Research into workplace productivity and management practice is often focused on the links between ‘Good’ and ‘Efficient’ practices. ‘Good’ covers employee-friendly policies; for instance, those providing opportunities for better Work Life Balance. In contrast, ‘Efficient’ practice includes the use of KPIs, setting clear performance expectations and tackling underperformance where it is identified. In this episode Peter Urwin and Professor Richard Saundry discuss this, drawing on their own understanding as researchers and experiences as line managers. The operational reality is that managers hold a position between the interests of their organisation and those who work for them – how do they balance the (often competing) need to create both efficient and good workplaces?
The UK has come a long way since the early Equal Opportunities legislation of the 1970s, high-profile cases in the 1980s and 1990s identifying institutionalised discrimination, and the subsequent focus on celebration of diversity and promotion of inclusion. However, the #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter movements are reminders of how far we still need to travel. In this episode, Peter Urwin is joined by Emma Parry, Professor of Human Resource Management at Cranfield School of Management, to discuss how to further move the dial on diversity in the workplace. Asking whether research provides clear lessons for managers, they identify a number of similar messages across the economics and HRM literatures. However, whilst recent debates over the value of unconscious bias training caution against untested approaches, evaluation of “solutions” such as Inclusion present a real challenge. Peter and Emma debate these tensions, and consider possible ways forward. For an accompanying blog post on this issue, go to https://www.propelhub.org.
Since the late 1960s, UK productivity growth has been weak and poor management is seen as one of the main causes. In recent years Economists have waded into this debate, and in this episode Peter Urwin asks Prof. Richard Saundy what he thinks of recent findings.
The discussion begins with a reminder of the fractious history of UK industrial relations. They then consider recent evidence on what makes a good manager and ask why there seems to be so little sharing of good managerial practice both between, and even within, organisations. Concluding with a discussion of what the ‘cure’ might look like, they consider work of the PrOPEL Hub and ESRC funded studies that aim to improve management through new approaches to training.
Many aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been unprecedented – including the extent to which it has forced the UK population to engage with statistics. This has been a challenge for Government, and it has not always gone well. However, with 190 policies enacted in the first six months of the pandemic - costing around £210 bn - it was never going to be easy. We talk to Vicky Pryce, Chief Economic Adviser and board member at the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), on lessons that can be learnt from the last 9 months. This matters enormously, as a recent global survey identifies a clear relationship between individuals’ trust in information from government and the likelihood of engaging with vaccination programmes.
The pandemic has necessitated a partnership approach across UK government, business and unions. This has drawn unions into the process of policy formulation, shining a new spotlight on their activities.
Peter Urwin is joined by Professor of HRM and Employment Relations at Sheffield University Management School, Richard Saundry, who draws on a wealth of experience (including his first job in 1988 at NUM headquarters in Sheffield, and a career working with government, unions and employers) to discuss the role of unions in the past, present and future.
Peter and Richard discuss how unions have done so far, and question whether any benefits to the union movement will persist beyond the pandemic – or whether it will simply return to an “us and them” scenario. Can unions build on this apparent volte-face, to reverse a decline in influence on the employment relationship?
In the first episode of this new series looking at how Coronavirus has affected the working landscape, Peter Urwin is joined by Len Shackleton, Professor of Economics at the University of Buckingham.
Experience of previous pandemics suggests current restrictions may last until summer 2021. The UK government's policy response has limited the hardship of lockdown and lessened initial negative impacts on employment. However, there is now a question of how we revive the economy and recover previous levels of employment. In this interview, Prof. Len Shackleton argues that spending on job retention and other schemes have been useful “sticking plasters”, but the key to sustained recovery is the creation of new jobs by the market. They consider specific areas of the economy where Prof Shackleton argues that deregulation is needed to free enterprise and drive jobs growth; comparing this to the use of job subsidy programmes for the unemployed, and other government funding aimed at incentivising companies to take on staff.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s (CIPD) Good Work Index provides a snapshot of UK working lives, including opportunities for homeworking and job flexibility as we went into lockdown. In this interview, Peter Urwin speaks to Jonny Gifford, Senior Advisor for Organisational Behaviour at the CIPD. He describes how UK job quality indicators compare to those of other countries; arguing that any encouraging headline figures hide concerns over UK job quality inequality. They consider the role of government and employers in tackling such inequality, and flag worrying trends in UK work-life balance. For instance, recent years have seen a decline in reported wellbeing from the UK Working Lives survey – and the latest instalment of the survey allows us to ask how this, and other trends, has been impacted by the pandemic.
The last four decades have been a roller-coaster ride for economic liberalism. Riding high from the early 1990s, falling trade barriers boosted international trade, integrated countries such as China into the global economy and significantly reduced the number of people in absolute poverty. Developments in technology ‘supercharged’ these impacts, radically altering our lives as workers and consumers. In this interview, Peter Urwin speaks to economist Vicky Pryce about where it all went wrong – is the rise of populism simply a reaction to the 2007-08 financial crisis, or is it a wider backlash against liberalism? Not everybody welcomes the changes brought about by globalisation, and change always implies disruption – is there a case for government compensation, targeted at those who bear the brunt of disruption and are less able to take advantage of the gains from liberalisation?
Peter Urwin is joined by economist Vicky Pryce to talk about her latest book, discussing gender equality. Vicky argues we cannot rely on the free market to bring about gender equality. In theory we might expect discrimination to be short-lived in competitive markets, as it is an inefficient use of resources; this is clearly not happening, however, and Vicky makes a strong case for more forceful intervention to rectify the market failures that perpetuate gender inequality. An inherent short-termism in the capitalist system, a continuing level of support for motherhood that is insufficient, and various conscious/unconscious forms of bias all contribute to this failure of markets. The proposed solutions are radical, but without significant public intervention we will continue to waste vast amounts of female potential.
Highlights from four of this year’s interviews consider the theme of 'discrimination and disadvantage’. We have some 'Christmas Cheer’, as the interviews show how far we have come to improve the situation of women, people from ethnic minority groups, LGBT communities and young people from poorer backgrounds. However, the first interview with Dr Jo Blanden, shows how hard it is to make further improvements to the early years experiences of young people. In the second interview with Prof. Emma Parry, we see how research investigating generational differences risks stereotyping different age groups. Prof. Lisa Webley sets out the various waves of policy that have attempted to improve the situation of women and other groups facing discrimination, and continuing challenges faced by the Law profession, where improvements have been glacial in recent years. Finally, in the interview with Vicky Pryce, we see where this debate can lead - if things are not getting better with current approaches, Vicky argues that for women we need to consider the 'nuclear option' of quotas. These are the challenges for our New Year!