Relationships at work

The left wing British pressure group Compass have an interesting essay competition. They want to get 1,000 articles on “the most important elephant in the room for the left.”

I am going to write something about the need to make people’s workplaces more empowering (especially low and middle income people’s workplaces).

I would love to hear anyone’s thoughts on this topic.

Broadly, I think it is an elephant in the room for the left because Labour (and the Democrats in the US) are scared of being called socialists or anti-business.

However, more empowering workplaces (i.e. workplaces where workers feel in control) are better for workers and for businesses. Currently, there are far too many workplaces which are arranged so that workers feel disempowered.

Anyway, in preparation for writing the article I have put together some facts, that may be of interest, on the topic. Again, do let me know what you think.

1. % of people who say their supervisor treats them like he/she is your partner: UK 42.1%/USA 55.8%

2. Good workplace means less worry, more likely to say you are “thriving”, less stress

3. UK has poor management by international standards

4. According to Gallup 24% of UK workers are ‘engaged’ while 25% are ‘disengaged’. The rest are ‘neutral’.

5. Engaged workers are more productive, in better health, are immune to stress from commuting, and are more likely to be thriving in their overall lives.

6. Improving worker engagement correlates with improving performance

7. A quote from Professor Julian Birkinshaw of the London Business School: “employee  engagement is the sine qua non of innovation. In my experience you can have engaged employees who invest their time in multiple directions (such as servicing clients, creating quality products) but you cannot foster true innovation without engaged employees.”

8. “Engaged employees in the UK take an average of 2.69 sick days per year; the disengaged take 6.19”

9. The Corporate Leadership Council (CLC) report that the highest scoring companies record 23.8 per cent of their people in the high engaged category; in the lowest scoring companies only 2.9 per cent of their people are in the highly engaged category.

10. Towers Perrin reported in 2007 that only 29 per cent of UK employees believed their senior managers were sincerely interested in their well-being; only 31 per cent thought their senior managers communicated openly and honestly; only three per cent thought their managers treated them as key parts of the organisation and no fewer than 60 per cent felt their senior managers treated them as just another organisational asset to be managed.

11. A government white paper identified a “joint and consequential failure of leadership and management” as “the main cause of poor employee engagement”

12. This is not a high political priority but the government is doing something. David Cameron set up an independent Employee Engagement Task Force.

13. 46% say they do not have a say about how their work is organized (same in public and private sector) (majority for sales/customer services and for low paid workers)

14. A quarter of personal wellbeing relates to workplace

15. Of 1091 managers surveyed in large companies, only 40% said their relationship with their team was ‘trusting’

16. When asked to describe their managers management style, the most common answers were bureaucratic, reactive or authoritarian. In ‘growth firms’ far more likely to say accessible, empowering, trusting and consensual.

17. There is a very strong correlation between employee engagement and customer loyalty metrics, productivity, employee turnover, safety, absenteeism, patient safety, and quality.


Why will Walmart not pay a living wage in Washington DC?

Walmart does not want to give workers in the Capitol any say on how much they will be paid, or on anything else for that matter, but grassroots organisations are building an alternative economic approach, grounded in democracy.

Walmart is coming to Washington, DC and they have promised to pay “competitive market salaries”. So, what’s the problem?

Surely the six new stores, will bring good jobs to DC, at a time when jobs are hardly growing on trees, right? One in ten are out of work in Washington (and more like one in six African Americans) and people are crying out for more jobs.

Well, one problem is that Walmart has refused calls by many in DC to guarantee it will pay a “living wage” to its workers. Instead, they have said they will pay these famous “competitive, market salaries”. Who decides what level is competitive? Well, I’ll give you a clue, it’s not the local community, and it’s not the workers.

Even the promise to pay market salaries might not be as firm as Walmart is making out. The company has signed a “Community Partnership Initiative”, in which they make a number of pledges. All of these are “subject and contingent upon business conditions”. Who decides whether business conditions mean any of these commitments can be broken or watered down? Again, I’ll give you a clue, it’s not the workers, it’s not the local community, hell it’s not even the DC government.

Deputy Mayor Hoskins went on the the Kojon Namdi radio show and said that it was not up to him or the DC government to hold Walmart to its promises. Instead, he says its up to the local community.

This might not be too easy. Walmart is one of the biggest companies in the world. How can shop workers and residents hold Walmart to account? Well, they might try and form a Union, but we all know Walmart’s track record in breaking unions.

In fact, we might start to believe that Walmart is not too keen on being held to account by anyone, not by it’s workers, not by the city government and not by the local community.