Good Jobs In Detail

There is no doubt that work is good for our health and well-being. But it has to be ‘good’ work, which means providing good jobs. So, if we are to reduce the occurrence and impact of common health problems in the workplace, we need to be providing good jobs for all workers. Making sure jobs are as agreeable, satisfying, and comfortable as they can be is an aspirational goal for every workplace. It's something we need to continuously work towards. Providing your workforce with good jobs should be your default position. It applies to all the people in the organisation – all the time. Stated simply, everyone in your workplace should be able to say 'I have a great job'. If they can, then they will enjoy better health, as well as being happier and more productive.

A good job is where your people say things like 'I’m happy with my job' or 'I love my job and I like doing it here'. It’s quite possible for people to like their job but not their colleagues or workplace. It's also possible to like the people and workplace but dislike the job. The trick to making good jobs is to ensure your colleagues find both aspects agreeable – maybe not perfect, but acceptable and satisfying. Having a good job is about this job, not the general idea of ‘good work’. Good jobs help people to be resilient, to bounce back when things get tough. This means the structure of the job and the way it’s organised helps people deal with unavoidable discomfort and irritation.

Good jobs are jobs that engage and motivate workers. Good jobs encourage workers to develop their skills and learning in work, and enable workers to make on-the-job improvements in how they perform their work so that they can be more productive. Good jobs are jobs that are satisfying and agreeable. It is in everyone’s interest to think about how jobs can be improved to make them better.

And we’re not talking about major changes to making jobs better – it is relatively easy to make small scale changes that improve work, in the same way that small scale improvements in processes are used in techniques such as lean practices and total quality management. Making a series of small changes over time can  transform jobs, workers’ health, satisfaction, motivation and engagement with work. All that is required is that organisational members at all levels buy into the notion of improving work.

 

5 Things You Need to Know About Good Jobs

 

  • A good job is not the same as an ideal job. Not all jobs can be perfect. It is a matter of making the working conditions reasonable within the context of the job: it’s a question of balance. Although people have different preferences, for the most part, most people agree on the features that make up a good job.
     

  • Job satisfaction is important to us all – good jobs are satisfying jobs. A satisfying job has a sense of purpose, gives enjoyment, and meets expectations. You know you’re providing good jobs when your workers say they would choose the same job and workplace again!
     

  • It’s the simple things that make for good jobs, starting with open communication across the organisation, and treating workers and co-workers with respect. Workers need to feel they have a say in how things are run, and that management will listen. They need to feel appreciated and part of a team with a common goal. Good jobs are fair jobs. Good jobs resist an ‘us and them’ culture.
     

  • Good jobs come from good management. Senior management needs to be overtly committed to ensuring the organisation provides the best jobs it can. In providing good jobs you should find that what you get back is more than you put in! All the organisation’s line managers need to show the same commitment - line managers hold the key to good jobs.
     

  • The characteristics of good jobs are:

    • Balanced demands and a safe work environment

    • Effective and supportive line management

    • Feeling of being a valued and respected member of a team

    • Opportunities to use and develop skills

    • Support and opportunity for workers to solve their own problems

    • Support to make improvements to the job

    • Opportunities for social interaction

 

There are others things of course, but these are the features that people say make a job agreeable and satisfying. Importantly, they are also the things that help people to be resilient, so they can cope at work with with common heath problems and minor injuries. Provide good jobs and you will get less sickness absence.

 

How this Works

 

Commitment to the Health↔Work culture leads to workplaces that are healthy and safe and this helps to reduce both the occurrence and impact of common health problems.

Good jobs encourage workers to develop skills and coping strategies to deal with the unpleasant and uncomfortable aspects of every job that are unavoidable.

Providing good jobs is an initiative aimed at groups of workers. It’s about managing things so that everyone in the organisation has a good job. It’s primarily to do with creating the right infrastructure to benefit groups of workers, yet recognising the needs of individuals.

