Here’s brief overviews of the topics covered in each chapter of Redesigning Work…
How Economic Change Affects Canadians: Chapter 1 makes sense of economic change through the eyes of workers. Concerns about falling living standards and a more divided society are pervasive. We document that the ‘good jobs’ – ‘bad jobs’ distinction, prominent since the 1990s, no longer describes the complexities and inconsistencies of people’s work lives. We update this model of work by considering how non-economic job rewards have become polarized, an urgent problem that must be addressed in order to provide Canadians with greater opportunities for decent work. On a positive note, workers may be more receptive now to improving the quality of jobs than at anytime during the past three decades.
Happy, Healthy and Productive Workers: Chapter 2 focuses on the wellbeing of the workforce and how it has changed in the past decade. For us, wellbeing means happy and healthy workers. Canadians’ quality of work has been declining. Wellbeing in society can only improve if employers, supported by governments and with the active participation of workers, address the working conditions that most impact job satisfaction, stress and work-life balance. While improving incomes is a long-term goal for society, we identify immediate steps that can be taken to improve work-life balance, reduce job stress and boost job satisfaction. Doing so will not only raise the wellbeing of the workforce, it also will contribute to business success.
Engaged Workers: Chapter 3 examines what motives workers to go to work, which we argue is the prerequisite for an engaged workforce. What most motivates workers is having great co-workers, challenging work to do, and being able to help others and make a difference. Pay is less important as a motivator than these three intrinsic job conditions, although it better pay would make workers look forward to work more. A more engage workforce will have multiple benefits for employers, workers and society. Achieving this goal requires changes to the psychological, social and economic dimensions of work – changes that are clearly articulated by workers.
What Canadians Value in a Job: Chapter 4 explores Canadian’s work values. Rarely do employee surveys probe into values, so this chapter fills a significant gap in our understanding of the workforce and how it is changing. Value differences across age groups have more to do with a person’s life stage than their generation. The most valued job characteristics are a workplace free of harassment and discrimination, work that provides a sense of pride and accomplishment, is challenging and interesting, and provides economic security. Closing the gaps between what workers consider important in a job and what they actually have will lay the foundation for more innovative, productive and engaging workplaces.
Generations at Work: Chapter 5 looks at the implications of an aging workforce for the future of work. By reducing age differences in work opportunities and rewards, employers will lessen generational inequity. Employers can respond to the needs of an increasingly diverse workforce by introducing more flexible and customized approaches to work schedules, employment arrangements and career paths. Public policy can promote the continued employment of older workers through active aging policies and age-neutral human resource strategies, including training and development. We show how flexibility is a powerful concept for redesigning work and retirement in ways that benefit workers, employers and society.
Cultivating Workers’ Capabilities: Chapter 6 addresses how to unleash workers’ existing capabilities and develop their potential to contribute in the future. Canada has a highly-educated workforce, so we definitely are ‘punching below our weight’ when it comes to productivity, innovation and skill use. There is untapped potential for workers to contribute more of their skills and knowledge in their jobs, assume more responsibility, take initiative and learn how to do their jobs better. However, Canadian employers under-invest in workplace skills and workers downplay the importance of human capital. We argue that whether employees can apply their capabilities in their jobs comes down to how managers decide to design work systems.
A Blueprint for Redesigning Work: Chapter 7 sketches out a blueprint for achieving the goals of improved wellbeing and prosperity. We combine the views, experiences and values of Canadians from EKOS surveys into a vision for the future of work. This vision describes four dimensions of a great job: working relationships, tasks performed, the work environment, and economic rewards. By integrating EKOS survey evidence on work experiences, wellbeing, engagement and values, we identify promising opportunities to strengthen overall quality of life, the quality of people’s work experiences, and the quality of working conditions.
Actions to Improve Well-Being and Prosperity: Chapter 8 pulls together suggestions we have made throughout the book as a guide to action. We know from EKOS polls that Canadians are ready to consider bold actions to make their work lives better. And we also know that a good number of the workers we surveyed already have what we described in Chapter 7 as a great job. Now it’s up to more people and organizations – particularly industry and public policy leaders – to acknowledge the urgency of making these changes, and then build momentum that can move us toward a more optimistic future.