How many times have we heard it – “There’s no use offering jobs like that to Brits. They don’t want that sort of work”.
The result is that British employers offered poor quality jobs to immigrants. Often those immigrants then used the jobs to send money home to keep their family in relative comfort. The exchange rate and cost of living difference meant that a Czech care worker, for example, could support herself (for most careworkers are female) in the UK and her family in the Czech Republic.
But two things have changed. Post-Brexit, all foreign workers will need visas, and many immigrants seeking jobs done by foreigners today just won’t get one. And membership of the EU has meant that those traditionally poor countries like the Czech Republic are now more affluent. There are good jobs back home, the exchange rate is less favourable and the cost of living is not now so different to that in the UK.
From January 2020, managers will need to find local labour.
The result is a loud and concerted wail from many industries that have for the past 40 years been reliant on immigrant labour.
So, what are firms in such industries to do?
It would be too easy to say, “raise the salaries”. That may be one of the measures, and firms will need to look at their P&Ls to see what can be done. But that’s not the discussion for today. Managers need to look at what can be done to make jobs like cleaners and care assistants more inherently attractive.
So, what gives a job value for the jobholder?
People seek jobs that offer them a variety of tasks – it’s no fun doing the same thing day in, day out. The work must give them identity. We all identify with something we’re proud to do, that’s positively regarded by friends and acquaintances.
People also seek jobs that give them the ability to get on and do what’s needed in the way that they feel it should be done. The job should only be standardised to a degree. That means the jobholder needs to be well trained and free to use that training. And the jobholder should know immediately from client feedback that they’ve done a good job.
All work needs to be challenging and interesting, but also offer a good work-life balance. And all jobholders want to be treated well and valued by their manager. As we’ve written many times, the characteristics of jobs and jobholders need to be well matched. People need to want to do the job.
And finally, jobholders in high-value jobs typically offer good scope for the jobholder to craft the job as they see fit in search of an agreed aim.
So, what does all this mean?
Take a cleaner in a hospital. If the job is to come to work, mop floors and leave, the job has little value to the jobholder. It takes little skills and knowledge and is highly standardised.
As soon as we look at the job differently, by asking what it is that the cleaner is really doing, we see a whole new job. Consider the real job of cleaner. He or she is responsible for ensuring that no bug lives and propagates on hospital floors and surfaces to get in the way of patient recovery. Now that’s enlightening.
This new job is identifiably valuable to society. Jobholders will be proud to be the guardians of patient recovery. To do this they will need to be knowledgeable and skilled. It won’t just be a question of pushing a mop. And if teams of cleaners are allowed to decide themselves how they do the job, the job will be challenging and interesting.
Of course, in this new scenario, the cleaners will need to be audited, perhaps by peer teams from elsewhere in the building, to make sure that quality is achieved and maintained, but that’s just part of being a professional.
Jumping from a cleaner as someone who pushes a mop to someone who protects patient recover simply requires taking a different perspective.
All jobs can be re-designed in this way. But it will then require managers to train and trust. There’s no point in re-designing the jobs and then managing jobholders in the old way.
If, as a country, we want to re-invigorate workers who do what are at present menial jobs, we need to redesign those jobs. And once done, our managers must change the way they manage for they will be dealing then with professionals, not labourers.
Perhaps then, we can get Brits to take jobs that at present only immigrants want.