Senior Management sets the approach. Line Managers make it happen. Workers contribute to the process.

There are key actions for each of these groups: senior managers, line managers, and workers.

 

Actions

Senior Managers

In larger companies and organisations creating the infrastructure may be delegated to others, e.g. HRM, but senior management involvement is essential to set the aspiration.

  • Initiate the process and be proactive about providing good jobs

  • Incorporate the good jobs aspiration into line manager training and support

  • Ensure everyone in the workplace has contributed to finding the best combination of approaches to providing good jobs throughout the different parts of the business or organisation

  • Review regularly and seek to improve

 

Line Managers

  • Find out whether you are providing good jobs. Use guided questioning to determine whether the jobs you manage are sufficiently comfortable and engaging.

  • Identify potential improvements and make changes, recognising that creating good jobs is an aspirational goal to keep working toward.

  • Identify where skills need to be developed to help workers cope with unavoidable aspects of jobs that are unpleasant or uncomfortable.

  • Communicate effectively to senior management and workers about what can be realistically achieved toward providing good jobs.

 

Workers

  • Participate in open communication about how to make good jobs

  • Question line managers when the process of providing good jobs is not occurring

  • Respect and support your colleagues

 

Good Jobs

 

Principle

A good job is not the same as an ideal job, but it is much more than good work. Not all jobs, if any, can be perfect. It is a matter of making the working conditions reasonable within the context of the job. This is a question of balance. Although people have different preferences, for the most part, most people agree on the features that make up a good job.

Quick Facts

Good jobs are safe, healthy, sustainable, satisfying, rewarding, and much more. The idea of good jobs is not an absolute – one size doesn’t fit all. To some extent it is a matter of perceptions. But, there is an underlying foundation of reasonableness. What is acceptable or tolerable to one may not be to another. That’s why it is important to ask workers what they need, and also point to what they might do themselves.

Providing good jobs involves everyone acting in the right way: senior managers, line managers and workers. The workplace culture should be about care and support, balancing demands and control, yet with expectations that everyone must contribute.

 

One of the most important relationships anyone has at work is with their line manager. Good line managers are enthusiastic and inspirational – they generate job satisfaction and motivation, and that raises productivity.

 

Good management is also going to be good for workers’ health. The things that good managers do, such as clarifying objectives, involving people in decisions, providing support, and encouraging skills development, are the kind of things that also create good and satisfying jobs.

 

Supportive management is also important for helping people cope with common health problems, enabling them to stay at work or get back quickly from absence. Obviously, poor management will be counterproductive.

 

Practical Implications

  • To improve the way you manage, you need to get all layers of management on side. This will make building good jobs and supportive workplaces so much easier – especially because supportive management is a key feature of both good jobs and supportive workplaces. You need to make sure line managers have the knowledge, time, space and permission to take health seriously.
     

  • In order for line managers to know and act on the work health message, the attitude your organisation needs to project is: All line managers should see their own health and their workers health as an important business topic.
     

  • Line managers need to be proactive in managing health. Ask yourself these questions:

    • Are you proactive in creating good jobs?

    • Do you foster a good team spirit?

    • Are you a good role model, visible and accessible?

    • Do you listen to workers, and involve workers in decisions whenever possible?

    • Do you give people clear direction, then allow them to use their own initiative in meeting objectives?

 

Of course managers with a good management style may already be proactive in managing health - possibly without realising it.

 

What's in a Word? 'Good Jobs' versus 'Good Work'

 

The idea of good work is an important one. It goes beyond just ensuring that jobs do not injure people or make them ill. It is also about the way work is organised, including things such fair rewards, security fulfilment and appreciation by society. Initiatives to produce good work happen mostly at the level of policy, regulation, and legislation. Work that is both ‘good’ and safe has become an expected minimum standard, but it is not sufficient to fully support the health and well-being of workers. However, all the features required for ‘good work’ may be in place, yet the job may still not be a good one. A good job is safe, healthy, sustainable, satisfying, rewarding, and much more. The provision of good jobs happens in workplaces. It is each person's actual job ... your job, my job, etc. To have a good job the right things must be done in this workplace, now.

