#CIPD13 A hundred years of change, engagement and the living wage

This is the CIPD’s Centenary so it’s great to see speakers here from a couple of organisations involved in setting up the institute.

Shaun Rafferty has been talking about the role of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and its’s support for the Living Wage. Also particularly relevant as its Living Wage Week.

Joseph Rowntree started paying productivity wages, basically the same idea as today’s living wage, back in the 1920. However, apart from them, nothing much has changed in that most don’t pay it.

Shaun shared some shocking data about the levels of underemployment and in-work poverty which hasn’t changed over the last 100 years as much as you may think.

This has a profound impact on engagment as its hard to be engaged if you’re purely focused on your pay.

Stephen Lehane then shared some information on Boots’ journey over the last 100 years – from when the average lifespan was 41 years. So I suppose customers back then were probably less interested in today’s Heath and beauty agenda, eg Boots products which help you keep your skin the same colour it already is.

We’ve now got the opportunity to engage them, and our employees too. But that doesn’t come without commitment and effort eg Boots’ championing colleagues so they can and will champion customers’ right to feel good.

Oh, and after paying people appropriately too.

Shaun pointed people at Engage for Success’ website for ideas on engagement and I’d echo that call. In fact I think I’ve agreed to host an E4S podcast on Monday – more on that soon.

But I’d also have a look at Goffee’s and Jones’ DREAMS – and other suggestions I’ve made here previously.

Two not particularly well thought out reflections before the Centenary dinner tonight:

1. The founding Mssrs Rowntree and Boots’ perspectives definitely help these two organisations to do what they do. But it’s taken a lot of focus since then too (Boots is a recent client).

The same advantages are often seen in new and recent start-ups, especially Californian hi-tech companies. (Though just because a company is a startup it doesn’t guarantee that it’s going to be managed well.)

But it is more difficult in existing, traditional businesses. I’m planning in blogging about this tomorrow.

2. I took up blogging and social media partly to be more transparent about my views. I therefore feel a need to note a slightly mixed and potentially reactionary view to the living wage, triggered I think by my personal experience of moving out of London because I couldn’t afford to live there, and also because we still very rarely decide to spend a small fortune taking the family out for a show in London. I notice myself feeling slightly reluctant to indirectly enable others to do this four times a year. But I’ll get over it.

However, I also think we need to be careful about potential distortions in pay strategy (though I remain very open to limiting CEO pay.)

More importantly (I like to think), given all of the changes in the world of work we’ve been discussing, I believe we need to make jobs and other forms of contract more similar, not more differentiated, with jobs being more comfortable and protected. This just means other people with even harder lives pick up the strain elsewhere. There’s a real risk of some major divisions between employed and un- or under- or alternatively- employed if we do.

Work doesn’t come in discreet, 40 hour packages in the way it did 100 years ago and we shouldn’t design our organisations, or our approach to engagement, as if it does.


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I graduated from Imperial College, London in 1987 and joined Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) as a systems development consultant. After ten years in IT, change and then HR consulting, I joined Ernst & Young as an HR Director, working firstly in the UK, and then, based in Moscow, covering the former USSR.More recently, I have worked as Head of HR Consulting for Penna and Director of Human Capital Consulting for Buck Consultants (the HR consultancy owned by ACS).


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