Ensuring the Future of Good Work

Today, the much anticipated ‘Good Work’ review on modern working practices was published. We welcome this report, its findings and recommendations, not least for its formal recognition for the importance of Good Work.

The evidence is compelling. Good Work not only secures fairness, better health and wellbeing, but offers meaning and purpose. It empowers individuals, with space for discretion to make positive contributions and development. This in turn can support the conditions for workplace innovation and productivity enhancing improvements.

But if the case for Good Work is so compelling why are so few businesses adopting modern, working practices to pursue it? Initiatives such as the Taylor review, alongside the Work Foundation’s own Commission on Good Work, provide an important opportunity to get under the skin of problems in the workplace, to crystallise exactly what Good Work is, and how to secure it.

Unlike previous recessions, the effects of the crisis in 2008 have been long-lasting for the UK. Productivity is lagging and there’s no simple consensus on its root causes. Time isn’t going to be a healer. The persistence of problems in our economy puts the spotlight on the need for more Good Work.

It is not enough to simply create more jobs. Many experts point a finger at the essentials of how businesses are run and look after their people. Are employers making full use of employees and their skills, as well as encouraging them to develop and perform? The time is right to re-emphasise the need to make sure that future work sufficiently makes use of people’s skills in all areas of the economy and all types of work.

In doing so, we need to move beyond the “well-trodden” generalisations around the national picture. We need a more granular assessment of the real barriers faced by businesses and which prevent Good Work. We then need to use this to inspire the long tail of under-performing businesses to act. There is no single course of action that will be effective and no single perspective that can be taken in isolation from others. It is only in understanding the effects for different communities and in different contexts, that we can ensure action is targeted in areas where can really make a difference in future.

The Work Foundation has been championing better working practices to support more Good Work for almost 100 years, not just out of some philanthropic good, but because it brings concrete benefits to individuals, businesses, local economies and society at large.

All in all, we believe Good Work is about counterbalancing flexibility and security in a way that works for both employers and employees engaged in different types of work across economic sectors and local geographies. Good Work is about fairness, fulfilling and secure work, and opportunities to grow and develop in return for loyalty and commitment to higher performance. We need basic standards to be reinforced, but our goal should be to aim higher than the baseline. This means taking concrete actions in line with our beliefs. Our ongoing Commission on Good Work enables us to continue to advance the Good Work agenda not only supporting enhanced understanding of the problems in the workplace but different ways to act. This encapsulates:

  • the importance of productivity and world class leadership and management;
  • optimising the diversity of talent;
  • creating a high quality workforce that has the skills the labour market needs;
  • working practices that support better employee engagement and wellbeing; and,
  • the future of Good Work, preparing for the consequences of technological innovation and wider disruptive forces.

With the disruptive forces of globalisation and technology continuing to challenge business productivity and ways of working, skills have a vital contribution to make in future to support economic reforms. But these need to be inclusive and work for employees at all levels, providing opportunities for all. The Government can’t make this happen on its own though – only help to provide the best infrastructure, opportunities and incentives for stakeholders to capitalise on and take further actions.


Find out more: read Karen Steadman’s blog on the links between good work and health.