From the TUC

Promoting collective worker engagement

20 Oct 2010, By Guest

I’ve just started working on a research project at the TUC (with the support of the Economic and Social Research Council) looking at the ways that unions can promote collective worker engagement. Reading Anna’s post on the link between unions and happiness got me thinking about some of the recent research that’s been done relating to this theme.

Of course, unions help to give workers more of a say in the decisions that affect them, which can lead to improved job satisfaction and a happier experience at work. Various studies have shown how this can positively affect business performance as well as worker satisfaction.

As shown in the TUC’s The Road to Recovery touchstone pamphlet (which incorporated research by Alex Bryson and John Forth of the NIESR), effective mechanisms of worker participation can help to improve productivity, garner worker support for workplace innovation, and minimise costs associated with recruitment and absenteeism (by lowering turnover, work-related injury and illness rates).

The Engaging for Success report commissioned by BIS last year also demonstrated the benefits of collective worker engagement for business. The report showed that the active involvement of workers in company decision-making structures could lead to a positive spiral of increased worker motivation, better services, higher customer satisfaction and increased profitability. It also found that the role of worker engagement and cooperative employment relations in promoting skills development were key to business success in an increasingly tough economic environment.

The authors of Engaging for Success claimed that despite the decline in union density, ‘there is evidence of a continued appetite among UK employees for a collective voice at work’. And as Acas recently said, there is ‘overwhelming evidence’ that collective worker engagement leads to mutual gains for employers and workers: ‘trade union and employee representative involvement in programmes to boost employee engagement will help to ensure that such gains are maximised and shared’.

Over the next 12 months, as part of my work for the Unions, collective bargaining and employment relations project, I’ll be regularly blogging on how a shift back towards greater collective engagement of workers can be advanced to deliver more efficient and equitable workplace outcomes in a manner appropriate for the current economic and social realities.