According to US survey company, Gallup, a good job is the main need people experience the world over.
If socialist-minded trade union federations such as Cosatu and Saftu are asked what makes for a “good job,” the answer would be: a job at a workplace which is under worker control; where shorter hours could be worked without a loss of income; a job that pays a salary that provides in all the worker’s needs; and one where surplus income (profit) will be distributed among the workers.
For a trade union such as Solidarity, with its roots in the Christian democratic tradition of trade unionism, a “good job” will rest on four pillars:
The first pillar has to do with a job being meaningful and worthwhile insofar as the employer’s core business adds value to the living conditions and the well-being of its employees, clients and members of the public who are being served. Otherwise, the workplace should create an opportunity for employees to make a positive contribution in people’s lives. In the absence of that, an employee who has a positive attitude can still add value to the life of a colleague, thus helping to turn his or her job into a meaningful one.
The second pillar relates to the character and culture of the workplace in terms of which employees’ human dignity is protected and they are treated with respect. At such workplaces, there will always be an awareness that an employee is not just an employee but is a person who is someone else’s husband or wife, father or mother, brother or sister, grandfather or grandmother, or someone’s friend or partner, and there would be recognition for the fact that employees can only fulfil a positive role in family or community life if their dignity is protected at work.
It is almost a given that, sooner or later in their careers, people will experience that employees resign from their jobs due to difficulties with their line manager rather than with job content. Another Gallup study, undertaken among 2,5 million managers and 27 million employees in 195 countries, confirmed that 50% of resignations are indeed related to difficulties experienced with a line manager. The study also found that regular contact, communication and meetings between an employee and a line manager result in such an employee being three times more engaged in the job and workplace, and as such it becomes a “good job”.
Still part of the second pillar is the fact that a good job is created when employees’ work/life balance is promoted. This means that not only would provision be made for employees to attend important activities involving their children but also that, job exigencies allowing, special concessions be made to accommodate the external logistical challenges single parents are facing. Employers of choice make it possible for women to take up half-day jobs or to work shorter hours should they so wish, thus enabling them to be a mother and to pursue a career at the same time. Such flexibility in the workplace often counts more than the bottom line of their income package.
The third pillar on which a good job rests materialises when an employee’s remuneration is fair and equitable. Employers that pay their employees above the 50th percentile, thus paying salaries that are at the top of an industry norm, not only create employees who are more motivated, but such a strategy also serves as a way of retaining the services of valuable employees. Commensurate with this strategy, and to ensure that all employees achieve their goals, employees must have equal opportunities for promotion, to build their skills and to improve their qualifications.
The last pillar, and a very important one at that, pertains to job security. In this regard, the ideal workplace is one where everyone in the organisation, from top management right down to entry-level workers will have the employer’s sustainability at heart. Top management should steer the organisation in such a way that its output, business practices and work ethics inspire confidence among employees, which motivates employees to constantly increase their productivity and service delivery, thereby promoting the organisation’s sustainability.
Employees would consider it to be a good job when an organisation that finds itself in dire straits only considers retrenchments as an extraordinary and very last resort in a bid to cut costs.
Do you have a good job, or are you creating one for others?
Gideon du Plessis is Solidarity’s General Secretary