 

Job Satisfaction

 

Principle

Job satisfaction is how people feel about their jobs and different aspects of their jobs. It is the extent to which people like (satisfaction) or dislike (dissatisfaction) their jobs.

Quick Facts

Job satisfaction is important to us all – good jobs are satisfying jobs. A satisfying job has a sense of purpose, gives enjoyment, and meets expectations. You know you’re providing good jobs when your workers say they would choose the same job and workplace again.

Practical Implications

 

There are three key questions: what contributes to job satisfaction; what are the health effects, if any; and how might job satisfaction be enhanced?
 

1. Contributions to job satisfaction

More is known about what makes jobs dissatisfying than satisfying. Decreasing job satisfaction is associated with working too many hours, administrative burdens, heavy workload, lack of time, lack of recognition. Things like diversity of work, line manager leadership style, fulfilment, and having good relationships with colleagues are considered features that can enhance job satisfaction.

 

2. Health effects of job satisfaction

It is likely that job satisfaction can influence common health problems, for better or worse. Importantly, though, job satisfaction is associated with fewer complaints about work-relevant health problems and less sick leave.

 

3. Enhancing job satisfaction

The most important point to remember is that there are many factors that affect job satisfaction and that what makes workers happy with their jobs varies from one worker to another and from day to day. This complexity means there is no simple formula to help people be happier and more satisfied at work. Remember that job satisfaction is not the same thing as overall 'life satisfaction'. People can be happier in one area than the other. The focus for good jobs is to enhance the sense of satisfaction at work.

  • It is a good idea to evaluate the impact of any initiatives or changes on the level of job satisfaction experienced by workers. A simple measure is to ask ‘How satisfied are you with your job?’ Use this before and after to make comparisons: use a 1-5 rating (e.g. 1=extremely dissatisfied 2=quite dissatisfied 3=neither satisfied nor dissatisfied 4=quite satisfied 5=extremely satisfied)

 

 

It’s the simple things that make for good jobs

 

Principle

Focus on the basics: starting with open communication across the organisation, and treating workers and co-workers with respect. Workers prefer to feel they have a say in how things are run, and that management will listen. They need to feel appreciated and part of a team with a common goal. Good jobs are fair jobs. Good jobs repel an ‘us and them’ culture; working with colleagues reduces antagonism and resentment.

Quick Facts

Good jobs involve a variety of features so there is no 'silver bullet'. The best approach is to use a combination of actions embedded in a continuous process that self-improves. Senior management input is needed to kick-start this.

Some actions are directed at improving workers' skills and some are directed at changing the tasks people do and how people work together. Often it’s just small improvements in a few places that can do the trick. You definitely won't need to tear up your business model.

Practical Implications

  • You need to let your workforce know the organisation is committed to providing them with the best jobs you reasonably can. You might want to emphasise these aspirations. Try doing things like putting up posters stating what good jobs are like and what the organisation is doing about it.

  • What’s best for your workplace or organisation depends on factors such as how big it is and the sector it operates in. When thinking about what to do, take the nature of the organisation and the people who work in it into account.

 

 

Good jobs come from good management

 

Principle

While this may be self-evident, remember that good management involves everyone: Senior Management sets the approach. Line Managers make it happen. Workers contribute to the process.

 

Quick Facts

Good jobs come from good management. This is why senior management needs to be overtly committed to ensuring the organisation provides the best jobs it can.

In providing good jobs you should find that what you get back is more than you put in! All the organisation’s line managers need to show the same commitment - line managers hold the key to good jobs.

Practical Implications

  • The toolbox is not here to tell you how to manage your business, but it does give you the right tools to make jobs good. It provides a set of principles that we know contribute to health and well-being. The important ones to focus on are:

    • Be supportive of workers.

