Positive decision making needed to improve UK worker insecurity

Negativity at workA survey funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the UK Commission for Employment and Skills has found that job related stress and job insecurity has increased to a 20 year high.

In 2012 over 3,000 workers, aged between 20 and 60, were interviewed for the Skills and Employment survey which occurs every six years.

The initial findings from the research make worrying reading for businesses. For the first time since 1997, public sector workers were more concerned about losing their jobs than those in the private sector. Overall, 52% of workers were concerned about loss of job status and their biggest concern was about pay reductions, followed by loss of say over their job.

With workers feeling less secure and more pressurised at work they are reporting working harder and faster with the pressure of working to tight deadlines rising to record highs.


How can businesses change this?

One positive result of the research showed that workers were less anxious and more content about job or status loss “where employers adopted policies that gave employees a degree of involvement in decision-making at work”.

Peter Cheese, chief executive at the Chartered Institute of Personal and Development, said: “Too many recent and spectacular failures – from the banking crisis to public sector scandals like that affecting the Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust – are almost entirely born of problems of culture. Although profoundly different in many ways, they have common roots in issues of trust, empowerment and engagement.”

Engaged staff less negativeIt therefore seems that in order to improve the wellbeing of employees, reduce their job related stress levels and improve their feeling of job security business leaders and HR professionals need to address the issue of employee engagement.

But recent surveys have shown that employee engagement is a major challenge and concern for HR professionals.

Prof Alan Felstead of the Cardiff School of Social Sciences, said: “The slowness with which employers in Britain are enhancing employee participation is becoming an issue of considerable concern.”

Successful employee engagement comes as a result of leaders, managers and employees interacting together in a positive way, rather than succumbing to the ‘Heroes and Drones’ mentality whereby those that achieve powerful positions are congratulated and those that don’t, have their contributions ignored or even worse demeaned.


5 ways to improve employee engagement

As we have seen most problems to do with employee engagement stem from an underlying issue with company culture. So here are five ways to help create a company culture that fosters an engaged workforce rather than suppresses them:


1.   Positive reinforcement

If an employee has contributed in a way that deserves recognition for their efforts take the time to tell them. Saying thank you and telling employees how their efforts have improved/helped is a powerful motivational aid that can improve performance. If you make it a public announcement then you can reinforce the behaviour and culture you want in the business.

 2.   Ask for contributions to aid decision making

If a decision will affect others then ask for their opinion and thoughts. Asking for contributions is not about abdicating responsibility for the decision, instead it gives managers more information in order to make better businesses decisions.

 3.   Provide timely feedback

Whether you are recognising improvements in performance/behaviour or having a one-to-one meeting to discuss individual performance feedback, keep it timely and don’t wait for the annual appraisal to give feedback. Timely feedback creates better informed and more engaged employees.

4.   Treat employees fairly and with respect

Always treat employees fairly and with respect, be sensitive to their needs and never embarrass them. The words of leaders and managers carry more weight due to their role and favouritism can cause friction amongst team members.

5.   Reward and recognition scheme

Reward and recognition schemes contribute to all of the above. They provide positive reinforcement, recognise contributions to decision making, provide timely feedback and if set up correctly they allow employees from all departments and all levels to have an equal chance of receiving an award.


John Sylvester

John is responsible for the motivation division of p&mm ltd and a Director on the board of the IPM. Specialising in developing, implementing and directing many large scale staff motivation, recognition and employee communications programmes.

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