Good Jobs What To Do

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 are comfortable, agreeable and engaging. In addition, they nurture 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, 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 GO >

 

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 GO>

 

  • 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 GO>

 

  • 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. 

 

 
Senior Management Action 1. Initiate the process and be proactive about providing good jobs

 

Good jobs involve a combination 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.

 

TIP: Some actions are directed at improving workers skills and some are directed at changing the tasks people do and how people interact or 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.


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

 

Keep an eye on the atmosphere in your organisation: unusually high levels of grievances, sickness absence or lateness, as well as any drop in productivity, are signs that you may not be providing good jobs.

 

To Do List for Senior Managers

  • Ensure the Health↔Work agenda is clearly identified in the values held by the organisation

  • Identify trends across the company or organisation (e.g. using absence reports)

  • Optimise responsiveness to common health problems across the organisation, by line managers, and departments such as human resources and occupational health (when it is available) 

  • Ensure procedural justice

  • Establish and maintain effective policies and good communication practices about health problems

  • Involve the workforce

 

CHECK: Have you made it clear to everyone that you are committed to providing good jobs? 

 

Senior Management Action 2. Incorporate the good jobs aspiration into line manager training and support

 

Make sure the ability to determine whether good jobs are being provided is part of line manager training. Managers should communicate closely with line managers and the workforce, to offer support when it is wanted and ensure all are treated fairly. This goes well beyond offering moral support and encouragement, and includes practical things like offering advice on how to complete tricky work tasks, finding out about skills development opportunities.

 

TIP: Evaluate the amount and quality of line manager support across the organisation and in specific departments.

 

CHECK: Can people across the organisation cope with the approaches to providing good jobs? Is additional training and support required?

 

Senior Management Action 3. Ensure everyone in the workplace contributes to the good jobs approach

 

By now you should realise that providing good jobs is not merely a 'tick the box exercise'. You can't simply say 'I've done that'. What you can do is to ensure that you have established the right milieu for the Health↔Work culture and that you have a process that ensures everyone in the workplace embraces and contributes to the good jobs initiative.

 

What might stop us making this solution work and how do we overcome these obstacles? This might mean developing contingencies to get round some obstacles, or it might mean consulting with relevant stakeholders to ensure smooth implementation.

 

TIP: To make this process work properly it may be necessary to be creative about involving HRM, external consultants, HSE, or trade union representatives.

 

CHECK: What action has been identified to make the jobs good right across the organisation?

 

Senior Management Action 4. Review regularly and seek to improve

 

The overall goal of reducing common health problems, and minimising their impact, needs to be regularly monitored and reviewed.

 

TIP: Identify the key success factors, such as better working practices, improved productivity, development of key skills, improved communications practices. Keep an eye out for unintended consequences, e.g. making the jobs good in one area is having adverse effects on other organisational systems. 

 

Three questions for senior managers to consider

  1. Is the good jobs initiative responsive to the needs of workers and the nature of the work?

  2. Is the good jobs initiative acceptable to workers, line managers and others who may be affected by any changes? Note, other people may need to be consulted.

  3. Is the good jobs initiative worth investing in, and has it given a return on investment?

 

CHECK: What are the key steps in taking this approach and when should they occur? When do we have interim reviews to check progress and deal with any difficulties in implementing actions? When do we have a comprehensive review of the approach? 

 

Senior managers are also line managers and workers. This means the sections below also apply to all senior managers.

 

Line Manager Action 1. Find out whether you are providing good jobs.

 

Having a good job is about this job, not the general idea of ‘good work’.

 

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 is 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.

 

TIP: One simple question can tell you if someone finds their job satisfying – if they are satisfied (happy), you can take it that they like their job and the place they work.


ASK: ‘How satisfied are you with your job in general?’ 

1=extremely dissatisfied 2=quite dissatisfied 3=neither satisfied nor dissatisfied 4=quite satisfied 5=extremely satisfied

 

In making good jobs you should find that what you get back is more than you put in!

 

CHECK: Are you providing good jobs?

 

How do you find out if you are providing good jobs? You could start by simply asking yourself, your workforce, and managers a few simple questions.

 

ASK: 'Thinking about your work and work conditions overall, would you say you have a good job'?

