MM 2001: Work and Community - Research

December 21, 2000

Progressive management
Winning over the hearts and minds of the workforce

"Successful corporate performance," says David Guest, "relies on winning over the hearts, minds and enthusiasm of the workforce because you get results only by making effective use of your employees, not by exploiting them. It may seem obvious, but most firms don't do it."

Guest is co-director, with Jonathan Michie, of an Economic and Social Research Council project on "progressive" human resource management. They use data from the Workplace Employment Relations Survey, conducted since 1980.

In private firms, they found a link between better human resources practices and greater employee involvement, and employee satisfaction, commitment and produc-tivity.

Yet the adoption of such practices in the private sector is still low. Why?

"Some firms emphasise technological innovation or what the City says, or they are under pressure to cut costs and workers to increase performance," Guest says.

"Managers may rely on fads for immediate results, but they do not work. You can have good selection and training, but if the jobs or pay are lousy, it's a waste."

In a tight labour market key workers will not tolerate unfriendly environments.

"Progressive human resources will be crucial for firms competing for staff," he adds.

Young Pakistani and Bangladeshi women
Aspiring to go out and stand on their own two feet

"Young Pakistani and Bangladeshi women in communities with traditionally high unemployment rates are keen to get good educational qualifications, go out to work and stand on their own two feet," says Angela Dale. She leads a team looking at the role of educational qualifications in the lives of young Pakistani and Bangladeshi women in Oldham, Greater Manchester.

The women - born in the United Kingdom, fluent in English and from backgrounds where cultural expectations were that they did not work - now share the same aspirations as local white women.

It is significant, Dale says, because the women will want to stay in the labour market, although some may go part time when they have children.

"The womenretain their attachment to the Muslim faith, and it is important that they cando jobs that allow them to wear headscarves, observe prayers and be full members of the workforce."

Figures show entry to undergraduate courses among the Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities is increasing, far outweighing the growth in the student-age population.

Dale adds: "It is important to understand this change and the demand for jobs it may generate in the labour market."

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