The loss of ‘decent work’ is making employees less productive

The loss of ‘decent work’ is making employees less productive

I was on an international panel for the World Talent Economy forum earlier this week to discuss the topic of Decent Work and Economic growth. Decent work is a concept not used very much these days; it’s an old concept that focuses on the holistic nature of the employee.

From Wikipedia: According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), “decent work involves opportunities for work that are productive and deliver a fair income, security in the workplace and social protection for families, better prospects for personal development and social integration, freedom for people to express their concerns, organize and participate in the decisions that affect their lives and equality of opportunity and treatment for all women and men.”

The idea of decent work was a common concept when I first started in tech, but after the 1980s, the concept fell away — a loss that is not only contributing to the Great Resignation under way now but is also having an adverse impact on productivity.

Let me explain why it matters.

What workers used to get

Decent work isn’t about skills matching, self-actualization, or even a specific job. It focuses instead on fairness, security, and the social protection of workers. When I first entered the tech industry to work for an IBM subsidiary, IBM made a tremendous effort to assure I was taken care of as an employee. For instance, I was grossly underpaid for my level, so for a time the company made sure I got the highest raises (percentage wise) of anyone in my division. (This policy was not tied to my gender, though the company was, at the time, predominantly male; I knew this because the women I worked with at the same level were also paid far more than I was initially.)

When a commitment to decent work was in place, firms provided employee rewards like subsidized or  even free food at work; subsidized services like nurseries for children; laundry; help with financial planning; and aggressive benefits tied to relocation. In addition, you were given a mentor, a pension to ensure you would be covered in retirement — and the company paid for healthcare. These benefits were offset by a lower comparative salary, but that delta was far less than the costs of the things IBM covered.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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