 

If they say ‘no’, or things like ‘work could be better’, or ‘it’s alright’, you need to find out why. Use these follow-up questions:

  • What are work demands and work conditions really like here?

  • How good are the opportunities and support to use and develop skills here?

  • Are line managers effective and supportive here?

  • Can people cope when problems occur at work?

  • Do we try to make it interesting for people who work here?

  • Can workers help themselves to make their jobs better here?

  • Have we succeeded in avoiding an ‘us and them’ culture?

  • Then ASK people these two questions:

  • What could the workplace reasonably do to make your job better?

  • How can the workplace help you to make your job better?

 

Larger organisations may want more detailed information about what their workers in various departments think about their jobs.

 

Line Manager Action 2. Identify steps toward good jobs and make the changes

 

You need to find out more than whether you are providing good jobs. You also need to identify areas that could be improved and ways to make these changes happen.

 

Good jobs come from good management. This means your role as a line manager is pivotal - at all levels of the organisation or company, from bottom to the top.

 

Remember, your goal is to help people to be more resilient so they can cope at work with with common health problems and minor injuries. By improving the quality of jobs you will get less sickness absence. 

 

Because the variety of jobs, workers, and organisations is huge there is no simple formula for working out what will make jobs more agreeable and satisfying. The best thing to do is to go through a checklist of effective interventions and select the ones that fit. 

 

The types of effective interventions can be targeted at the whole organisation, a subset (e.g. a department or a team), and to some extent to individual workers. It's important to get the 'big picture' right, so let's start with interventions for the whole company and then go from there.

 

CHECKLIST: Effective Interventions Across an Organisation or Company

 

Essential interventions to consider:

  • Job design and redesign – can you enhance job enrichment, job enlargement, developed decision making?

  • Workload reallocation - can you use inter-departmental meetings to improve workload distribution?

  • Establish support groups - for example, problem-solving circles 

  • Communications and briefing - do you have good communication and briefing channels, and is there a simple method for workers to get their ideas heard?

  • Performance feedback - is this done in a constructive way that focuses on improvement?

 

Even better interventions to consider:

  • Semi-autonomous work teams - can you devolve some responsibility and decision-making?

  • Professional development and retraining support - do you support opportunities to use and develop skills?

  • Coaching and mentoring - do you encourage broadening of skills transfer from more experienced staff to others?

  • Team functioning - do you encourage and support teamwork?

 

Other interventions worth considering:

  • Problem-solving support - do you offer opportunities for line managers and workers to improve their problem-solving abilities? Can these be applied to making good jobs? 

  • Flexible working - can you offer things like family-friendly policies, or allow workers some flexibility to cope with life problems outside of work? 

  • Social networking - do you encourage social interaction, building trust and working relationships with mutual respect? 

  • Negotiation skills - do you support learning ways to negotiate positively?

  • Assertiveness skills - do you support positive communication based on the ability to be assertive?

  • Line manager support and training - do you offer communication skills, flexible management of resources? 

  • Feedback to line managers - do you encourage line managers to find out what colleagues think of their performance, and to improve what they do? 

  • Creating realistic expectations - does the recruitment and induction process give people a realistic picture of their job tasks and what is expected of them?

 
CHECKLIST: Effective Interventions for Teams and Departments

 

Essential interventions to consider:

  • Workload reallocation - can you use team or departmental meetings to improve workload distribution or conduct reorganisations?

  • Work and task design - are there better workflows or ways of doing things that are more efficient? 

  • Coping skills training - do you encourage and support improved ways of coping with jobs and tasks? Do you help people deal with specific problems, e.g. coping with 'difficult' or angry customers?

  • Performance feedback - is this done in a constructive way that focuses on improvement? 

 

Even better interventions to consider:

  • Problem-solving support - do you offer opportunities for staff to improve their problem-solving abilities, and to increase the likelihood they will persevere when faced with problems at work?

  • Positive attitude - do you strive to make things better rather than focusing on difficulties to improving things?

  • Negotiation skills - do you support learning ways to negotiate positively? 

  • Assertiveness skills - do you support positive communication based on the ability to be assertive? Can this be applied to making good jobs?

  • Semi-autonomous work teams - can you devolve some responsibility and decision-making?

