his recommendation of a metric is “an invitation for a further conversation”, revealing that he is already having discussions with various bodies, including the Carnegie Trust, on job quality metrics.
Employment director at Business in the Community (BITC) Cath Sermon agreed that a definition of good work at a national level is urgently needed.
“We would like to see the government bring together experts to agree a set of metrics around job quality, taking into account various indicators such as progression, retention and engagement," she told HR magazine. "We know there are certain types of employment, or specific sectors, where employees are particularly vulnerable and poorly paid, so we suggest the government starts there.
“Employers have both a duty and an opportunity to improve the quality of work for the people most at risk of poverty in their workforce. We believe that employers who take voluntary action to improve low-paid jobs can realise tangible business benefits in doing so.”