    • Be consistent. Do your solutions mean other organisational processes can function as intended or even be improved?

    • Be responsive to the needs of workers.

    • Ensure practices are acceptable to workers, line managers, and all relevant stakeholders.

    • Include workers in consultation on matters that affect them.

    • Be flexible. Are generic solutions capable of being adapted for specific circumstances, and can procedures and work be changed rapidly to accommodate workers should things get worse or be rolled back if things get better?

    • Show due respect and fairness to everyone in the organisation.

    • Ensure solutions are worth investing in. Maybe line managers or workers can come up with something just as effective that is easier and/or less costly to implement?
       

  • Some of these you may already do. Some might not be appropriate in your case. Of course, you might find better solutions than these. Remember, asking workers how they would improve things can help you to come up with creative and novel actions too. This list is not a checklist, it is intended to get you thinking about good jobs, and to work out what you can do.

 

 

Characteristics of good jobs

 

Principle

Good jobs are interesting and motivating. Different people have different things that motivate and interest them. For example, some people are interested in helping customers, whereas others like solving technical problems. Alternatively, it can be the social contact with colleagues that is most important. Good jobs allow people to pursue these interests, provided they are reasonable and consistent with the work unit and organisational goals.

The content that makes up a good job includes all the characteristics of good work and includes seven additional features:

  1. Balanced demands and a safe work environment

  2. Effective and supportive line management

  3. Feeling of being a valued and respected member of a team

  4. Opportunities to use and develop skills

  5. Support and opportunity to solve their own problems

  6. Support to make improvements to the job

  7. Opportunities for social interaction

 

There are others things of course, but these are the features that people say make a job agreeable and satisfying. Importantly, they are also the things that help people to be resilient, so they can cope at work with with common heath problems and minor injuries. Making jobs good will lead to less sickness absence.

 

Quick Facts and Practical Implications

 

1. Balanced demands and a safe work environment

Good work is a question of balance: the jobs are challenging and motivating, but not too difficult or too easy. There is enough work to stop people feeling bored, but the pace of work is not so fast that people can’t work to an adequate or safe standard in normal working hours. The physical environment at work is suitable for the tasks and (reasonably) comfortable.

Work that is not good may be either too difficult or too easy for people. There may not be enough to do to sustain people’s motivation and attention, or there may so much to do that it is not possible to finish things properly in a timely fashion (which may interfere with the work-life balance). The physical environment may be uncomfortable and there might be obvious and unmanaged threats to physical safety.

Implications for practice:

  • Work that is challenging and motivating, but not too difficult or too easy

  • Physical environment is suitable and comfortable

 

2. Effective and supportive line management

For good jobs, managers need to have open, regular communication with colleagues, offering support when it is needed and treating all workers fairly. Offering support does not always mean ‘a shoulder to cry on’. It can be a lot more concrete than that – such as offering advice on how to complete tricky work tasks, finding out about skills development opportunities. It also means being prepared to intervene to help solve grievances of all types, including personal disagreements, unacceptable behaviours, or complaints about policies.

 

Implications for practice:

  • Effective and supportive line management

  • Communicate regularly and well

  • Offer support when it is needed

  • Treat workers fairly

 

3. Feeling of being a valued and respected member of a team

We all have a basic need to feel appreciated, respected and valued and this is equally important at work. Many surveys have indicated the number one reason why people choose to leave their jobs is a lack of appreciation. Just as an under-appreciated worker is more likely to leave a job, an under-appreciated team member is more likely to leave a team.

 

Implications for practice:

  • Praise individuals and teams by giving feedback on success, and saying ‘well done’ and ‘thank you’ when appropriate

  • Praise in public and private, multiple venues reinforce the sense of appreciation

  • Be specific, sincere, and do it frequently enough

 

These are all simple but highly effective.

