What the “Good Work” agenda should look like with Labour in power
The Chartered Management Institute set out three key takeaways from their fringe event at Labour Party Conference, in partnership with the New Statesman.
“Good Work” and the wider agenda around quality of working life is a key part of the ongoing productivity and growth discussion, and yet it has somehow fallen off the policy radar more recently.
That is why on Monday at the Labour Party Conference, the New Statesman in association with the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) held a panel discussion to explore what the Good Work policy agenda should look like for a future Labour government.
The panel was made up of Shadow Minister for Business and Industrial Strategy, Bill Esterson MP; Member of the Treasury Select Committee, Dame Angela Eagle MP; the Trades Union Congress’ Kate Bell; and CMI’s Anthony Painter. The New Statesman’s Alona Ferba chaired the discussion.
Following a lively and interesting debate, here CMI’s three key takeaways were:
- Good work is about giving employees a sense of belonging, ensuring their voice is heard, and providing an opportunity for them to learn and develop. We heard that the labour market is segmented between those who enjoy good work and those who don’t. Worryingly, the panel agreed that the segment without good work appears to be growing. For a future Labour government, the solution must be twofold: the carrot of incentivising good practice (for example, through government procurement rules), and the stick of a well funded employee right enforcement regime.
- At a difficult economic moment, good work isn’t luxury - it’s a necessity. The panel discussed the well-understood linkage between satisfied workers and better productivity, and noted the latter would be sorely needed in the coming years. An incoming Labour government would need to take a whole economy approach to good work, for example, considering how childcare and caring responsibilities policies could be built directly into the industrial strategy so that workers can benefit from a comprehensive, holistic plan.
- Management and leadership skills are vital to future growth, and when considering skills reform, Labour must not throw the baby out with the bathwater. We heard from the audience the difference between technical skills and leadership skills - and how having the former doesn’t automatically give you the latter. Apprenticeships have been a key skills intervention which has helped to deliver management skills over the past few years, as well as delivering a tangible productivity boost for both the public and private sectors. Any reforms that a Labour government brings in should build on the success of higher technical apprenticeships for all ages, rather than starting again and upending a system which is still bedding in.
Earlier this year, CMI published The Everyone Economy, our plan for sharing work opportunity and success, in which we argued that we are overlooking talent just at the moment we need it most. Without conscious action from UK employers to give everyone a stake in the economy, it will be the UK economy that loses out through lost growth, productivity, innovation and efficiency of public services.
This was very much reflected at Monday’s event, in the form of a clarion call for the pendulum to swing from a focus on employers’ wants to workers’ needs. The discussion closed with agreement that there can be no lasting growth in the UK economy, without labour market reform: if we can look after our workers, they will look after their employers and growth and productivity will flourish.
CMI’s 75th anniversary report, The Everyone Economy, can be found online here, alongside the accompanying documentary series which explores the report’s themes in greater detail. From September 2022 onwards, CMI will be running a series of regional roadshow events to explore the report’s findings in the context of each location. Find more details and book your place online here.
CMI is also supporting an event at Conservative Party Conference 2022, in collaboration with Bright Blue, entitled “Leading the charge? Levelling up managerial skills in the UK” on Tuesday the 4th October at 15:30.
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