Employers squander workers’ talents

A press release issued by the London-based Work Foundation says employers are poorly equipped to weather the recession because they use workers’ skills and talents poorly, tie them up in rules and procedures, and give them little say over how they do their work. The link at the bottom of this post will take you to the full press release. While the press release is specific to the UK, Australia and New Zealand will be similar.

I’ve never heard of the Work Foundation. It turns out to be the reincarnation of The Industrial Society, which I have heard of. The name and business model were changed in 2002. It is an 80-year independent organisation that campaigns to improve the quality of working life and is interested in issues like work-life balance.  The board and directorate are people drawn from the real world of industry rather than academia.

The press release writer is keen to emphasis the waste this represents from an employer point of view. And rightly so. Showing managers how their wasteful behaviour has a negative effect on their business’ performance is one way to get to sit up and take notice.

But from an employee point of view this waste is even more disheartening. There’s nothing worse than working in a job where your skills are underutilised, you spend hours wading through bureaucracy and feel powerless to make changes — even ones that would obviously make a significant difference to the company’s performance. Frankly, employers who waste human resources this way deserve to fail.

The Work Foundations survey of the work-lives of 2011 workers found that:

  • 40 percent of employees have more skills than their jobs require
  • 65 percent of workers said the primary characteristic of the organisations they worked for was ‘rule and policy bound’ – though just five per cent said this was their preference
  • 40 percent said they had little or no flexibility over the hours they worked
  • 20 percent of graduates are in ‘low knowledge content’ jobs