 

4. Opportunities and support to use and develop skills

Good jobs provide the support and opportunities to overcome difficulties and develop. People will feel reinforced by their work colleagues when they have problems, and the team will swap advice on how to tackle difficult work problems. People will feel they are treated fairly. People will be clear on their job responsibilities. People will be able to make decisions relevant to their work and appropriate to their levels of skill. People will have opportunities to practice a variety of skills relevant to the work and develop these skills further. This might be through training, but also through on-the-job learning. People will have some idea of how their work and development will pan out over a foreseeable time frame.

 

Work that is not good will offer few or no opportunities to take decisions relevant to workers’ tasks and levels of skills. There will be little support from co-workers and people will feel unfairly treated. There will be little or no opportunity to use and develop a range of skills, and workers will not be clear on their responsibilities or what the future holds.

 

Implications for practice:

  • Workers are able to make decisions

  • Clear responsibilities

  • Team swaps advice

  • Fair treatment

  • Clarity on how work and development will pan out

 

5. People have the support and opportunity to solve their own problems

Problems do occur at work – such as difficult customers, equipment breaking or conflicts with other work teams. For jobs to be good, workers need to be able to cope with problems when they occur. This can mean having the skills and ability to take decisions to solve problems in a timely manner and have support from others if needed. It can also mean the opportunity to take breaks from particularly demanding problems or work within the working day in order to ‘recharge’ batteries and look at problems anew.

 

Implications for practice:

  • Provide support, skills and opportunities to take decisions, so that people can tackle the work problems they come across when they occur.

  • Ensure changes do not compromise others’ work or objectives.

 

6. People can and are supported to help themselves to make their own work better

Each person has slightly different interests and desires, abilities to solve problems and each person experiences work differently. One way to take these differences into account is to encourage work groups and individuals in making their own jobs better. People will need the skills, support and opportunities to do so, and will also have to negotiate with others, so that any changes to work do not compromise the work of others, the work unit or organisational goals.

 

Implications for practice:

  • Provide support, skills and opportunities for people to make their own jobs better

  • Ensure changes do not compromise others’ work or objectives.

 

7. Opportunities for social interaction

Individual preference for social interaction varies widely, and also changes throughout a working day. We all recognise the truism that 'no person is an island', but also recognise that sometimes solitude is desirable and necessary to get things done. In general though social interaction at work is a positive influence, and has the potential to enhance collaboration, make work more interesting. It can provide a richer emotional experience where each worker feels included, and foster a better understanding of common values and purpose. The ability to successfully manage social interactions with colleagues at work can influence productivity and career advancement, especially in work settings with greater emphasis on interpersonal than technical skills. Clearly people are less effective if they can't get on with others no matter how adept they are in their particular area of expertise.

 

Implications for practice:

  • Ensure people communicate and interact in a supportive manner

  • Ensure people do not intrude on others' privacy when they need to concentrate on completing important tasks

ELLEN'S STORY

I think we realised that to get the best out of people we need to make sure they were in the best possible health. Most companies will do something about obvious physical risks but we thought it shouldn’t end there. Actually our major problem isn’t with physical health – modern working practices have seen to that. That’s different from when I first started. I’m the health and safety manager – everyone knows me and everyone knows I have the full support of the Chief Exec. I get the time I need to make sure people are OK. Any everyone knows they can have a bit of banter with me about ‘health and safety gone mad’. But they can also come and see me with they have problems, and we can usually work something out pretty easily. If we need to talk to other people we do, and we do it professionally without attaching any blame. We do have policies and we do have checks. We keep the checks simple, but we make sure we act and then review the actions with staff. The important thing is that I make sure people are aware of the policies and the checks are done. For some of the obvious physical risks, if checks aren’t done, I come down on whoever is responsible like a ton of bricks. That permeates through to the other policies – people start taking health seriously across the board. I also keep people involved by doing little things – the odd staff survey or focus group, going round doing checks with people, one-off training events and the like.