 

Other interventions worth considering:

  • Social networking - do you encourage social interaction, building trust and working relationships with mutual respect? 

  • Team functioning - do you encourage and support teamwork and building effective teams? 

  • Worker involvement - do you encourage workers to understand they have a role to play in developing good jobs?

 
CHECKLIST: Effective Interventions Small Groups and Individual Workers


Essential interventions to consider:

  • Coping skills training - do you encourage and support improved ways of coping with jobs and tasks? Do you help people deal with specific problems, e.g. coping with 'difficult' or angry customers?

 

Even better interventions to consider:

  • Positive attitude - do you strive to make things better rather than focusing on difficulties to improving things? Can people cope when problems occur?

  • Negotiation skills - do people negotiate constructively and positively? 

  • Assertiveness skills - can people cope when problems occur? Can workers help themselves to make their work more satisfying, comfortable or agreeable?

 

Other interventions worth considering:

  • Constructive feedback - is it encouraged in both directions, often called '360 degree feedback'? 

  • Using transferable skills - when it is needed, can people identify transferable skill and retraining opportunities?

 
TIP: Working out what will improve the quality of jobs is only the first step. You need to make it happen by choosing actions that are effective.

To...

 

Optimise work demands and work conditions:

  • Ensure obvious physical risks are controlled

  • Re-allocate tasks

  • Widen scope of work that is too easy

  • Clarifying work roles

  • Workload planning

Optimise opportunities and support to use and develop skills:

  • Review and clarify career and development paths

  • Identify special projects for people to develop and use new skills

  • Different training activities

  • Mentoring

Improve line management competencies:

  • Communities of practice for line managers

  • Line manager training, coaching or mentoring

  • Providing better information and support to line managers

Improve people's ability to cope with problems at work:

  • Problem-solving skills training, e.g. using problem-solving circles and knowledge exchange meetings

  • Mentoring

  • Networking events

  • Team-building

  • Encourage positive thinking so people can solve problems if they give it a go and are supported

Make things more interesting for people:

  • Interdependent team working

  • Job enlargement

  • Special project work

  • Rotating round different tasks

Help workers make their work better here:

  • Flexible working practices and hours

  • Training in negotiation and communication

  • Regular team meetings to discuss work

  • Devolved decision making to groups and individuals

Show you value your staff:

  • Saying ‘well done’ and ‘thank you’

  • Giving feedback on success

CHECK: Have appropriate actions been identified and implemented? Does everyone know who is doing what and when?

 

Use this checklist to help:

  • What actions have been identified to make the job more agreeable, and satisfying?

  • Are these responsive to the needs of workers, acceptable to all involved, and worth investing time in?

  • What enablers? How can these be encouraged, promoted and made use?

  • What obstacles? How can these be effectively overcome or managed?

  • Who needs to be involved?

  • Who is doing what, and when?

  • How will you know you have achieved success?

  • When does it need reviewing?

 

Remember, appropriate actions are implemented by line managers and workers. This means, to be effective, line managers need to include workers in the process of identifying how to make good jobs.

 

Line Manager Action 3. Identify coping skills to be developed for unavoidable aspects of jobs

 

The concept of good jobs includes building resilience to cope with the unavoidable aspects of work that may seem unpleasant or uncomfortable.

 

This is important because some aspects of our jobs are unpleasant or uncomfortable and this cannot be avoided. Different people find different things easy or difficult to contend with. Individuals find some aspects of work harder or easier to tolerate on different days, or at different times in the same day.

 

Problems do occur at work – such as difficult customers, equipment breaking or conflicts with managers or other work teams. For good jobs, 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 to help solve problems in a timely manner if needed. It can also mean the discretion to take short breaks from particularly demanding tasks or problems in order to ‘recharge the batteries' and look at problems anew.

 

Good jobs help people to be more ‘resilient’. This means the structure of the job and the way it’s organised helps people deal with unavoidable discomfort and irritation.

 

The 'comfortableness' of a job is likely to influence a person’s sense of job satisfaction. It follows that highly satisfied workers are more resilient in coping with less comfortable aspects.

