Ben Wood writes: Over at the TUC’s Touchstone blog, Tim Page has been blogging about our two reports published at the end of last year on high value work (the Agenda here; the Business Briefing here).
As Tim wrote:
I am obviously interested in the idea of human-centred working practices. The TUC has previously highlighted how companies adopting high performance work systems are more productive than their competitors and such systems seek to both foster the development of human capital and enhance the motivation and commitment of employees.
The reports were written for (and with) The Association for Finnish Work. They’re about the ways in which ‘high value’ work can transform businesses, the lives of employees and employment and economic policy.
We identify high value work as being work that is:
- Productive because it creates new value;
- Sustainable because it creates value over time; and
- Inclusive because it creates shared value across businesses, employees and society. For these three reasons, high value work is also meaningful.
In the Business Briefing we then link these characteristics to business practices that can promote this kind of work:
- One Step Beyond: Thinking more widely and more long term.
- Running Towards the Problem: Tackling head-on the business issues that cause the greatest concerns for customers.
- Human Centred: Putting people first – both employees and customers – to make a business more productive and more innovative.
- Lean in the Right Places: Investing in the areas that create value, and staying lean in those that are merely necessary.
- Living the Story: Identifying the core values of your business and making them central to your brand message.
In his post, Tim rightly points out the role of unions in promoting high performance in the workplace.
[E]vidence suggests that the presence of a union is associated with both more and more effective high performance work practices. … There is no mention of unions or any other form of collective employee voice in the report, which makes me wonder: how will the company know when it is putting its employees first? … [T]he best way to find out is to ask them. And whilst the views of individual employees can be canvassed, the imbalance of power in a company between managers and individual workers can make honest feedback difficult.
We don’t disagree. One of the reasons that trades union are missing from the report is that – unlike the UK – Finland is still a social market economy in which trades unions play an important role. One of the factors in Britain’s own spiral into low value work and greater inequality over the past few years is the relative lack of trades unions in the workplace. But that’s a story for a different post.
The image at the top of the post, from the High Value Work Agenda was designed by redandblue for the Association of Finnish Work.