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COLUMN: Invest in people to show work is a force of good for all

High angle view of business people discussing at lobby. Male and female professionals are working in office. Focus is on executives at workplace.
High angle view of business people discussing at lobby. Male and female professionals are working in office. Focus is on executives at workplace.

I believe that work can (and should) play a fundamental role in our success, prosperity and wellbeing as individuals, in powering and growing our businesses and organisations and, furthermore, collectively in our ability to thrive as communities and as a society.

However, it is undoubtedly true that in the world of work and as individuals, our experience of work is changing – and in many instances changing quickly.

Just as we are seeing all around the country, our region faces a time of huge change and growth, but what remains at the heart of it all is the contribution of people in driving creativity, innovation, and productivity.

We need to invest in people, engage with them, and lead from the principles that good work is safe, inclusive, meaningful and good for our overall well-being, and that good work exists for the long-term benefit of individuals, organisations and society. That work can, and should, be a force for good, for all.

The CIPD’s (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) ‘Manifesto for Work’ sets out proposals to improve corporate governance, the quality of people management, and investment in and better use of skills. They are using this to form the basis of the work they do to inform and influence the Government’s agenda on issues relating to work and the workplace, with the hope of ensuring a future of work that benefits people, businesses, the economy and society.

Business leaders and HR professionals within organisations should play a role in the continuing debate, but championing good work is the responsibility of every individual and every company, making a commitment to encourage accountability, good principles and behaviours, as well as sustainable practice in the workplace.

There are a wide range of things that can make work more inclusive and meaningful. As a useful prompt and starting point, the CIPD is aiming to encourage our Government to do the following:

• Overhaul the UK’s system of corporate governance by setting out the key principles of responsibly and ethically run organisations in an updated UK Corporate Governance Code, encouraging more transparency over how organisations live up to these principles and how they invest in and develop their workforces for the long term. The limited remit of remuneration committees should be extended to create wider human capital sub-committees overseeing how organisations develop their people, build positive cultures, reward fairly and provide meaningful employee voice.

• Help create a more accessible labour market and more inclusive workplaces by supporting employer efforts to increase the range and uptake of flexible working practices available to people, and by encouraging more organisations to measure and publish more data on the make-up of their workforce as a means to stimulate action to improve access to work and progression among disadvantaged groups.

• Support investment in skills, lifelong learning and improvements in employee wellbeing and engagement by reforming the apprenticeship levy as a broader training levy, and encouraging the development of much greater support for and focus on lifelong learning.

We would also strongly encourage a much greater focus on increasing the quality of people management capability and identifying the demands for future skills across the economy in a forward-thinking industrial strategy to help redress the growing mismatches in skills, improve job quality and boost productivity.

• Ensure the development of modern working practices doesn’t undermine individuals’ employment rights or security by protecting and raising awareness of existing employment rights, clarifying employment status between employees, workers and the self-employed, alongside a review of associated taxation and benefits regimes, and taking action against employers that fail to meet their obligations under employment law.

We believe we must work towards putting people much more at the heart of business thinking and practice.

These may seem like big requests of a Government that is rife with uncertainty and has a number of pressing issues to manage, however small changes and small acts of encouragement and positivity can have a huge knock on effect. Individually, we can all take the proposal from the CIPD on board; implementing (where we can) new policies and ways of working that promote good principles, good ethics, and most of all good work for our region.