 

Some aspects of our psychology can help provide a 'buffer' against developing common health problems, including mental health ones:

  • personal resilience - our strategy for surviving and thriving in the face of workplace adversity. It includes sociability, confidence, optimism, hope, social support, problem-solving ability, flexibility in goal setting, and our ability to mobilise resources

  • being psychologically flexible - how a person adapts to fluctuating situations and demands, reconfigures their mental resources, shifts perspectives, and balances competing needs

  • positively reframing everyday stressors - trying to see things in a more positive light, looking for something good in what happened, accepting the situation, and ability to use humour to cope

 

TIP: The trick is to give people both the opportunity, and the support, to solve their own problems

 

CHECK: Are you helping people become more resilient at work?

 

Line Manager Action 4. Communicate effectively about what can be realistically achieved

 

Remember, 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 repel an ‘us and them’ culture.

 

Line Managers Action Plan for Good Jobs

 

Line managers are also workers. This means the section below also applies to all line managers.

 

 

Worker Action 1. Participate in open communication about how to make good jobs

 

Everyone should participate in the discussion about how to make jobs good, including workers.

 

Workers can discuss what will work for them with their line manager. This helps to foster a can-do atmosphere trying to make things better rather than focusing on difficulties to improving things. It helps if everyone knows that the chances of experiencing common health problems can be reduced by working together to create good jobs.

 

Worker Action 2. Question line managers when the process of providing good jobs is not occurring

 

If there is no process for making good jobs you can ask your line manager why not. There is a role for everyone in having a positive attitude to work and health. Instilling this positive attitude to minor health problems is important – but it is also important to constructively support people to get that attitude.

 

Worker Action 3. Respect and support your colleagues

 

Giving respect and support to your colleagues has a surprisingly large effect on everyone. Health and wellbeing at work is a collaborative affair. You can't do it by yourself, and you can't wait for someone to do it for you.

 

Seek out positive support from others and offer support to your colleagues. Wherever possible tyro to build optimism by being round people who see the positives and the things that can be done can help.

 

Workers Action Plan for Good Jobs

 
 
 

STEPHEN'S STORY

I run a small manufacturing firm on a small town industrial estate. About 60 of us work here. You wouldn’t really notice us if you drove by. We didn’t set out to make jobs better, and health and job satisfaction were not top of our agenda. What we needed to do was survive. We needed to innovate – our sector was changing and we couldn’t afford to change our 1960s machinery – so we needed to do something else, something different from our competitors. And that meant people had to work differently. But we suffered from low motivation, low confidence and there were a lot of grumbles. First off, I tried different incentives such as team awards and lunch vouchers to improve motivation. Turns out people weren’t motivated because they weren’t happy at work and they weren’t confident. One of the biggest issues was poor relationships on the shop floor. Hand-over from the night shift was a tense affair most mornings. The night shift weren’t working well and they weren’t that experienced. If a problem occurred, they simply stopped working because they didn’t know what to do. So the day shift came and the place was a mess and they needed to catch up. The more experienced staff worked the day shift, and they were the ones that knew how to fix the machines. So I got a couple of the experienced guys to put together a poster of how to fix the most common problems and then the night staff tested that out. It certainly eased the tension between the day shift and night shift, because the night guys felt they were getting a bit of support. They were learning how to fix problems and the day shift guys didn’t have to play catch up for the night shift any longer. It was also a good way of getting some of the experienced guys to use their skills in a different way and to pass those skills on. What a difference it made. So I felt happy to tackle confidence next. I wanted to get people to develop and use their skills. For some this meant training, even basic stuff like IT training or GCSE maths. We paid for people to go the college and gave them time off work to do so – it didn’t cost us much. I also led problem-solving circles every Monday. That was a good way of getting sales and production staff to work on issues together, but I felt people could take a bit more initiative. Then a big surprise happened. One of our suppliers pointed out that he’d noticed that our people were helping each other to solve problems. This is what I wanted, but I didn’t see it happening because they’d done it off their own backs and hadn’t waited for me to re-organise people into teams. From that point on it was just a case of clarifying a few role descriptions and me supporting people to solve their own problems. The combination of these things really helped. We’re a lot more innovative, and we’ve shifted our business model completely. The firm is on a very solid footing now. Everyone is more confident, more motivated, and a lot happier and healthier at work – including me.