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Home » News » Decent work is not only a problem for the developing world. It’s a challenge for the UK

Decent work is not only a problem for the developing world. It’s a challenge for the UK

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Employees need decent work. That means decent systems, decent processes, and decent training for staff. Agilebase’s no code system helps make that possible. 

UK data from the first large-scale, four-day workweek pilot arrived this February 2023 and there were some eye-opening results.

The trial involved more than 60 companies, ranging from Fish and Chip shops, to marketing agencies, and finance firms.

Employers on the trial said a shortened work week had boosted productivity and output, so much so that ninety-two percent said they planned to keep the shorter work week. Thirty percent said they would even make the change permanent.

4 Day Week Global, the non-profit who organised the pilot, also wanted to see how we can make work better not just for employers, but employees too. 

In a survey of 3,000 employees on 4 day weeks, 71% reported feeling less burnt out than in the past. Physical health and well-being also improved. Participating firms said their workers had spent more time with their families. They had pursued hobbies and taken better care of themselves. 

“People enjoying an extra day off creates a better work-life balance”, said Claire Daniels, CEO of Leeds-based digital marketing agency Trio Media which took part in the trial. “That makes people happier and less stressed. Happier people perform better at work,” she added.

The UN has a concept of “decent work” that forms part of their UN’s 17 sustainable development goals. For the UN “decent work” is also about more than being more productive.

For the world’s least developed countries, achieving decent work is critical. Issues like modern slavery, people trafficking and child labour plague many countries.

But it is essential for the developed world too. 

For Western Economies decent work means delivering a fair income and security in the workplace. It offers social protection for families. It creates better prospects for personal development and social integration. But from an employee’s perspective, it is also about making the work itself more appealing, less frustrating.

Unfortunately, too many firms operate with bad systems, processes, or staff training and there are plenty of high-profile examples of work in the UK and US of really poor practice.

Poor training 

Several studies show that employee training can be more problematic than productive. 

A 2010 McKinsey & Company report found 75% of respondents felt that training programmes had no measurable improvement on performance. A 2015 study from the online training company 24×7 Learning found that just 12% of employees apply new skills learned in training to their jobs.

LINK: Why so many companies get training wrong – BBC Worklife

Organisational training only makes sense if it reflects the needs of the organisation, if it relates to the way the organisation works, it’s processes.

Poor processes

Issues with processes arise across the entire “process lifecycle.” In other words, during the Planning, Doing and Checking phases.

Poor processes during the planning phase often have their roots in a mismatch between the rigour demanded by the process and the nature of the business context. Mature markets and stable businesses do lend themselves to rigorous processes, but the rapid rate of change in emerging markets requires an adaptable approach. It’s about maintaining an appropriate level of rigour. Start ups can’t be bureaucratic but will need to adopt a more process driven approach as they grow.

Even thoughtfully crafted processes can fail. If bosses delegate work to staff who aren’t trained or expecting staff to switch back and forth between tasks the chances of success decline dramatically .

In the checking phase, it is common to track worker productivity. Fifty-five per cent of managers felt there was at least one reason to check their home employees, said a report from the CIPD, with around 30% having already implemented some sort of remote tracking by 2022.

But few organisations take the same level of interest in how their managers support workers.

Forty-six per cent of firms had a “somewhat high” or “high” level of concern about delegation skills, said a 2007 study by the Institute for Corporate Productivity, and yet few organisation have processes to track the nature or volume of work managers delegate to workers.

Poor systems 

The final part of the decent work jigsaw is systems.

News headlines are full of stories about organisations with bad systems.  In September 2022, an IT system caused critical information about court cases in the UK to change or disappear. But managers ignored staff warnings about faults with their new £300m Common Platform system. One legal adviser said he entered a driving ban in the system only to discover that the result had changed later. The situation was so bad staff threatened to go on strike if improvements weren’t made!

The Post Office IT scandal saw more than 700 branch managers given criminal convictions due to faults in the Horizon software. It was the most widespread miscarriage of justice in British legal history, spanning over 20 years. By 2022, the courts had still only overturned 83 convictions.

These are really extreme examples of a far broader if less traumatic malaise; software systems that just don’t reflect the everyday reality of those required to use them.

The result? Disengagement

It is no wonder Gallup’s Global Workforce Survey 2022 revealed that three in five employees feel disengaged from their workplace.

The UK could be facing a “disengagement crisis.”  Recruitment firm Robert Walters surveyed 2,000 white-collar professionals and revealed organisations have struggled to build a post-pandemic work culture. The study found employees were investing less of themselves in their work and opting to “just get the work done.”

Disengagement costs the UK over £340bn a year, said employee benefits firm Perkbox. That includes lost training and recruitment costs, sick days, productivity, creativity, and innovation.

The same research revealed that a disengaged employee was a high cost. One unengaged worker on an average salary of £35,000 would cost a business £7,000. That is one-fifth of their salary. 

“It’s not easy to get to the roots of the crisis,” said Gemma Dale, Liverpool John Moores University lecturer. It could be the outcome of complex circumstances. Is it the pandemic, the cost of living crisis, or a buoyant talent market providing opportunities to switch jobs? 

Whatever the cause, Dale believes employees are seeking a new deal at work. They not only want flexible forms of work but a greater sense of purpose and meaning. 

Purpose and meaning 

One novel but effective way to help employees find more meaning in their work is to offer staff more control over the way they work. The no-code revolution does just that. No Code CRM platforms like Agilebase’s reject the logic of Off the Shelf generic software solutions in favour of a “build-your-own” approach.

Agilebase replaces programming languages with web interfaces you can recognize. It does not matter your race, gender, or age; anyone can become a “citizen developer.”

Off the shelf CRM systems don’t only fail because they are a poor fit for the work that it is intended to handle, they also fail because they are either too big and complex or too small and simplistic for the client. Agilebase has no templates. You only create the fields you need, when you need them. With Agilebase’s no code system, progress is incremental.

“The whole point with no code is about moving forward day by day,” said Agilebase CEO Cliff Calcutt. “You train the people who are at the coalface. Rather than relying on outside software companies, your people take responsibility. They own the change. They have a degree of autonomy  and meaning in their work that makes a difference.”

With Agilebase, anyone with a web browser and an idea can make it a reality. That aligns with UNESCO’s goal of decent work. By making Agilebase easy to use, you are more productive and less frustrated.. 

“Decent work and growth are complimentary. With decent systems, processes and trained staff, you move forward fast,” said Cliff Calcutt.

Are you interested in improving your work by using Agilebase?  Email