Press release

Workplace commitment and happiness increase despite recession – new survey shows

Business study finds that employee satisfaction and commitment to their place of work has significantly increased.

A government sponsored business study published today has found that employee satisfaction and commitment to their place of work has significantly increased despite the economic downturn.

The 2011 Workplace Employment Relations Study (WERS), which was last run in 2004, explores the current state of workplace relations and covers a wide range of issues such as the relationship between employer and employee, work life balance, equality and diversity, training, pay and working hours.

Report highlights include:

  • Job satisfaction levels increased. 20% of employees in 2011 were satisfied or very satisfied with all aspects of their job measured, compared to 16% in 2004;

  • Since 2004 employees’ levels of commitment to the organisation in which they work increased. The largest rise was in the percentage of employees who said they shared the values of their organisation, up from 55% in 2004 to 65% in 2011;

  • Managers are communicating more with employees. Managers are now more likely to hold team briefings to keep staff informed about changes at work (up from 60% to 66%) and they are more likely to provide employees with more information on workplace finances (up from 55% to 61%);

  • The proportion of employees with high levels of autonomy increased between 2004 and 2011. The most common areas of discretion are how employees do their job (52%) and the order in which they carry out tasks (51%); and

  • The percentage of high training workplaces (where at least 80% of experienced employees had some off-the-job training) rose from 35% to 41%.

Jo Swinson Employment Relations Minister said:

We are going through one of the most challenging periods in our economic history and businesses and employees have had to adapt rapidly in order to deal with the many pressures that it brings.

This important study gives us a valuable insight into what is going on inside the workplace. I am very pleased to see that job satisfaction levels have increased and that more employees report that they share the values of the organisation.

Engagement of employees is key to building stronger workforces which will in turn drive economic growth. This is why the Government is supporting such excellent initiatives as ‘Engage for Success’ where top companies are coming together to share best practice and promote employee engagement.

The results of the study show us in a new light just how workers and businesses are affected, how they are changing and what the workplace of the future might look like. We will be using these findings to help develop future Government thinking and practice, and to stimulate future debate.

The fieldwork for WERS took place between March 2011 and June 2012. It involved interviews with almost 2,700 managers and 1,000 worker representatives, and surveyed more than 21,000 employees.

Notes to editors:

  1. The 2011 WERS is commissioned by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES), the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas), and the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR). NIESR’s involvement is made possible through funding from the Nuffield Foundation.
  2. This report is the latest in the WERS series which started in 1980. This is the sixth WERS study which has been conducted. Previous studies were conducted in 1980, 1984, 1990, 1998 and 2004.
  3. WERS and a copy of the report can be found at the Gov.uk website: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-2011-workplace-employment-relations-study-wers
  4. More details on the 2011 WERS findings will be published in November 2013 in Employment Relations in the Shadow of Recession: Findings from the 2011 Workplace Employment Relations Study.
  5. The government’s economic policy objective is to achieve ‘strong, sustainable and balanced growth that is more evenly shared across the country and between industries’. It set four ambitions in the ‘Plan for Growth’ (PDF 1.7MB), published at Budget 2011:
    • To create the most competitive tax system in the G20
    • To make the UK the best place in Europe to start, finance and grow a business
    • To encourage investment and exports as a route to a more balanced economy
    • To create a more educated workforce that is the most flexible in Europe.
  6. Work is underway across government to achieve these ambitions, including progress on more than 250 measures as part of the Growth Review. Developing an Industrial Strategy gives new impetus to this work by providing businesses, investors and the public with more clarity about the long-term direction in which the government wants the economy to travel.

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